By Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT[Flickr, Melissa and Dan by Rachel Adams, CC BY-ND 2.0] Retrieved on September 17, 2015Many of our previous posts have discussed the stressors and risk factors associated with military couples. It is well known that military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have prompted lengthy deployments as over 2 million US military service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks and 173 thousand military personnel were still stationed overseas as of December 31, 2012. These prolonged separations can have adverse effects on relationships as many military couples suffer from the loss of their loved ones’ affection, companionship, support, co-parenting, and so on. Furthermore, stressors experienced by military couples tend to place them at risk for other relationship struggles such as infidelity and mental health issues. Today we highlight recent studies that look at how military couples are faring compared to civilian couples, despite their increased vulnerability. Couple Communication:A recent study explored couples’ perceptions of their everyday discussions, perceived stress within the relationship, and topics that couple’s avoid . The researchers found that of the 118 military couples and 94 non-military couples surveyed, military couples placed more importance on everyday interactions and talk than their civilian couple counterparts. Furthermore, the types of topics that both military and civilian couples avoid were found to be similar (i.e. prior dating experiences, negative behaviors within the relationship, and topics that cause conflict), however, it was civilian couples in the study who avoided these topics more frequently. Findings also revealed that communication patterns influenced how much stress military couples reported.Marital Status:Another study , analyzed military personnel records from male active duty service members between 1995-2005 and compared them to data from the 1998-2005 Current Population Surveys to explore the marital status of military and civilian men. In their attempt to ensure an accurate comparison, the researchers matched participant data from each group (military and civilian) in racial/ethnic composition, employment status, and educational level. Findings revealed that service members are more likely to be married when compared to civilians. Divorce, however, was not found to be more likely for military service members when compared to their civilian counterparts.Relationship Transitions:Other studies have explored stressful transitions within military (e.g. post-deployment, diagnosis of mental health issues) and civilian (e.g. infertility, diagnosis of terminal illness) couples that impact relationship dynamics. Findings suggest that transitions within a relationship can disrupt communication patterns leading to less openness, indirectness, and withdrawal within the relationship . In addition, relationship transitions have been associated with more aggressive communications styles and increased criticism between partners . In one study , 220 military service members experiencing post-deployment transitions were surveyed. Findings revealed that relationship uncertainty and interference (or when partners impede on each other’s goals) predicts whether couples engage in open or aggressive patterns of communication. Professionals working with military couples can be instrumental in promoting strength and resilience in those with whom they work. Having an awareness of the latest research that examines unique struggles and strengths of military couples allows for professionals to examine current practices used and tailor them to meet the unique needs of military couples they serve.References Frisby, B., Byrnes, K., Mansson, D., Booth-Butterfield, M., & Birmingham, M. (2011). Topic avoidance, everyday talk, and stress in romantic military and non-military couples. Communication Studies, 62(3), 241-257. Karney, B., Loughran, D., & Pollard, M. (2012). Comparing marital status and divorce status in civilian and military populations. Journal of Family Issues, 33(12), 1572-1594. Theiss, J., & Knobloch, L. (2013). A relationship model of military service members’ relational communication during reintegration. Journal of Communication, 63, 1-21. This post was written by Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT, Social Media Specialist. She is a member of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.