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June 24, 2012 / Jess

Mars looks a lot like Kuwait

Dear Army,

When I was in my first “real” relationship in college, I read “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex” by John Gray.

I remember it compared men to rubber bands and women to waves.

“Men are like rubber bands. When they pull away, they can only stretch so far before they come springing back. A rubber band is the perfect metaphor to understand the male intimacy cycle. This cycle revolves getting close, pulling away, and then getting close again” (page 98).

“A woman is like a wave. When she feels loved her self-esteem rises and falls in a wave motion. When she is feeling really good, she will reach a peak, but then suddenly her mood may change and her wave crashes down. This crash is temporary. After she reaches the bottom suddenly her mood will shift and she will again feel good about herself. Automatically her wave begins to rise back up. When a woman’s wave rises she feels she has an abundance of love to give, but when it falls she feels her inner emptiness and needs to be filled back up. This time of bottoming out is a time for emotional housecleaning” (page 120).

I remember wishing the author had used the same metaphor, to better demonstrate how each gender reacts to the overall metaphor applicable to the relationship. Rubber bands and waves? They don’t relate to each other at all.

Now that I’m in a military relationship, I’m starting to think mixing those metaphors makes sense. I’m seeing that the men react in specific ways, as do the women. I’m blessed to have two fellow Army girlfriends that are dating men in my soldier’s unit. I met them at the airport when the guys came home after 7 weeks of stateside training; we decided we should get together throughout the deployment. We get together almost weekly, making projects for the guys – and venting.

What I’ve learned: We’re all very different, and none of our relationships are the same. One girlfriend talks on the phone with her guy every day, one a few times a week, and another (me) every few months. It doesn’t matter the amount of contact we have – all three guys react to the deployment in the same way, and all three women react to the deployment in the same way.

The women struggle with feeling unappreciated. The men struggle with feeling like they can never, ever do anything right. The women cry. The men stop talking to us all together (that never lasts long though). It’s actually rather fascinating (you know, when it’s not devastating).

If you mix the metaphors, it kind of applies. A wave in the ocean would carry a rubber band. It gets tossed around, disoriented, and cannot calm the wave. The wave needs something bigger to steady it, but that’s not an option.

It seems that long distance relationships are cyclical.

I knew I was getting into a military relationship. I knew it was coming, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. And frustration feels like resentment (and sometimes is resentment) which leads to guilt – because how can I feel resentful toward the person I love the most? And guilt leads to trying to be comforted by him, so I feel less alone in my suffering. The more I reach out for comfort, the less he reaches out for comfort because he’s trying to be strong for me but what I really want is to know that he feels weak too. But even if he does admit he’s weak, he can’t comfort me, not really, because what I need most is for him to just physically be there with me. That likely makes him feel helpless because he can’t give that to me. Feeling helpless makes him feel angry. And before I know it, I’m bickering over things that don’t really even bother me but suddenly now are critical.

I suppose what I, as a wave, really need is a drought – a desert to dry me out.

Not for my guy to be sitting in said desert until 2013.

That’s when his rubber band will snap back across an actual, non-metaphorical ocean and meet me where I am.

I can’t wait!

(Not) love,



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