As a military spouse and sexologist, I get this question a lot: how do you keep the spark during deployment? How do you connect sexually with your partner who’s on a completely different continent?

I love answering these questions because it demonstrates the dilemma military couples face, and it shows their commitment to connecting regardless of the circumstances. Talk about resilience. 

Please know that even if your relationship feels like a fading fire, deployments can be an opportunity where you can reconnect. It just requires a little more effort and a lot of intention.

So take that first step: set the intention. You have to intentionally cultivate a culture of open communication between you and your partner to keep that flame going. What does that even mean? It means sharing from a place of vulnerability. It involves talking about things that really matter. Things that go beyond casual conversations. 

Sexual intimacy is built through emotional vulnerability, especially when you’re overcoming distance. 

This requires intention to invest in your relationship and be present with your partner; to share about your desires, fantasies, or sexual needs. If you’ve never done this before, then this may be a little awkward. So go ahead and embrace the awkwardness because it will make a huge difference during deployment.

It’s important to differentiate between shame and awkwardness. If you’re nervous to sext or make a video together, that’s totally normal. If you’re embarrassed and hesitant to do something unconventional because you’re afraid of being seen as “dirty” or “devious,” that’s shame. Never do something that you’re not OK with or don’t feel safe doing. But if shame is what’s stopping you, then there’s some deeper work to be done.

One last thing before we get into the fun stuff: check your mindset. If you think this deployment is going to be awful for your relationship and derail your sex life, then it will. If you think this time apart is an opportunity for you to get creative and connect in non-conventional ways, then it will be.

military husband and wife embracing outdoors with "Keeping the Spark During Deployment" in text and MMC logoWays to Keep the Spark

Please know that there is no formula, one way, or universal approach to keeping the spark during deployment. Even if you’ve found connection through one method in the past, your partner’s new deployment station may not allow that same method to be feasible. So be the open-minded and flexible military partner that you are. Here are some fun ways to keep the spark:

  • Be familiar with each other’s love languages. If words of affirmation are not your partner’s jam, then sending emails and letters are not going to fill their cup. If physical touch is number one, then default to the runner-up and speak to that language. 
  • Schedule phone calls. Both sexual ones and just check-ins. I’m a big fan of scheduling in-person sex, so feel free to schedule some phone sex, too. Scheduling helps alleviate issues like present roommates or kids at home.
  • Schedule video calls. Again, this can be sexual or not. Sometimes people are just all about eating dinner “together.” Sometimes your partner just wants to see you naked or pleasuring yourself. Sometimes this can be spontaneous. Just be sure to check your surroundings.
  • Create erotic videos pre-deployment. Having a record of your physical romance can be exciting and satisfying for both partners. Just make sure it’s not loaded to the family cloud…
  • Have them hide letters or “commands” of things you need to do when they’re gone. Examples: go commando, sext them, mail underwear, write a steamy story about the two of you, plan a sexcapade…get creative!
  • Schedule a boudoir shoot and give them the book when they return. Or send them one picture a month so they have something to look forward to. This is also really empowering for the one doing the shoot!
  • Sex toys. Yes, I’m a sexologist; I had to go there. There are so many options. Have your partner pick one out for you or go shopping online together. Be sure to check out ones that can be controlled by the other person.
  • Find things that fill your cup. It’s hard to feel up for sexy time when you’re dragging and drained. Invest in self-care.

If any of these make you uncomfortable, that’s OK. I would encourage you to question that discomfort and see if it’s something you’re willing to work through. If not, totally fine. Just be sure to communicate what you are willing to do with your partner. That way there’s no misunderstandings, and expectations are kept in check. 

Speaking of expectations, it’s important to remember that sometimes deployments don’t go as expected (what? I had no idea…). Sometimes, there’s terrible Internet service so the plan of sexting or calling isn’t possible. Re-group and assess what is possible. Deployments aren’t forever, even though some days it feels like it. 

If this is all new to you, remember that you have the right to change your mind on what you’re comfortable with doing.

Maybe you thought you would enjoy a sexual video chat, but now that you’re in the situation, you’re not a fan. That’s OK! Just be sure to communicate that change to your partner. They may be disappointed, and that’s also OK. Use this as an opportunity to determine what you are comfortable with doing.

Remember that you both are doing the best that you can. So give yourself grace as you navigate this deployment.

Final thought, and this may be the most important tip: be willing to laugh at yourself.

Sometimes we take sex so seriously. Make it playful. Make it fun. And enjoy the experience of connecting with your partner.