How I cope with a partner in National Service
A two-year national service is unavoidable for all young Singaporean men, and this is what I’ve learnt in order to cope with the sudden distance between my partner and me.
Having a partner serving National Service (NS) isn’t easy to deal with. There are no impromptu meetups, no late night phone calls and generally, just less time spent together.
While we can’t blame our partners as NS is mandatory, finding it hard to adjust is inevitable, especially if you spent most of your free time with your partner prior to his enlistment.
It took me about a month and a half to get used to it. However, there are some days where it hits me harder.
Here are the ways that helped me to cope better:
1. Start doing things you did before the relationship
There was a time where you didn’t know him. At that point, you probably had a lot of free time in your hands and dedicated it to something.
To keep your mind off of your busy partner, keep yourself just as busy as him.
Take this time to pick up from where you left off and continue what you used to do. Perhaps, you can finally finish the book that you never had the time for previously, rearrange your room or get started on making the beaded necklace you wanted to make, but forgot about it as you were focusing on your relationship.
For example, I started following my workout routines I once had before I met my partner. Starting my day with simple exercises is what kept me motivated for the rest of the day.
I also learnt new recipes I’ve been wanting to try but never had the time as I spent most of my free time with him.
Doing what you love is part of your personality, so use this chance to reignite your passion and creativity.
2. A new chapter for yourself
Time apart offers you the opportunity for growth and improvement. This is a perfect time to work on yourself!
Be it a ‘glow up’ or prioritising self-care, you should take this time to do something nice for yourself.
Look into your relationship and spot your bad habits. Surely nobody is perfect. Even I have flaws in my personality. With most of your time for yourself now, you should also check up on yourself in terms of mental health.
If you’re in school, you could work on your grades. You could even get a part-time job to stay busy.
Personally, I took up more shifts at work and pushed myself to do better at school. Apart from distracting myself from missing my partner too much and achieving satisfying grades, I made extra cash for shopping!
3. Reconnecting with friends and family
Having a partner means having to squeeze in another person into your schedule. As a result, you probably spent less time with your friends and family.
With him being away for the weekdays, you could spend your spare time with a girl’s day out just to catch up! Or you could also reconnect with friends you haven’t seen in a while and strengthen these bonds.
Your family would also appreciate you being around more often.
When my partner got enlisted, I spent most of my free time with my closest friends and family. From going for bus rides to nowhere, museum dates and the airport just to catch the sunset, I realised how much I missed them and wished I balanced my time better with everyone I love.
4. Valuing every second together
When you do meet your partner over the weekends, quality time together is crucial.
Weekly fancy dates are unnecessary. A simple meal or a hangout session at either one’s place could be much more meaningful.
Avoid being on your phones. Use this time to catch up with each other about your week and do what you both always do.
You could also do little things to show you care like getting him sunscreen, band-aids and energy bars he could eat over the weekend.
5. Lots of patience and understanding
Bad days between you and your partner cannot be avoided. Arguments about feeling distant and the thought of him losing interest would probably come across your mind.
Both parties have to be patient and understand where their partner is coming from.
Your boyfriend is going through a lot in camp, being away from friends and family in an unfamiliar place isn’t that easy. The last thing you would want to do is make him feel overwhelmed when he is still trying to adjust to the new environment.
Just like you, he needs his own space and time to rest. There will be times where he might be too exhausted to meet or call you. At first, you might feel annoyed, as if you’re not a priority.
But try putting yourself in his shoes. He also has a family that he misses and friends whom he longs to see. You can’t have all of his time, they also deserve to be with him.
There is no way to sugarcoat this part of your relationship. It will be hard, there will be ups and downs, and arguments might push you both to the edge.
As the saying goes, “communication is key.” And in this journey, it is especially important to let your partner know how you feel about certain things. Have a calm, mature conversation if you feel like he could do something better; it goes both ways actually.
This NS relationship phase will feel long and even I am nowhere near the end. All we can do is count the two years down to a rewarding and satisfying feeling when it’s over.
Because I believe that a relationship that could last through NS is a pretty solid one, so all the best in this journey!