Long military deployments overseas can put service members at risk of dying or getting permanently disabled. They also tend to threaten the military members’ marriages. When couples that are thousands of miles apart find their relationship is in trouble, it is no simple matter to try to fix it, as when both spouses are under the same roof.

Though military couples actually get divorced slightly less often than civilian couples, service to one’s country should not force service members to sacrifice their marriages. To study the problem of military divorce, psychologists at Wright State University in Ohio will study around 250 Air Force couples.

As reported by The Columbus Dispatch, not all of the couples involved are married, but all have been in a committed relationship for at least six months. The couples will attend three half-hour sessions with a behavioral-health provider. During the sessions, the expert will evaluate each couple’s history, and the strengths and potential problems in their relationship. The couple will then receive feedback.

The purpose of the study is to determine whether early intervention can help military couples avoid divorce. One of the professors involved in the study noted that many military couples do not take steps to try to save their marriage until it is too late, such as when the spouse in the military is deployed in a war zone on the other side of the world for six months.

If this method is successful, the psychology professor would like all married people to get an annual “marriage checkup,” just as people go to the doctor for a physical every year.