As I was reading through the Military.com Relationship forums, I was amazed at how many men and women wrote asking advise on marriage, finances, and fidelity issues. Should I get married, should I get married after Basic, my spouse is cheating, I don't know what to do...etc. You get the drift. Many of these stories were heartbreaking, however, being prior military myself I had to remind myself I was only seeing one side of the coin.
Marriage in the best of circumstances is not an easy task. It takes maturity, communication, and plain old hard work. In a world that wants and usually gets everything instantly, marriage has become a disposable commodity. Folks rush into it way too fast and when the going gets tough, they get going. They don't take the time or the effort to make it work. That is a sad state of affairs (no pun intended).
Marriage in the Military world is even harder to maintain, especially in times of war, frequent deployments, low pay, and lets not forget the affects of stress on our Troops. Talk about hard work? They're not kidding when they say being a Military spouse is the toughest job in the service.
So, lets talk about the main problems I saw posted on the boards. Gods, where to begin....
Humm...how about the frequent posts asking about getting married. First is should I get married before I get in, after tech school, right before a deployment?
There are so many many reasons not to get married before a deployment or upon initial enlistment in the Military. Especially for the new young troops. Here is my opinion on why.
Most are away from home for the first times in their lives, many right out of High School. They are lonely...someone pays attention to them...usually a young girl or guy that wants to get out of their homes. And let us not forget those that are just looking for that guaranteed income...G.I. (many times found at bars, on first tours overseas, etc.) Now before I get hate mail....this is not always the case but I gotta tell you honestly I saw much too much of it from my troops when I was in. All of a sudden they are in Basic Training...guess what...no free housing for the spouse. How will you handle housing issues? The troop is away at training for a long period of time or on that first 12 month deployment. Contact is sparse during initial training sometimes for up to a month you may not hear from your soldier. Contact can be sparse for the first few weeks of a deployment or for the entire deployment.
Getting the picture so far? Guess what happens next?
The spouse is not used to handling things on their own. All of a sudden it's not as romantic and carefree as they thought it would be. Feelings get hurt because of the lack of contact. Then when there is contact....its a barrage of accusations, tears, and fights. The troop gets defensive and withdraws cause they don't have any clue about dealing with relationships. Most don't even know themselves yet. Add to that a pregnancy or financial issues. Now you have a huge mess. Just imagine the problems that will stem from this extension in deployment time.
You have your spouse crying, complaining, accusing you of cheating...because thanks to the rumour mill that is FAMOUS on Military Installations they hear the guys or gals are having a big party 24/7 and sleeping with everyone but you. Troops are worried about their spouses leaving them or cheating. Yes, it does happen...its called the "Dear John" syndrome. There is the stress that the Troop has to deal with in their day to day job. Expectations that were too high to begin with are dashed. All of a sudden this is just one big hassle. Ever notice the endless supply of divorce lawyers that swarm around Military bases? They make a fortune off Joe. They don't know how to get help for the issues befalling them and have no real support base. Before you know it you are either in trouble with your command, your divorced (and yup there goes most your paycheck for child support). You can consider yourself lucky if that is all that happens. Consider the ramifications of having your finances totally in the dumps, facing bankruptcy. Charges of Adultery...the list goes on.
So, to get to the point, and my Soldier agrees with me. NO NO NO. Don't rush into marriage. Make sure your expectations of your lives together are not too high. Consider premarital counseling and financial counseling. If you are in your late teens or early twenties...take some time to find out who you are before you take on the responsibility of being a couple and/or parent. If your relationship is strong it can wait until you better able to handle being a couple. You have to realize that your Soldier belongs to the Military and that responsibility must and will always come first.
And I'm going to include the older Soldiers and spouses in this little message. Cause I've seen some 40 year old people that act like they are still teenagers at times.
Another big item. Internet romances. Now I'm not going to say it doesn't work out. I met my Soldier on the Internet and we spent a year doing the emails, web cam, phone calls and we did get to know each other better than most who've been dating for years. This is rare folks. We were lucky. I met him when his deployment was over and we've been together ever since.
I see women and men posting that they are in love with this person that they've been emailing on the net. First of all, how can you love a person you've never met. (it can happen, but it is rare). Also, keep in mind that anyone can say anything on the net. They can put any picture up. And yes they can pretend to be something they are not. Anyone can buy a uniform, dress up in that for a pic. Most the girls don't know what the uniform is supposed to look like except what they see on CNN. So don't be fooled about that. I know one such young lady...that has been chatting with this "Navy Seal" on the net. He sent a pic of someone in uniform. Supposedly he's been deployed 2 years somewhere secret. Can't tell her anything. She was upset because he keeps canceling their meetings, doesn't call when he says he will....etc. Granted due to OPSEC if he is a Seal he can't tell her much. But the fact that this has been going on for two years and meetings keep getting canceled....BIG RED FLAG.
Many times it's some married man (Soldier or otherwise)who is trying to get someone to chat with them. It could be the case of a lonely Soldier that is deployed that just wants company while deployed and will lose interest as soon as they come home. They will say anything. It could be a pervert looking to reel in their prey. You just can't fall for everyone that chats nice nice on the net. A lot of times, you're not the only one they are chatting up.
Do your research! Never give them personal information. If you do finally meet do it in a public place. Get to know their family. I was talking to my Soldier's Father on the phone when we met on the net. He would call me to see how his son was doing, because he spent all his free time with me. lol. And for God's sake don't rush into marriage. My Hubby says it should be a law that you live together for a year before marriage, and I have to agree with him. Take your time, make sure it's going to last and that you are both on the same page. Make sure you know what it takes to fill the roll of a Military Spouse.
Now for the big one. Infidelity. I read some posts from some very bitter women (and men) that had caught their Soldier and/or spouse cheating on them. Sure it happens. But is because of the Military? NO! Some will say that because of the very nature of Military life, (i.e., all the separations), that infidelity runs rampant in the military. Wrong answer. It does not and I'll tell you why.
First, you have the suspicious spouse that thinks that just because they are separated that the other spouse can't go without sex. Alot of times the accusations are unfounded, but it ends up adding a tremendous stress on the marriage. No matter what you do or say they will accuse you.
Then you have the rumour mill. It's amazing but people will say anything in the military rumour mill. Someone is always talking about someone, and the big one is usually about who is sleeping with who. Or you have the bitter spouses that make statements about cheating military spouses. Just because it may have happened to them, doesn't mean that all Military members are incapable of keeping their pants on.
If your spouse is going to cheat on you, they will do it whether or not they are in the Military. If your spouse doesn't, then they won't start as soon as they join. If your marriage is based solely on sex than maybe you should rethink things. I know many long loving marriages that have never had that issue even with frequent long deployments. There are ways to keep you intimacy smoking with a little imagination and communication on both of your parts.
Infidelity issues stem from other deep seated reasons and many times immaturity. Oh and guess what? There is this code of military law....UCMJ. They frown deeply on Adultery. And really think about it....your Soldier is working 15 hour days now with no time off, living in tents. Doesn't sound like a wild drunken orgy to me.
Last but not least we have finances. If you took a survey you would find that most married couples fight about money. Who has control, spending issues, and meeting financial responsibilities. You'd be surprised in this day in age those that don't have a clue how to balance a check book. You have those couples where one person pays all the bills and handles all that. Suddenly they are deployed. The other spouse doesn't have a clue how to deal with it. You have the spouse/s who blows whatever money comes in.
I find it a hoot how the troops around here have the best stereos, brand new luxury cars, blue tooth, cell phones, gold jewelry and designer clothes while living in a trailer that is falling down around their ears. Those are the ones who get the electric and cable turned off and have empty refrigerators. Again, not all but I see so much of it. When I was in...in between paydays, a lot of those stereos and big screen TVs ended up in the pawn shop until the next payday. Heck, most the time their gadgets and jewelry spent more time there than in their homes.
Again, much of this comes from immaturity and inexperience in running a household. Believe me no one gets along when there are money issues.
All the above mixed in with the day to day stresses of the Military can wreak any marriage. But it doesn't have to be that way. Being married to the Army or any Branch of the Service, takes commitment, dedication, loyalty, communications, lots of love, and a ton of hard work. Don't give up at the first flicker of trouble. Nip the problem in the bud right away. Be open and honest with each other. Talk, talk, and then talk some more. Take the time to do special things for one another. Tell them you are proud of all they do and the sacrifices they make everyday. If problems do arise, take advantage of all the help available through the Military.
Yes, being married to a Soldier is the hardest job you'll ever have, but I will have to say that it is also the most rewarding and loving job you'll ever have.
Just my 2 cents,
Proud Army Wife
Rock of the Marne!