Military marriages are tough, but they don’t have to be too difficult if a healthy amount of ongoing nourishment is invested into the relationship.
Looming deployments, PCS moves and other obstacles make relationships anything but easy. Building a strong foundation is the most important aspect of maintaining your commitment through separations and other less than pleasant experiences. Just like the foundation of any physical structure, over time, if the foundation obtains cracks and is not properly treated, the cracks will spread and eventually the foundation will crumble.
In fact, we’ve all probably heard the saying, “If the military wanted you to have a wife, they would’ve issued you one.”
The original quote was by Marine Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller after being asked by a private first class for permission to marry. He responded, “Son, when the Marine Corps wants you to have a wife, you will be issued one.”
Even though spouses are not issued, it often feels like our importance is less of a priority than a hand receipt for a box of Number 2 pencils. If you want a lasting, fulfilling and committed relationship, you’re going to have to work for it.
Our Army story
Within the first year of our marriage, my husband was given deployment orders to Iraq. Before we were wed for six months, we underwent a Permanent Change of Station from Colorado to Hawaii, then he was sent off to training for 30 days before he prepared to deploy.
Prior to getting married, we’d only known each other for a month. If you could imagine the uncertainty we both felt during this fragile period in our lives together, we knew so little about each other and we knew absolutely nothing about being married.
The months leading up to deployment tested every ounce of our love, patience and strength. We found out I was pregnant, then I suffered a miscarriage two months prior to deployment. I was told that I had fibroids and needed a myomectomy. This surgery required me to have my abdomen cut open shortly before my husband was set to deploy.
The stressors of my medical situation drove a wedge between us, plus I was constantly in physical pain and feeling like I was alone. My husband was already overwhelmed with the thoughts of heading into a dangerous deployment and I was about to undergo a major procedure.
At this point, our relationship was anything but strong. Over time, with the help of our higher power, counseling and communication, we have been able to remain committed through all our trials and tribulations.
Building a solid foundation
Have you ever thought about going to counseling when you don’t have an issue? Yes, you should try it! Counseling isn’t only available when you are having a problem. Go together or alone, but go nonetheless.
Discuss the expectations you have of your spouse and they should do the same. Talk about how you are coping with current stressors in your relationship, at work or with your children. Knowing potential issues and discussing steps to combat them will help strengthen the communication between you.
Seek guidance from something greater than yourself
Whatever your religious beliefs are, seek guidance and wisdom from someone or something outside of yourself. If you only listen to the thoughts in your own head, where would you be in life? Many people turn to their religious beliefs and a higher power including programs offered for free by military chaplains. The service branches have different versions of them, like Strong Bonds through the Army.
If that is not something you believe in, try something else. There are life coaches, mentors and other people who can help you make positive decisions.
For any relationship to be successful, both partners must be honest. Not being forthcoming or honest in a relationship can create problems down the road.
Save yourself a headache and be truthful with each other and with others. If you and your spouse prefer not to talk to friends or family about your relationship, make that clear to them in the beginning.
Be clear and open with your partner. This will help build trust and create keep your relationships foundation solid.
Make time for your relationship
Nurturing the bond between you and your partner is essential to maintaining a level of intimacy needed to keep your relationship thriving.
The truth is, as a military wife you will spend a lot time in your marriage without your partner. Cherish the time you have together.
Take a mini vacation to a nice hotel for a night and simply unwind. You should continue to date your partner throughout your marriage.
Have friends outside of your marriage
Be friends with people other than your partner or your partner’s friends. Often, in the military spouse life, we unintentionally get befriended or grouped with other spouses in our service member’s unit. While there is nothing wrong with that, make sure that the friendship you are entering into is a wanted one and not forced. If it is forced, over time it will cause stress which can lead to other problems in your marriage.
There are so many tools afforded to military couples to be proactive in a marriage. When you feel like you need some help, reach out. Confidential counseling is available through options like Military One Source at 800-342-9647. You can speak with someone over the phone or make an appointment with a Military and Family Life counselor in your area.
In a marriage, partners grow and change, and in order to stay on a positive path together, they must remain committed. If your commitment to one another is stronger than a condition, love will prevail.