Military life poses unique challenges for personal relationships. To celebrate love and commitment this Valentine’s Day, we interviewed three military couples across generations and asked, “What’s your best military marriage advice?”
1st. Lt. Michael Landry and Hannah Landry
Marines, married 3 years
Their love story:
High school sweethearts Michael and Hannah have been married for three years and together for nine. They’ve already weathered military moves and time apart. After four years of exchanging love letters while Michael studied at the Naval Academy, the couple got engaged. Thirty-six days later, they married in their Mississippi hometown. Today, the Landrys are stationed in North Carolina, where Michael flies Ospreys and Hannah thrives as an Inferno Hot Pilates instructor.
- Turn military life into an opportunity.
“We turned Hannah having to follow me around into an opportunity to build a business and client network across the country,” Michael said.
- Write letters.
“When we were long distance, we would write letters every day. It helped us connect deeply and really know each other,” Hannah said.
- Keep perspective.
According to Michael, you’re going to have differences in background and upbringing. “Recognize that what feels right to you doesn’t necessarily feel right to the other person … and then compromise.”
Maj. Kristen Romanelli and Jimmy Romanelli
Army, married 8 years
Their love story:
Jimmy and Kristen had only dated a few months when Kristen said, “I found a way to pay for medical school, but I might wind up anywhere in the world. What do you think?” Without missing a beat, Jimmy replied, “I would go with you.” And he did.
“He always dives right in, no questions asked,” Kristen said. As a couple, they have consistently worked to divide and conquer. When Jimmy realized re-earning his EMS certification after every move would be a challenge, he shifted professional gears to stay-at-home dad. He has become a “diaper connoisseur” and “dealer of naps and snacks.” Two moves and two kids later, these lovebirds are most proud of the family they’ve built, basking in “those fairytale moments.”
- Make time to share moments.
On Kristen’s daily drive home, Jimmy calls and updates her on the kids’ day. “Sharing that experience makes you feel less isolated,” Kristen said. “I sometimes feel isolated working, and Jimmy feels isolated at home with a 4- and 6-year-old. Communication helps us feel involved.”
- Acknowledge your spouse’s experience.
To the active-duty partner, Kristen says that you should appreciate your spouse’s point of view. “The military is a decision you made for your career, and they’re along for the ride because they love you. This wasn’t a choice they would have made for themselves … appreciate the ways they sacrifice for your goals.”
- Know when to tap out, and when to talk.
“We communicate when one of us needs to tap out from parenting for 10 minutes … and we use pillow talk to reconnect and just be humans together,” Jimmy said.
Master Chief Jim Lawrence and Rhonda Lawrence
Retired Navy, married 42 years
Their love story:
Jim and Rhonda Lawrence have been fighters from the beginning. During Jim’s first tour, an administrative error documented him as unmarried, and he was sent overseas unaccompanied without his wife and baby. Rhonda marched down to the base and told them that would not do and that they should send her to Japan. And they did. Learning to survive and thrive together in a foreign country was a blessing in disguise for their marriage, “If we got in an argument … well, you can’t run home to mama when you’re overseas,” Rhonda said. “You work it out.”
During 20 years of service, they navigated times together and apart — before email or FaceTime — as Jim climbed the ladder to master chief. The lessons they learned lasted through the decades.
- Never forget where you started.
“I always remember being an E-1’s wife. It’s easy to get caught up in titles and ranks but remembering what you’ve been through together helps you appreciate what you have,” Rhonda said.
- Remember what’s important.
Jim encourages service members to prioritize family as much as possible. “Family is what will be there for you on the back side of your service.”
- Prove people wrong.
Going all-in has fostered Jim and Rhonda’s marriage over more than four decades. According to Rhonda, family, friends, or coworkers may think you’re ruining your life by joining or marrying into the military. To that, Rhonda says, “Watch me.” She still remembers being a young wife and saying to Jim, “We’re gonna prove everybody wrong.” And they did — in love, in work, and in family.