Should you Suffer if Your Spouse Behaves Badly?


Over the past several months national news has been riddled with tales of high-up military officials doing naughty things, getting caught and then being fired. There are the Navy commanders you probably have never heard of before. There are the more high profile Army generals and colonels caught in bigamy and sexual assault. And there is Gen. Petreaus — and we all know what happened there.

But behind each and every one of these cases full of high profile victims or scandalous consensual partners are other, quieter victims.

The wives.

In the cases of what seem like whole hills of Navy commanders, the wives silently suffer the public embarrassment or pay cuts that come with rank reduction. But in the case of those who have lost or are likely to loose their jobs as a result of their accused crimes — such as Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, now retired Lt. Col. James Johnson III and even Staff Sgt. Robert Bales — their wives are likely to walk away with empty pockets, a sad resume thanks to years of spousedome and very few prospects.

But one former military spouse wants to change that — and not because her pockets are empty, but because her husband’s jury made sure they were full at the sacrifice of handing down what she considers to be a harsh enough punishment to her ex-husband.

We’ve written about Kristina Johnson before. You’ll recall it was she who turned her badly behaving husband in to start with after he committed bigamy, fraud and adultery so that he could carry on an affair with an Iraqi woman. He even moved the woman into his quarters on post in Italy. He wasn’t exactly being subtle.

But instead of being stripped of all rank and booted out the door, he was allowed to retire as a Lt. Col. (with all the benefits that come along with that), reprimanded and fined $300,000.

Now his ex-wife is saying that she believes the jury handed down such a light ruling in an attempt to protect her, according to this story. Had he been stripped of everything she would’ve been, too. This way she will be able to receive his retirement benefits.

And so Johnson is asking Army leadership to find a way to allow juries to punish badly behaving husbands while protecting wives’ benefits.

From the story:

Mrs. Johnson, now a saleswoman for a high-end clothing boutique in New Jersey, said spouses who sacrifice their own careers to support their families and their husbands’ careers have earned financial protection from the military.

“A lot of spouses give back as volunteers, they’re also serving,” Mrs. Johnson said. “You’ve invested yourself … in the Army community with your time and energy.”

Johnson said she risked her financial future to turn her husband in, but others may suffer in silence because they fear a post-court martial life more than one watching a criminal.

So, tell me –would it be fair for spouses to be protected even after a husband’s sentence is handed down? And should this only apply to divorced families? In the case of Staff Sgt. Bales and Brig. Gen. Sinclair, for example, they are still married. If their spouse is ensured financial protection from the military, wouldn’t it, in turn, benefit the servicemember?

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of’s spouse and family blog A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.

27 Comments on "Should you Suffer if Your Spouse Behaves Badly?"

  1. In the civilian world there is no protection… why should the military be any different? Look at Madoff and many other high profile cases of selfish men whose family forever suffers.

    • Considering spouses move with their partners because of the military lifestyle, many of the military spouses have a hard time finding employment when they move from various locations around the world. Military families may move several times in just a few years. Civilian…. not as much in comparison or not at all, but it depends on the type of work. It's easier for civilians to just get back out in the work field after a divorce compared to military spouses (or ex mil spouse's). I think thats why they should be different, just my 2 cents.

      • I'm sorry but its things like this that make the civilian world look down on us. Yes it is more difficult to have a career as a military spouse but that is why they offer mycaa and all the other grants, scholarships etc to help get a degree to make it easier. I know plenty of women that get their education and have a career while their husbands serve. We do not Deserve any special treatment or protection just because we married someone in the military. The military does not owe us anything. If you don't want to be left with nothin then know who you married or bust your but get a degree and make your own way so it can't be taken away from you.

    • I am 66. Since abuses by high ranking military personnel and veterans in my youth I have only heard that I made it up, I asked for it, I did it. I could not move on and other crimes occurred. Just a year ago a veteran robbed me of my document in church and got away with it because the priest "did not do CIA." I thought the CIA was there to protect us. I do not want a pity party but to move on and it can be difficult do to the re-victimization. They make me feel guilty because I cannot thank them for their service unless I know them. Should I?

  2. I can not believe this is even being asked. We all know that married military members are given lighter punishments for fear of hurting the family members I have seen it done for all ranks, not just senior leaders. Is it fair? No way in any logical world is it fair. That married individual should have thought of his family before doing what ever transgression got the individual in trouble. I am tired of constantly hearing about the poor distraught spouse sitting at home. That spouse is not cold, hot, putting there life on the line, sleep deprived, or doing anything that many civilian families do as well. Many civilians have jobs that take them away from there families and somehow military spouses have it different? Punishments for transgressions should remain to be given on a case-by-case basis by Commanders to allow for exceptions. Dealing out punishment based on the dependent status of a service member should not be one of those exceptions. No, statistically speaking it is extremely hard for any wife to get back to work after a divorce regardless of any "special" group people want to be in. Lower pay and wives usually getting the kids in a divorce are two of many reasons why women have it hard after divorce. It does not matter if that wife was married to a military member or a civilian the deal is the same. But who am I? Everyone will keep putting themselves in neat little "special" groups and demand "special" treatment for there neat "special" group.

  3. Seriously? You married into the military, suck it up.

    • You have no idea.

      • Grace Mascorro | January 18, 2013 at 3:55 pm |

        Boy I have seen things on both sides too. I watched a woman kick her husbands casket at Arlington she spit on it and said it was the first time she ever knew where he was, in hell. He had several other wives, and they had to sort out who's kids were actually the dead guys kids. Sad for everybody.

  4. Not all of us marry into the military. Some of us are already married when the spouse decides they want to join. Being a good spouse we’re just supporting our significant other.

      • No offense but they are not your benefits. If your husband had a normal job you would have to fight to get part of his pension in court it wouldn't be an entitlement. You didn't serve for those benefits, you did what a wife does and took care of your family for 22 years. I'm extremely sorry your husband betrayed you like that and agree you deserve alimony, child support etc, but to claim the benefits are "yours" just isn't true. If a woman is married to her spouse at retirement the pension isn't "hers" the check goes to her husband.

      • -"Something's wrong with that picture!" Indeed. But not what you think.
        1) Your dirt bag husband hurt you – BUT – if anybody owes you anything it's him, not the US gov. 2) You are apparently letting fear and money rule your life. If you want to get remarried, forget about the "benefits" and get on with your life.

  5. The service member and the family are both doing time. Unfortunately, the only spouse in the family environment is the civilian spouse. If I had proof that my husband was cheating I wouldn't say anything because I have done my time and I do not want to lose what "we" have been waiting for. While he is a puppet at sea I hold together our functioning family in an absolutely dysfunctional situation. A military spouse has nothing to hold on to but the benefits and a dream of being together. Chain their asses to the wall if they get caught but leave the family alone.

  6. ArmyWife2007 | January 2, 2013 at 1:53 am |

    If you are not a military spouce then you don’t have the right to judge or comment on this topic! Because you have not experienced the life changes & demands we face with deployment/ redeployment PCSing and so much more.

  7. As a kid we constantly moved as my Dad changed "domiciles" as a Postal Inspector. My Mom would not have had any protections in place if something had happened with them. And a PI is Federal law enforcement. He had assignments with frequent travel as well, not 6 months at once but constant travel. So I can sees the argument that if it isn't available for civilians why should the military be special. (And ArmyWife2007 don't get your pages in a knot, I'm also a military spouse of over 24 years)

  8. Hate typing on a phone – see not sees

  9. I don't know, but punishing the family for the cheaters mistake just doesn't seem right.

  10. This is ridiculous. First of all for the most part we are civilians married to service members and way to many women forget that. I do not expect the military to protect me and I definitely don't think it owes me anything. If my husband messes up either you stand by and take it or you leave just like in the civilian world. the punishment should not be less because they are married, what kind of message does that send? And yes we face a special situation with moving, deployments, training a and everything military life brings but it is possible, and probably more important, for us to get educated and build careers. Yes we would have to find a new job evy 2 years and juggle kids and everything but women do it every day. Stop acting like the world owes you. Your husband chose this and you chose to follow him. No one should be protecting us.

  11. What some people seem to forget though, is in the civilian world people don’t usually lose their jobs for cheating, affairs, etc. as opposed to the military. Yes, the wives chose to follow but they didn’t ask to have their husbands cheat.

    • Grace Mascorro | January 18, 2013 at 4:04 pm |

      From a command aspect, cheating is not good for team morale. When we were stationed at Coronado as soon as my Dad left for deployment it would start. People would just drop by. Mom knew the 4 stages of the brushback, and on occasion had to go to stage 4. Never follow a cheater. Your children will learn that you accept the behavior. We will follow, but only a man who has the moral character to lead and lead justly. It takes as much courage to follow as it does to lead.

  12. "puppet at sea"??? That is just awesome. Clearly if the service member is the puppet then someone needs to dig deep and look a little more inward to solve your problems. Not all civilian jobs have rules for infidelity, but some do, that when broken the employee will lose a job. To claim all do not or most do not is a little short sighted. Completely blaming the person that cheats is a little short sighted as well. I would think that when partners are content they would not cheat. Some content couples could fail but those might live through it. Essentially, yes the spouse may not have said the words "please cheat on me" but you have to look at the whole relationship and ask if your actions or lack of actions led to the other leaving. Of course the one that left could just lack the moral fortitude or life commitment of a marriage but those would be traits that people try to identify and avoid before they marry. Blaming one for all ill tidings and then claiming the service benefits as yours is wrong.

  13. This happened to me. I had the “pleasure” of being told my active duty husband of 24 years at the time was having an affair while at the Seargent Majors Academy, Fort Bliss with another soldier by her own husband. He made a complaint with the Army and nothing was done and she was quickly sent with her national guard unit to Iraq. This was her second offense for the same thing. I had to quickly act and as my children are very young I had to protect them so I made a decision not to make a complaint because that would have only made it worse. So I held my head high and walked away with the 20 20 20 rule. A divorce and my three children. Yes he got promoted to Command Seargent Major and is high on his horse but I have my children, morals and values.

  14. It is not the military's fault if a servicemember cheats. The cheater is solely responsible for jeopardizing the security of the family. The military does not owe spouses anything in terms of support. If my husband cheated and jeopardized his career, he is the one who needs to pay the consequences, even if that means he ends up in a low paying job and has to hand over the majority of his earnings to his family. As a milspouse of almost 24 years, I am responsible for the decisions I made to not pursue a career that would ensure my independence if my marriage ended. As a married couple, we agreed that I would not work and would provide continuity and security in my children's lives. If my marriage dissolved, I would do what I had to do to provide the best I can for my kids even if I have to work a min. wage job to acquire experience to get something better in the future. I would also expect my husband to continue with his support of his children because he will always be their father. The military is not responsible for the needs of our family, my husband and I are.

    • Jim in SOMD | May 30, 2013 at 4:52 pm |

      Technically the military is not at fault, but there is a far better chance that there will be times of long separation from your spouse while in the military, whether it be on active duty or as a reservist. Yes there are civilian jobs where there is travel. Howevr, it is not illegal to have an affair in civilian life, and as long as it is not with someone close to your boss, etc, you probably keep your job. As adultery is against UCMJ, it could cost the member monetarily and thus the spouse/exspouse would suffer because they reported the problem. I belive that as long as the servicemember has enough years of service to retire, the spouse should get what they would have gotten as an exspouse of a retired service member.

  15. Should you suffer if your spouse behave badly? What a silly question!

    Remember that part about "for better or for worse"? Look, when you are married, you are one. You enjoy the benefits when your spouse's does good things (like bringing home a paycheck) and you also suffer the consequences when they do bad things (like cheating on you). If the marriage is disolved, THEN (and only then) you go back to being separate entities, and you are disconnected from the consequences (good and bad) of their acitons.

    If you got shafted by your spouse, that is between you, them, and God. Your spouse's employer (gov, civilian, whatever) owes you nothing. Case closed.

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