What Does Military Transition Really Do to Marriage?

Very little about military transition is easy. Take our survey and tell us about how it impacts your marriage. http://wp.me/p1d7d0-8ka

Very little about military transition is easy. We all know that the military is more than a career track or job — it’s a lifestyle. And unlike most jobs held by the breadwinner, it intimately involves of the family. If you’re married to a utility worker you likely spend very little time being personally involved in his or her occupation. If you’re married to a military member you entire life revolves around his career field.

Very little about military transition is easy. Take our survey and tell us about how it impacts your marriage. http://wp.me/p1d7d0-8ka

Maybe that’s why getting out of the military is so hard on military marriages. According to a study by the Pew Research Center married post-9/11 veterans had a much more difficult time adjusting to transition than those who weren’t married. But the researchers didn’t ask more questions about that, so we don’t know why. They guessed that it had to do with the stress of deployments already making the relationship rocky.

We aren’t satisfied with knowing that little. Because those of us who have been living this life can probably guess other reasons. Moving out of any lifestyle to something completely new and different is hard for anyone, not just the person who had the actual paying job part of it. Transition often involves moving to a whole new location, a whole new pattern of living, potential financial insecurity and so much more.

There’s no way it’s as simple as “deployment caused stress and that stress continues.”

That’s why our (sadly outgoing) editor in chief, Jacey, is looking to study this more. She has organized two surveys — one for military members and one for spouses — to take a detailed look at exactly how military transition impacts military marriages. If we know what is going on we can help policy makers and leaders better assist those going through transition.

Take the spouse survey over here.

Take the service member survey over here.

And leave whatever additional thoughts you have in the comments!

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com 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 CNN.com, 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.
  • AnnieO

    As the wife of a Reservist, I have been surprised at how hard the transition is even from the Reserves! I had (wrongly) thought that stable civilian careers and roots in a location would make the transition seemless. Yet, having had a dear friend end his life a year after Reserve retirement was a real wake-up call. Now as we face the Reserve retirement transition ourselves, I realize how much a part of everyday life and meaning-for-being the Forces are in our own lives. The challenge for us, and I suspect many others, will be to find new dreams to pursue.

    • Jess

      My husband has gone back and forth RC to AC several times…talk about a juggling game.

  • Heather

    Everyone talks about transition like it’s this great thing. It’s not. I hate it. It’s been a year and a half for us since he got out, and I’m still bitter and angry. We’re still married, but we aren’t close. We don’t even sleep in the same room anymore. We never talk. We’re never intimate. And in fairness, that’s all my fault, because I’m mad as hell. My husband failed miserably because he simply wouldn’t do what he was supposed to do (which in his case was to go to PT on his own). Yes, he got screwed over on his way out, but if he had just kept up his PT they wouldn’t have had any reason to kick him out. And because he was lazy, our entire family has suffered.

    Screw this transition crap and screw this damn marriage. The only reason I haven’t left him already is because I can’t afford to. His failure has harmed our family and our children. What good is a husband who can’t protect or provide for his family and his kids? When we got married, we were very clear about what we wanted in a marriage, but he’s failed miserably at it.

    • Jessica

      Heather, I will not pretend to know you or what you’re going through. However, I do know that marriage & raising a family is a partnership. When you can say that “he has failed” is really shocking to me. If you’re not happy in your marriage then do yourself, your kids & your husband a favor and get a divorce. Support yourself! This is not 1950 where the Man should be expected to be the only provider. You both made those babies, therefore, you are both responsible for them. He served his country, he worked & you should be proud and thankful for that. You are the reason so many spouses are looked upon in a negative way.

    • Guest 2

      What good is a wife/mother who won’t pick up the slack? Marriage is a partnership! He’s human and allowed to be tired. Sounds like you’re using him as a punching bag to vent out your frustrations nobody wants to hear you failed you’re a failure all damn day long. You willingly sat on your hands and when YOU both allowed the military to make choices for you it was too late to get off your hands. Your initial plans were not solid as I tell most traditional housewives when their plan is countered with “and then what”? They have no answer or a clouded hope that things stay the same. This is why couples that go through a transition out don’t stay together for much longer after the military. More than likely the wife will remarry back into the military because she feels safe, protected, and provided for. Be his partner not his enemy. Or make the his environment happier and just leave!

    • HollyGunter

      I think being angry is part of the transition. I was angry at my husband for a while. More out of fear than anything. What was going to happen to us? At the time we had only been retired for a few months. I was looking for employment. It is a lot harder than some say it is. I joined the networking groups, but if you have a resume that shows frequent job changes it is kind of hard to convince a possible employer you have what it takes to do the job. I felt some of the networking groups were just using me as a statistic to fulfill a requirement or only interested if I could provide them with other contacts that were useful to the corporation that was sponsoring them. My husband was still also looking for employment. He did not leave his active duty position to change clothes and return to the position the next day as a civilian as so many of his military friends have done. He went through all the mandatory military transition classes and other resume building, job fair and trainings on base and off. He felt let down and abandoned. I was angry that he did not try hard enough to make that next promotion cut off. I’d sacrificed too. I’d supported him all the years. I’ve been left alone with small ones in some lonely, far away places. Gave up good jobs and promotions. So I understand your anger. But its easy to let that anger take hold and eat away at you both. Its a shame there isn’t counseling for this through the VA or base ( that I am aware of). all I can say is try to remember what brought you together. Find some counseling somewhere. Maybe through a local church or other group. I quit being angry and afraid. He was/is just as disappointed, scared and angry as I was/am. I realized all I have is him at the end of the day and all he has is me. So we go on.

    • Beverly

      Hi Heather , It’s never too late for your Marriage to have a fresh start , but you must forgive Him. If you can forgive him your situation will turn around. The man you married is still that man, Life has away of making us stumble , but two is better than one , if one falls and the other helps him up them , you will have some one there when you fall. I really believe if you try and help and encourage him , he will get his strength back and you guys can work it out . Have faith , I have learned a lot being a Mil Spouse , the number one thing is we must forgive each and work together as partners in life. Okay , the Military thing didn’t work out , That’s because there is something better in store for you guys. All is not lost , if you pray and believe ask God to give you the faith to start over again and He will. I would like to pray for healing and restoration for you and your husband , God I ask you to touch Heather and her husband , your word said you can restore the years that the locust have eaten. You are the God of new opportunities and new beginning Lord give them a fresh start and help them to begin again. Heal there past and help them to forget the things that are behind and only remember the good , that they receive and use the bad as a lesson to help other military couples. Since my husband retired we have a passion to help any military family member, we learned that we love each other and what God has joined together let no one separate not even the military ! I will continue to pray for you and your house hold. Hope in God, he will never fail you !

  • Tips From The Homefront

    I took the survey to the best of my ability. One thing the service member survey didn’t touch on was the dual military status. It is so common for one of the members to separate for a whole host of reasons one of the big ones being children. Also, co-location being another. It is a hard transition from military member to dependent and I do think that type of transition should be explored more in the study.

  • Sav

    I can’t take the survey yet because we’re facing an upcoming transition (despite an excellent record he didn’t make rank due to RIFing) and it is very scary. Neighbors who are up for board this year are avoiding us like the plague (failure is contagious?). We’re trying to decide if he should join the Reserves. We’re trying to decide where to live and what fields he should look for a job in. Whether I should work and what I should do. Originally we’d thought that he’d be in for 20 and retire, and we wouldn’t be in the middle of having kids like we are now. So that’s one of the major complications, trying to decide if we can afford to have a child or if I’m going to have to start bringing in a paycheck. And I’m not going to lie, it’s grounds for HUGE resentment on my part, because it feels like even after living life according to the whims of the military, we’ll STILL be living according to the whims of the military by its exit from our life.

    • guest

      Waaaaaiiiiit, you resent him because you CHOOSE not to work and now you may have to ? Lady get off your butt and get a job! Especially when you don’t have kids! Or do this guys a HUGE favor and divorce him. He can probably do SO much better then a resentful child.

  • Linda

    I was divorced by a military man after 20 years of marriage so that he could marry a much younger officer. I am supposed to get a portion of his pension but he hasn’t retired yet. So, I am living off of alimony but I can’t get remarried or live with my new boyfriend or I will lose that money and Tricare. Also, when I am finally living off the pension …..I will lose my portion of the pension…. if my ex dies and I am remarried. My life, career, and kids revolved around my ex for 20 years and even though he divorced me….I am the one that will be penalized financially if I remarry. So, I am technically retired from the military life. It hasn’t been an easy transition for me and I would love to know if there are any ex-spouse divorce groups out there that would make my transition easier.

    • guest

      you had 20 years to work and build your own retirement….You are NOT ‘retired” from the military, you were never IN the military, I see NO issue with you loosing benefits you did nothing to earn. You DO realize those benefits are a “gift” that was given to you based soley on your choice of husband right?

  • Lola

    Ok, many of you have resentment for your husband, choice of life decisions on his work and your choice to work or not. I am a 66 year old wife of a retired military and civil service man. He put 33 years in military and 30 years civil service. It began when he came back from Vietnam, that we dated and got married. He wanted a career in the Air Force. I did not want. Because we would not be near both our families. He went to reserves then got a civil service job thru air reserves. He was in both. We lived 200 miles away and was very happy. Met friends we are still in close contact today. One day we decided to come home and sold our house and moved home without jobs,etc. scariest thing we ever did. He worked as a mechanic and we kept looking for civil service openings at military bases. He was laced about it but I kept after him to check and helped fill out form after form after form with copies of past military and civilian experience. I would get very aggravated at times. I would sell Tupperware so he was home or the kids were in school while I was gone I worked in a family business which we put everything into this business we had and work 7 days a week. Sometimes by myself. Felt like I was pulling all the weight. He did get on Civil Service job and it was National Guard connected . So he was getting 2 checks and 2 retirements. We lost our business (not financially) but it was destroyed. This was after having it for 15 years. Well we had lots of problems as all couples do but grass isn’t always greener on the other side God was my backbone. He would just gripe about red tape but he didn’t want to excel as much as I thought he could. He turned down several promotions and higher positions because there was too much red tape. I didn’t like it but he had to do the work. Well he retired and his total unit and out of town colonels and previous Commanders gave him and I the most memorable awards and reception. I was recognized for staying married to him as a military wife. I also got awards from Commanders. They were so impressed that we stayed married thru 33yrs of military and 30 yrs of civil service. Statistic are very low on lifetime marriages. He had open heart surgery about 2 yrs. after he retired, he did good and got a 15 hr. Part time job. He had a heart attack about 2 months ago. He is getting military retirement, civil service retirement, one SSI, then partial disability due to Agent Orange. Now I have been reading from this about wives are like dismissed but you are wrong. We were both married to the military, when he went for months to other countries,I had to handle his affairs ,take care of our children and keep our lives as normal as possible. If he dies before me, I get his retirement Checks and his disability ck”. This isn’t the same as having him here and it will be very hard but knowing that his disability and all that is available to a military widow gives some peace of mind that the military will take care of me if necessary. And if I go before him he is taken care of.
    I feel the military admits to taking care of military wives. And making me feel honored. Not everyone is as lucky as we have been. Our VA rep.that helped us gave it his all to give us every info we needed. If you have trouble with a VA Rep. Keep going until you find one that knows what
    your entitled to. Well this was our LIFE and a long story but I felt someone had to give facts. It isn’t always the military , you probably would have marital problems with any job.. THIS IS MY OPINION|. ANY YOUNG PERSON WHO HAS NO DIRECTION IN LIFE SHOULD JOIN THE MILITARY!!! you have security of a job! Protection of your family and a future in college, va loans for a home, and then a retirement you won’t lose when the stocks drop. You don’t make a lot at first but you get what you put into it. MAY ALL HAVE GOOD LUCK IN YOUR LIVES NO MATTER WHAT YOU AIM FOR IN YOUR LIVES? GOD IN THE ANSWER FOR ALL DECISIONS??.. GOD BLESS AMERICA