Here’s Why You Should Marry Him, MilSo

wedding-rings-570

Dear Military Spouse To Be:

Just like a woman awaiting to give birth for the first time, you aren’t truly ready for military life. You can’t possibly know how much your heart can love, and conversely, how much it can ache.

Recently one of my favorite authors published a column on Military.com about why you shouldn’t marry your military love. While I believe it was intended to be tongue in cheek, it encouraged you to run the other way, or at least wait until your significant other was out of the military before you wed. As with most things, there is another, if not several other sides. This is one of them.

Nearly eight years ago, I stood at the top of what seemed like an impossibly long aisle. As the doors to the church opened, I saw my groom in his dress whites and my father asked if I was ready. The word still gives me pause: ready. Excited? Absolutely. Confident in my decision? Without a doubt. But ready? Is anyone really, truly ready for the unknown? With any marriage, civilian or military, you never fully know what twists and turns your lives will take.

Just like a woman awaiting to give birth for the first time, you aren’t truly ready for military life. You can’t possibly know how much your heart can love, and conversely, how much it can ache. But if you can make that walk down the aisle, I can all but guarantee you these things.

No words in a column can prepare you for the incredible adventure you are about to begin. Yet somehow, we find a way to make that walk, to say those vows, and to look at our collective future with optimism, commitment, and unbridled love.

If you can make that walk down the aisle, I can all but guarantee you the following things:

 

1. You will learn the culture. You will, someday, understand most of the acronyms. You’ll know what parts of the world are eight hours ahead, where Zulu begins, and at some point, you will accidentally (or intentionally) write “1600 hours” on your calendar. You’ll know who gets which parking spots, and while you might not know all of the titles, you will quickly find that the most well-liked military spouses don’t wear their husband or wife’s rank.

2. You will be invited to be in a spouse’s club or readiness group. You will have a great experience with your compatriots and you will have a bad one. The key is having the great one first, so you know that good can exist, and you will keep trying. If you have the bad experience first, then “be the change you wish to see in the world.” If you can’t remember that quote from Gandhi, then remember one from my grandmother: “Honey. You will always catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” Some of these spouses will be lifelong friends. They will be your rock, your support, and your strength. You will laugh harder and love deeper because of these friends. Some of these spouses won’t be as kind. Remember that insults generally stem from insecurity, and always strive to be the honey.

3. You will have adventures. Places you once couldn’t pronounce, like Ouagadougou, will roll off your tongue once you’ve researched whether or not you can accompany your spouse there. You’ll find yourself packing, in tears, for your first PCS to somewhere you had to find on a map when your spouse got orders. Know that it’s usually those places where you’ll find yourself in tears again when it’s time to leave. You will be presented opportunities to travel; take them. You will have a chance to live far from family, from friends, from anything and everything you’ve ever known; seize it. And when you find yourself all alone, in that place far away, know it is in that moment that you will truly see what it is you are made of.

4. You will impress yourself. You will, at some point, most likely feel broken. You will feel lonely. You will feel afraid. You will feel lonely, and broken, and afraid, all at the same time. You will question yourself. When you can’t keep your career on track, you will challenge your support of your spouse’s profession. You will be, as soon as you walk down that aisle, referred to as a “dependent.” You will hate that term, for you will know that to hack it in this marriage, to make it through deployments (and sometimes just through the day) you have to be everything but dependent. You will, at some point, resent the military and the choices it makes for you and your family in what seems to be a vacuum. Then, you will dust yourself off. A senior spouse will tell you to “put on your big girl panties,” and while you will resent her in that moment, you will do what she says, and you will someday thank her. You will find, in this rock bottom time, that you are resilient. You are strong. You can, and you will, keep supporting your marriage, your spouse, and yes, your military. You made vows to one another, and your spouse made an extra one to the military. You must both continue to honor all of those.

5. You will have trials. I wish I could protect you from this. You don’t know yet what it feels like to send your spouse off to an undisclosed location for an undetermined amount of time. You haven’t watched your children kiss their mommy or daddy, the other half of your heart, goodbye. You can only imagine the indescribable angst you’ll experience when you don’t know if it was that same mommy or daddy, your forever love, that an anchor is reporting was KIA on CNN. With that, you can only fathom that insatiable relief that consumes you when you find out he or she is okay. You can’t possibly know the hurt, the denial, and the mix of helplessness and anger that you will feel when you find out, just days after getting your spouse back in your arms, that they’ve been selected for “an opportunity” to go back.

6. You will know loss. Either first or second hand, the likelihood is, that at some point, you will likely know unprecedented grief. You may stand at a ceremony and either receive, or watch someone you know be presented with a folded flag. If it is another spouse receiving it, you will feel horrific sorrow, deep empathy, and guilt fraught with relief that you are standing there holding your spouse’s hand, instead of that precise triangle. If it is you who receives that flag, then for you, dear military spouse to be, I have no words. Those of us who have not experienced that first hand cannot possibly begin to pretend that we fully understand.

Before you turn and run far away from this military marriage you’re about to embark, know that out of that awful darkness, you will find unparalleled light. You will feel a community rally. You will experience standing room only. You will witness processions filled with supporters. You will, alongside the other spouses, sign up to provide months of meal deliveries. You will hold one another’s hands, and you will all help heal one another’s hearts.

And you will weep. Every time you see a headline about the death of a service member, either here or abroad, you will read the full story. You will honor the dead. You will know the real, true meaning of Memorial Day, and you will hold onto it with your life. You and your spouse will know patriotism, sacrifice, and service more than any of even your most well-intended civilian friends. You will raise your children to know those same values.

You will, when you walk down that aisle, enter a world of honor, respect, and incredible courage upon which our very nation is founded. Uncle Sam might need your spouse, but your spouse needs you. Now go run down that aisle; you are as ready as you will be.

Welcome to the family.

 

T.T. Robinson is a proud Navy wife, writer, and crisis management consultant — a skill that proves useful every day as the mother of two toddlers. She currently writes the Deployment Diary for Motherlode, the New York Times parenting blog. Follow her on Twitter @T_T_Robinson.

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  • Laura

    This seems like an incredibly outdated guide – most military SOs have experienced a lot of this several times over by the time they are married. Unless you are marrying someone you just met this is no surprise.

    By the time I married my husband we had PCSed together, lived in Europe together, moved to a different house at the same duty station, he deployed, we survived 5 TDYs, I had volunteered with our FRG, and the acronyms I had figured out at least 2 years before our wedding.

    There are reasons to marry rather than just keep dating – not having to renew a pass to go on post is great, there are many services available only to spouses, a commitment before God and your family is a great thing, next time we are in Europe I won’t have to get my own visa, etc. But most couples who marry in the 21st century have already lived together and experienced all of the above (except, statistically, children.)

    • Alana

      I disagree. It was a lovely piece and relevant for most of the young spouses I have met, including myself. We were married before my husband started so there were no opportunities to learn these things before hand. Thank you, I loved it!

    • Holly

      I met my husband when we were just freshman at university. We married right after graduation, so I had no idea what this life would be like. (We are a little “old fashioned”, if you will, and would not live together until we were married. Even at the ripe old age of 22.) I think this can still be true for many spouses, although, not all. But still a lovely piece. After 16 years, I am so thankful I ran down that aisle, and married my soul mate. I’m sure you are, as well. :-)

  • Rebekah Sanderlin

    Beautifully stated, and it’s all true. :-)

  • A. Torian

    This is all so true! I believe that Mrs. Robinson’s main point was that if you are new to military life, be it married or not, there are some things to expect and not the pipe dream that everyone believes it to be (because of movies or TV). You have to be made of tough stuff to stay committed to a military service man or woman and if you are not, if you plan to stick with them, you will be! And better for it!

  • Barbara

    I was in the military also when i married my husband and he was a higher rank than me. It was hard to integrate to the women of the Non-Commissioned higher rank officers. But it was ok. I bonded more with the women of the Commisioned officer. I think the problem was we were with a unit that was together for many years before we got there. I took charge but allowed their interpetations. I did enjoy our time in the service.

  • Andrea

    #2….this one just isn’t true. It can’t be. I mean, I have been to 5 commands, and in less than 3 months it will be 6, in 13 years and I have yet to be invited to anything. Yes, I am a part of the current OSC, but I was never invited. Three years ago, I had to put “my life” on hold, something I refused to do just because the military thought I should. This he was partly due to the military and I told myself that this time I would try and make it different to see if it would make life better. I sought out whatever groups I could and joined them. Only to find out that life wouldn’t be different. Did I meet new people? Certainly. How
    many of those people will I keep in touch with after we leave? Probably none of them, since these people I know, I don’t keep in touch with other than rare instances, and it isn’t because of lack of trying, but I also refuse to look desperate. This has been the case at every command. Maybe it’s because I live off post? Maybe my goals in life aren’t the same? I’ll be direct and honest, and maybe it is the rate my husband is in, but his job is a just “a job.” He has been deployed to war zones and that obviously is more than “just a job.” But the day to day when a deployment isn’t happening? He can support me equally as I support him. I will not give up my life or identity or personality to “support” my spouse. He is equally responsible for family and household responsibilities as I am. He knows this and supports me working. He doesn’t quite understand why It looks unfavorable on a resume to change jobs every 2-3 years, but I’m working on that with him. But to just say that you’ll be invited to be a part of a military spouse group when you go somewhere is a fallacy. At least it’s batting an 0-5 so far in my book.

    • guest

      Yes! This. My thoughts exactly…sometimes some of us just never get a “good” base…what does that even mean? Do they exist? And yes on the whole you meet people, but never actually stay in touch with them and the not wanting to look desperate. Even looking like you are desperate doesn’t help!

  • Chinny

    Beautifully written. As a new Army Wife myself, I thank you.

  • jen

    I haven’t yet read all of these articles. I am somewhat in shock of the article of “Why Not to Marry Your Soldier” (I realize it’s not the exact title.) I am respectful of free speech and freedom of opinion. I am divorced — my ex husband never viewed the military as “just a job” and being how we arranged our lives around the military.. The military is very much a part of your life too (family member) even if you are not in it. I respect those who choose to make the military separate and keep their distance. I also understand having been there. To list “You will know Loss” as a reason to marry your Significant other!? Why? Grief and loss is one of the most challenging issues within the military life. Grief & loss changes people. handling grief and loss takes a LOT of strength, and there are those that don’t know how to face it. (Even men.) at the same time I get argumentative.. I appreciate what you have to say.

  • Jen

    I sort of read it wrong as well. A bit embarrassed.

  • Brittany

    My fiance just started basic training in the Army a couple weeks ago. We are planning to get married late 2016. I know life as a military spouse won’t be easy, but I am up for the challenge! Thank you for writing this article, it is very enlightening. New challenges, new life, exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.

    • Joe

      You should really take the time while he is in basic to see if he is the right man for you. I mean, this may be your time to be away from him for a few months. Get out of the house and live. Sow some wild oats before you say ‘I do’. You may find that you enjoy the normal civilian life and even civilian guys.

      Live like you are single and have some fun while he is away. Then, if after those few months you feel like this is still the right choice, marry him.

      You never know, you might just find out you like being single and free, or you might find someone you like a little better ;)

  • Kayla

    First, can I just say “Thank You” for writing this article! I’ve been dating my Airman for a little over a year now,but just started experiencing the “military” world (by a shock) when he to OTS.

    Now that he has officially started his pilot training with USAF; marriage is being discussed. So many questions & emotions. However, this article sums it up a lot & was really helpful!

  • Joe

    If you want a life where your life revolves around your partner, marry a service member. If you want a life where infidelity is the norm, private Snuffy is your man. Hey, you’ll still get tricare and bah…

  • Joe

    The poster above is correct. Why not stick to guys out here that won’t go to the field every few weeks or deploy for a year at a time? Fellas out here can make significantly more money than a service member, not to mention we control our destinies to a much greater extent.

  • Jane Tanner

    We’re not a military family ourselves, but have so much appreciation and respect for those that are. Thanks so much for your service!