Make a Military Relationship Work
Edited by Sobi, Doug Collins, Grimm
What Makes a Military Relationship Work
For a person in the military, their job comes first, and not necessarily by choice.
Rather, it's the nature of the job. They have made a commitment to protect their country, and by extension, sometimes the world. It's not easy, and many times a military relationship is basically a sporadic long distance relationship. The difference being that it adds the various stresses unique to military life. (Deployment, TDY, dangerous job, etc.)
Communication is the most important aspect of maintaining any relationship. Sometimes people think they are communicating; yet they interpret what the other says differently than what was meant. It is as if they are speaking two different languages (not so much literally). Clarification of meanings is important for good communication.
It is also essential to have a realistic view of what military life is like. As the Significant Other (SO), when the military member is gone, you wear ALL the hats, and make all the decisions. At times it can be very scary. Trust, loyalty and faithfulness are also important. The non-military SO has to also be independent. They have to be able to function on their own, and as a single parent (even though they are not single- there may be many times when you feel like you are alone). However, the SO should not give up whatever they enjoy or the goals they have for themselves. Another important part of a successful relationship is having a mutual respect for each other and each others life goals.
When In a Relationship with a Military Member
Remember that there may be various periods of separations.
These periods of separation can be from just a few days to over a year. Depending on the job duties, there may be little to no consistent communication. Computers and telephones are not accessible in every corner of the world and some jobs require communication silence. For example on a submarine, there is radio silence for at least 3 months, so that no radio waves give away their locations. The military member can be called away at a moment's notice; they miss many birthdays, births and anniversaries to name a few. Both parties should be able to compromise and be flexible.
Military members and their families can be uprooted every 2 -3 years, and sometimes duty stations are unaccompanied, meaning the family stays behind. If you are married, the military will send you with your spouse to most accompanied duty stations. If you are not married, they do not pay your way. You can look at change of stations as a new beginning, making new friends, seeing a different part of the country and if you don't like the new duty station, know that it is temporary and you'll be moving on to another place in a few years.
You Can Have a Successful Military Relationship
Relationships with military service members can be very successful.
Just keep in mind that it takes both parties to communicate, have loyalty to one another, and trust. These are things that take work and time to build. They aren't always easy to maintain, but with commitment to one another, it can be done.
- 1During Separation/Deployments: This is a time when you both can become creative with letters, cards, care packages, and emails. During WWII many drew pictures on the envelopes of the letters sent to their loved ones, these pictures where enjoyed by the recipient and those who saw them. They were a morale booster for many.Advertisement
- 2Homecomings: These are joyful events for most when they are happening. Each homecoming can be a huge re-adjustment for everyone involved. Returning service members and their families go through periods of change and renewal of their relationships. The changes in each person while separated and reintegration into the family structure can be a challenge as each finds their place within the family. The military offers various support centers to aid in dealing with these changes.Advertisement
- 4Be Flexible: Things can change fast in the military. The service member may have Leave (vacation) scheduled and it can suddenly be cancelled. Also, depending on rank and job, the service member may have to leave dinner and deal with issues at work. Duty always comes first and some may feel the service member leaves with barely a fare thee well. Some people show, instead of speaking how they feel, learning how to hear the different ways feelings are expressed may take months to years to learn.
- 5Finances: This may be the second most fought over issue between partners, after communication. Keep in mind that you'll probably never get rich on military pay. Discussions about money and the control of it, spending issues, and financial responsibilities need to be made. Both partners should know how to balance their accounts, pay bills, and know the spending limits. Most military installations offer finance counseling and service members and SOs are encouraged to use it.
Tips and Suggestions for Military Relationships
The military is all about organization and responsibility. So are most relationships.
Making sure you are taking care of yourself and your spouse is an important part of being there for one another. Often you might each fight your own battles, and sometimes feel alone. Communication is important both for reassuring one another that you are and will be there for each other, but also for keeping your sanity when under pressure.
- Organization: One way to help with organization is to use folders to keep information handy. Keeping a folder for your move; to include the next installations information, phone numbers, housing, etc., assists in making your move smoother, you won't be searching all over for your information. Another important folder is for medical information, including shot records, and emergency phone numbers. It is also wise to have a separate folder with a list of all your possessions along with photos of any items that are valuable. Unfortunately things can and often do become damaged or lost during moves.
- Take care of yourself when separated. Do things that you enjoy that you would normally do without your partner. Treat yourself to a day spa, join a bicycle club, take up photography, or simply read and enjoy a book uninterrupted.
- Many installations have web pages and you can search for their 'Installation Support' link and they will list various support entities for spouses and significant others and all are encouraged to utilize these.
- Share Your Daily Experiences: For the service member, this may be limited in regards to the job, other aspects of the day can be disclosed. This helps to give a vision of the routines of daily life and bring a slight form of normalcy and togetherness while separated.
- Utilize Support Services: The military has formed numerous family support programs, child-care services and family counseling. Many of these services are free for military members and their dependents (SO).
- For spouses of returning service members, Real Warriors offers an excellent series of resources to assist in adjusting and supporting each other.
- A great family resource is provided by After Deployment, which works to help military families overcome the difficulties of deployment and returning home to families.
- Support can also be had from the National Council on Family Relations, where they research and study some of the best techniques for supporting families and keeping them together.