3 Keys To Making Your Military Relationship a SuccessFFOL Editor 1
“It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.” – Julius Caesar
For those who have never been in a relationship with someone in the Military or for those who are just entering one there are a few traits you will need to have if you want your relationship to survive and more importantly – to thrive. I believe there are three personality traits that you must possess and if you don’t possess them you better learn how if you want to be a kick-a** military girlfriend or wife.
Dating or marrying someone in the military is not like dating or marrying a civilian. I don’t think most people understand how hard it is. I don’t think most comprehend what they are signing up for when they make the decision to be with someone who has signed their life on the dotted line for their country.
I’ve had a few long-distance relationships, so I thought being with someone in the military would be similar, but it’s not. It’s not the same in any way shape or form.
It’s been sixteen months now and I’m just starting to adjust to the ups and downs, the coming and going, the changes of plans, the sacrifice, the emotional distance at times, the funky sleep patterns and the joy that being back together brings.
If I’ve learned one thing through all of this, it’s that you need to have these three personality traits if you want your military relationship to succeed:
Trait #1: Independence
If you’re the needy type, then this is not the life for you. If you need constant reassurance and emotional support from your partner, do me a favor and choose someone else.
If you can’t get your s**t together when he deploys or is gone for prolonged periods to train then you aren’t meant for this life.
During deployments your servicemember needs someone who can be okay with distance (physical and emotional), lack of communication and an absence of sex.
Having expectations of contact and then not getting what you want is frustrating and demoralizing so try to check your expectations at the door.
When my guy deployed I knew it would be hard, but really didn’t understand how hard and he wasn’t even on a combat deployment. To do his job requires a massive amount of dedication and focus. There were days he was super sweet and attentive and then days would go by with not a word.
It wasn’t easy to realize that bonding with his team gave him a sense of satisfaction that I couldn’t give and that I signed up for this. I knew I was dating a warrior when I met him and with that comes an assortment of challenges that I have never faced.
I admit there were days where I cried and thought he stopped caring, but I never let him know. I tried to maintain a positive attitude as much as I could. I tried to keep the focus on myself and my needs (which wasn’t always easy) while trying to maintain an emotional connection with him (which also wasn’t easy).
Beware of becoming too independent. During deployments we learn to live without them, to comfort ourselves, entertain ourselves and basically live a life in which they don’t exist much.
Try to maintain your independence while supporting their need for autonomy without becoming emotionally absent or avoidant.
Prior to your first deployment talk about your fears, but don’t burden them with trying to fix them because they can’t.
Every relationship is different and everyone needs differing amounts of emotional connection. If you are someone who needs a lot then you need to realize it’s going to be tough at times.
Even when your servicemember is home they can be wrapped up in trying to find work-life balance. To make it work you need to have some semblance of independence or the relationship will bury itself under a burden of neediness. They can’t be all things at all times for you or it won’t work.
Trait #2: Selflessness
Your servicemember does not belong to you. They belong to the United States of America and duty to their country will always come first. Naturally, most will tell you that they serve for their buddies and not necessarily for all of us, but, frankly, the reason is irrelevant. The truth is that their number one commitment will be their work and it should be, especially for those who are subject to combat.
Don’t expect to be the center of attention all the time or even most of the time. Don’t expect that all your needs will be met all the time. Schedules, deployments, training and having to deal with a chain of command will put a dent in that wish.
Before you date or marry a service-member sit with yourself and have a good hard look at who you are and what you can give. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a priority or expecting constant attention, but if you need it then find someone else.
If you can’t let your servicemember do what they need to do and feel secure within yourself while they do it then you’re more likely to cheat or leave when the going gets tough and this is the last thing they need. Be fair to them and be fair to yourself.
It’s okay to admit that you can’t deal with long periods apart. It’s okay to admit that you want to be number one always and at all times.
If you can’t be somewhat selfless (I don’t mean having no needs or staying with someone who ignores you or who doesn’t care about your needs) then go choose someone else. As they are warriors at work so must you be at home. Be willing to share your partner with your country.
Trait #3: Flexibility
If you remember one thing, remember this, “Suck it Up Buttercup.” The military is notorious for changing plans, or, planning and then not executing as anticipated. If you can’t learn to deal with this and suck it up then your relationship will fail.
My guy was scheduled to catch a transport plane home on August 5th. Then, it became August 11th. I didn’t really understand what was taking so long when everyone else had been sent home. Apparently, an engine part had broken (which he didn’t want to tell me so I wouldn’t worry) and he wasn’t sure when it would be fixed. Then, when he did catch the plane he was supposed to fly into XYZ base, but at the last minute they changed the plan had he had to bus to his base which meant now I had to pick him up somewhere else at a different time. He eventually showed up, about 2 weeks late.
Basically, every single thing I thought would happen didn’t, and I had to just go with the flow. But, at that point I didn’t care. I was just happy he was home. Learn to suck it up and become flexible.
Sometimes he comes home on a Monday and says, “I have to go to XYZ on Wednesday for XYZ days”. What can I say except, “Okay babe.” I can’t get upset and say, “No, you can’t go. We have plans.” I’m not saying it’s easy to be supportive when your life is constantly turned upside down, but you signed up for this so either accept it and deal with it or accept that you can’t accept it and get out.
Flexibility is key. Getting mad because they aren’t adhering to a plan you have in your head will cause nothing but ongoing resentment. Try not to schedule too much because you’ll only be disappointed. Granted, some service members can take time off more readily than others, but you need to be aware of their general schedule and what the terms of their service entails.
Don’t get into a relationship with someone in the military if you have a rigid personality or you don’t adjust easily. If you do end up married there is a high chance you will move multiple times especially if they make a career out of it and if you can’t be flexible you’ll be frustrated and frustration leads to resentment which leads to break-ups.
Why It’s Worth It
Sometimes I wonder what the heck I’m doing. I wonder if I’m crazy. Why in the world have I chosen someone who is gone so often and who is for all intents and purposes is married to the Marine Corps??
Every time I ask myself that I come up with the same answer, “Because he’s the best man I know.” Dating someone in the military can be extremely frustrating, difficult and overwhelming but it has also been one of the most rewarding relationships I’ve ever had. He has taught me strength and self-reliance and I have learned how to balance my needs with his.
I am proud of the man that I’m with. He’s dedicated, upstanding, honorable, generous, down to earth and I respect him and what he does. I realize that I pay a little bit of a price to be with him, but in the end I have come to the conclusion that it’s all worth it.