Military Relationships- I Didn't Sign Up for This!

Let's Be Honest, Military Relationships Are Tough

Maybe when you first fell in love you did not know the military life would be in your future, but here you are anyway. Either you or your bf-gf is enlisted, and it is really hard on your relationship right now. If you are looking for some specific ways to survive military deployment read this blog

Do you agree with Ashley that a military relationship can work?

Ashley wrote: "The military life is a hard one, but if you love someone enough then it's not hard to be faithful. Many people just assume that the military is full of cheaters or that the spouses back home are unfaithful! I can name PLENTY of faithful couples that are military. It takes a special kind of person to be a solider and a special kind of person to be a military spouse."

We get a lot of calls from people who are in a relationship with someone in the military, so I've asked Captain Mike Jones to join me on these next few blog posts. Mike is a former US Army Captain with two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was also the co-founder of "Not Alone," which was founded to empower military families and give soldiers, veterans and those who love them a central resource for free, confidential information, support and access to healthcare professionals." ("Not Alone" is now a part of "Centerstone Military Services")

Dawson: Many of the calls we get are from spouses and girlfriends (boyfriends too) with concerns about how the military is going to affect their relationships. Some are afraid of the unknown as much as anything else.

Do You Feel Like You Are Living in Two Different Worlds?

Mike: Fear of the unknown is very common. The military is like an alternate universe existing right in middle of normal America. They have their own cultural, values, and ways of doing things. They even have their own private language. AGR stands for Active Guard and Reserve, AIG stands for Address Indicator Group, and ASOC is the Air Support Operations Center. There are 690 other acronyms, and that's just the A's. Then there is all the unofficial terminology (military slang). Also, the way things are done at first can seem bizarre and without common sense. But trust me, everything (and I mean everything) is the way it is for a reason. One part of that fear spouses and girlfriends/boyfriends feel is that the ones they love are entering a world so different from their own, and they're not sure how they will continue to relate to one another. Two people in two very different worlds. Will they still have enough common ground?

Dawson: I guess the strength and the depth of that common ground has a lot to do with the impact of military life on a relationship.

A Strong Foundation Will Become Stronger

Mike: Absolutely. Not all the stories are not horror stories. Some of the greatest marriages and greatest families that I know of are those of military personnel. But I will also say that the military, particularly the deployments and the stress of combat, will reveal what's really there. If two people have a solid foundation of love, trust, and faith, then military service with all its difficulties can make it stronger. If those things are weak or superficial, it will reveal that too.

Dawson:  Sometimes the concerns of our callers are not about what they don't know but what they do know the things they have suddenly come to realize. It's not unusual for some to throw in the comment: I didn't sign up for this!

Mike: I've heard that same comment many times. Military service can be extremely demanding on a soldier's time and emotional focus. The first and foremost concerned of the military is the mission. It's not that the command structure unconcerned about anything else, but the mission comes first. Marissa Boote, a paralegal whose husband joined the Army, said that same thing when she realized how much the Army would control their lives, I didn't sign up for this!

Dawson: It seems that military service is something both people in a relationship need to sign up for emotionally.

You Can Survive and Thrive

Mike: It only takes one to sign on the dotted line, but you're right. Everyone in a military family serves and sacrifices in their own way. It would be wrong to assume that one person could do their thing in the military, while the other continues to do their thing in the civilian world unaffected. So, yes, the solider and spouse need to sign up together to serve their country. That is a part of the foundation that is going to enable their relationship to survive and thrive.

Dawson: So, what do you see as the upside to joining the military?

Mike:  There are lot of benefits recruiters will tell you about such as college tuition, seeing the world... that kind of stuff. For me the most important things are personal. It makes you a better person. It brings out the best in you. The very best part is the camaraderie. You become part of a family of men and women who pay a high price to serve and who would give their lives for one another. Those kinds of relationships in that kind of setting will definitely change you.

Dawson: The way you describe being part of (another) family might seem a little threatening to a spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend. One goes off to the greatest experience of their lives and they build these deep relationships apart from his/her spouse. That's what many are afraid of, heading off in different directions.

Mike:  Yes, but is doesn't necessarily have to be that way. Spouses enter that new world of relationships and camaraderie as well. Like I said, both sign up, one as a soldier and the other as a military spouse. If two people can embrace the difficulties, dangers, and crazy lifestyle of serving their country in the military, their relationship can grow, and both be better for it. Those who have done so would not have it any other way.

Additional resources for military relationships:

For more help, please visit our partner resource, Centerstone Military Services.

For additional support for PTSD check out our topic page for resources and more!

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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