There was no particular email or conversation that got me thinking about this topic. Rather, it just seems like it’s been a post that’s been writing itself for the past (almost!) 3 years as I talk to more and more military significant others who have successful relationships. Military life isn’t for everyone. Some of us genuinely like it; others of us put up with it because it is a condition of being attached to the person we love. And I want to be clear: those of us who date or marry someone in the military are no better or worse than any other significant other.
Every relationship has its own difficulties; it just happens that when the military’s involved, there’s a special breed of inevitable obstacles that spring up. And I think, when you start out dating someone, you rarely think about everything that is coming down the pike. But military life (and military relationships) seem to move just a little faster and need more planning than others. If you’re teetering on the edge of this particular path, think through the lifestyle before you jump in:
Don’t date him/her if you already know you can’t be faithful.
(And don’t date him/her if you believe that “everyone cheats” during deployment.) Period. During John’s deployment, I had more than my fair share of people asking me if we were cheating on each other or if we had ever entertained the idea. (Answer: No and no!) Yes, people in the military cheat. (So do people in the civilian world.) But that doesn’t mean everyone does, that we all agree with it, or that it’s even the “norm.” You will be separated from the person you love at some point during their career in the military. If you need physical touch and constant communication so that you won’t stray, you need to do some soul-searching. Being apart is hard, but it shouldn’t be hard to stay faithful.
Don’t date him/her if you’re not resilient.
Military life is hard. You’re going to move. You will leave your family. You will leave your friends (over and over again). You will put up with deployment, weird shifts, emergencies, trainings, and a whole bunch of other stuff that will happen at inopportune times and will be the least helpful thing. It’s okay to get frustrated, be angry, and cry, but you’ve got to pick yourself up and move on. If you have a hard time being resilient in the face of challenge (and if you’re not willing to try to be), the military lifestyle probably isn’t for you.
Don’t date him/her if you care about rank.
Don’t date him/her just because of an impending deployment.
Deployments put a lot of pressure on everything– you, your military member, the relationship. They can be tough for people in the most exclusive, committed relationships. If you know that you want to be with that person and you’re committed, then go for it! But don’t let the sole reason for committing to someone be because of a deployment. Don’t ever let yourself be pressured into something you don’t want– it will end badly every time.
Don’t date him/her if you don’t have a sense of who you are.
I’ll say it again– military life is tough. It can mess with your self-esteem and sense self-worth.You need to know who you are. Have interests, hobbies, and friends. Have a plan for your education and/or career. If your whole identity is wrapped up solely in your service member, it is going to be a tough, lonely life.
Honestly, I think these are good things to think about before entering into any relationship– no matter the affiliation to the military. (Of course, you might have to modify them a bit, but the basic gist is there.)