My boyfriend (I’ve been calling him Ben) and I have been together for four years. I’m in my third year of university. I only have two more years to go and then I’m graduating. Ben and I want to get married after I graduate.
To us, marriage is not scary. It’s exciting. I suppose I shouldn’t speak for Ben, but we have a pretty open and honest relationship and he’s talked about it quite a few times, and he was the first of us to bring up the topic.
What IS scary to me about marrying Ben is making the transition from military girlfriend to military wife. It actually terrifies me.
It didn’t used to. I wouldn’t have given it a second thought, I would have just assumed we’d make it work, until I told one of my therapists my plans to marry Ben, and he laughed at me. He laughed.
“You’re trying to become a teacher and marry someone in the military? Good luck.” I asked why this would be a problem. My therapist looked at me like I was missing the point, and told me that he would be moving around a lot and I wouldn’t be able to hold down a job.
That night, I googled teaching in Canada (where I live) and being a military wife. It was not encouraging.
For teaching in Canada, if I wanted to teach in another province (and Ben told me he would likely be moving every two or three years) I would have to get a new teaching certificate for that specific province. Some websites told me it was a matter of signing up for a certificate and waiting. Others told me that I would have to do teacher’s college again (which is two years).
I could see some potential problems with this. Like, by the time I finished getting my certificate we’d be moving again. Also if I wasn’t working, how were we paying for my new teaching degrees? And who would be watching our children if we had kids?
When I googled “military wife” the first things that came up were articles like “The Real Reason Being a Military Wife is so Hard” and “Ten Things About Military Wives You Probably Don’t Want to Know.” I read those and other articles about tips for military brides-to-be.
Here’s some things I learned:
“There are times we are raising our kids alone, and we cannot, even if we wanted to, get a hold of our husbands…for weeks. So we have to have an answer for everything, or at least know where to find one, and that amount of stress is deafening”
“We are always getting up in the middle of the night-always taking the dog out-always getting up with the kids-changing every diaper-washing every dish-taking out every trash bag-making every meal tired. It’s exhausting”
“We have to handle the kids’ sadness. Here’s another curveball for mom. Everything’s going great, system is working well, and then, one of your children remembers he hasn’t seen his dad in two weeks. Or a month. Or three. And he cries. Or he acts out. And we have no idea what to say…because we have no idea when he is returning. We try various cute tricks: every day a Hershey’s Kiss from daddy, a calendar, or a countdown necklace. But it’s all just a sad reminder that someone is missing”
“Our husbands miss a lot. Even when they are “home.” That’s another joke. “Home” can mean not on deployment, but constantly traveling. Funny, isn’t it? Home can mean not traveling but working 14-hour days. So we take kids to school concerts, sports games and put them to bed at night. Just because our husbands aren’t deployed doesn’t mean they are available….”
“The military ‘control’s more than you think. Although we have some say over where we live, we don’t have too much. We move every two or three years and we don’t always get our first choice. We plan to have our children around the time our husbands will actually be home AND available. (And sometimes that doesn’t work either!) We plan family vacations and weddings around these schedules as well, and often, they get canceled or postponed. I know more than one military couple that eloped after their elaborate wedding was canceled due to a last minute trip”
“You’ve got to be okay with moving half way around the world from your family”
“You’ve got to be okay with your service member missing all the special stuff like birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, or gasp….the birth of your child”
“You’ve got to be okay with putting your career on the back burner sometimes because moving all over the place and maintaining a career isn’t as easy as it looks”
“You’ve got to be okay with letting go some of the control in your life because Lord knows the military is going to make some big life decisions for you”
“You’ve got to be okay with leaving close friends and family behind while you start a new life”
“You’ve got to be okay with having a courthouse wedding when you really wanted a big one because military life or a deployment prevented it from working out that way”
“You’ve got to be okay with parenting alone and feeling lonely sometimes”
“You’ve got to be okay with making new friends over and over and over again”
“You’ve got to be okay with spending as much of your marriage apart as you do together”
A lot of this, and other stuff I read, really upset me. I was not prepared to hear this. Some other stuff I read said that deployments and homecomings are both difficult, and that the military member might miss being deployed and feel uncomfortable in the home environment!
I can’t say that I’ve come to terms with all this. I am not anti-military in the slightest, but this – accepting that this could be my life – is hard. I love my boyfriend, and I want to spend my life with him, and he is my best friend. I’ve chosen him. I’ve chosen to make it work no matter what. But it will be challenging.