Below is an attempt to answer some of the most common, misguided questions that military spouses get. *Also published on HuffPost Blog.
- How do you do it!? I could never be with someone who’s gone all the time. We work on our relationship the same way you do — one day at a time. The distance can be hard at times, we know, but when you truly love someone it is greater than the test of time. This type of comment implies we had some sort of choice in who we fell in love with, but it never really felt like a logical decision to us; it just happened. The only “choice” we made was having faith that good things are worth waiting for. We simply find the strength to carry on as any couple does, whether in the military or not.
- But doesn’t everybody cheat on each other? No, and the divorce rate in the military is not as high as everyone thinks. Of course there are certain challenges unique to military couples, but stop assuming that our relationship is doomed to fail just because of the distance we endure. The reality is that cheating and divorce can hit any couple. We are not immune to it, but we are also not more prone to it.
- I hear that a lot of military couples marry for money. The slight pay raise for being married is not some enormous stash of wealth that incentivizes weddings. The reason you likely know so many couples who tie the knot young or fairly quickly upon dating is because the distance they have endured and experiences they have shared brought them closer. Dating in the military catalyzes your relationship. Every second together is deeply treasured, and the dangers that come with duty mean we have pictured what life would be like without each other – it is this thought that drives us to the alter, not the money.
- Are you going to follow them when they deploy? Spouses don’t deploy with their service members; they get stationed with their service members. Think of it this way: a station is a home base for a military family, while a deployment is a super long “work trip” for the service member. Some spouses choose to use their service member’s deployment as time to visit family, but most of us have developed our own lives in our new homes, and the idea of uprooting any more than we have to is just silly.
- How long will you be here, and where are you going next? We never know that far ahead. Even though we have a vague idea, we’re ultimately at the hands of the military. Every branch is different, so knowing someone in the Army doesn’t give you insight into what the norm is. Don’t let our transiency come off as a bad thing; our ability to adapt and interact with people of all backgrounds make us top-notch employees and the best kind of friends.
- Will you be home for the holidays? We don’t know. Requesting time off in the military is starkly different than running it by your supervisor in the private sector. It’s a bit of a bureaucracy, and even if our spouse has plenty of days available, they live by a schedule that is a moving target. But we do love visitors! After all, we get stationed in some pretty cool places worth seeing if you are up for traveling.
- When is homecoming? I’d love to be there when they get back! We can’t answer when homecoming is because it breaks operational security to discuss movement of troops. But, you do realize that you are asking to visit when we reunite after nearly a year apart? We are going to want our privacy, and once the romance of reuniting fades, the reality of homecoming will set in. We will need to find a new routine together, and it can be incredibly stressful. Homecoming is not the time to plan a visit; it’s probably the worst time to plan a visit.
- My boyfriend/girlfriend has been gone for a week. I’m so lonely. We can relate to the first week being the hardest part of distance because your routine has been hit by a bowling ball. We know. But we had to buck up and build a new routine to endure eight months apart, not eight days. We can share advice, but you won’t quite understand as you continue to eat ice cream and count down the hours until your loved one returns – while we are over here like, “67 days down, 212 more to go!” No judgements, but stop thinking that we are the right people to vent to about this. We’re not.
- I wish I was married to someone in the military with all the benefits you get! Sure, we get 10% off in some stores and we qualify for free college tuition and low-interest loans. We are grateful for such benefits that help military veterans and retirees, but remember, they are there to tackle setbacks often faced by military families, like unemployment, financial instability, PTSD. Military families make a lot of sacrifices that can push them back in life. It is not as glamorous as you might think, so think twice before making comments like this.