The military, statistically, is not positively reflected by the data when analyzing marriage dynamics. Hard as it may be to create, grow and maintain a healthy marriage in the military, many have found that obstacles presented by this lifestyle fortify and bond together unions that are strong, capable and able to thrive. I married a soldier at eighteen years old and I’m still washing uniforms in solo batches ten years later. My marriage, though absolutely nowhere near perfect, has taught me invaluable lessons because of the challenges and trials we’ve had to overcome as a couple, but also because of the joys and triumphs only this lifestyle can facilitate. Here are five truths that my military marriage has taught me.
People change, and that’s okay.
Have you ever watched a movie with an infamous break up and one partner cries to the other, “you’ve changed!”? Those scenes never end well in Hollywood, but is “staying the same,” really even an option within a military relationship? If you’ve ever sent your spouse off to war you’ll know that “you’ve changed,” is a very possible (and almost guaranteed) reality. People change. Our experiences mold us into different individuals- and that’s not a bad thing. As military families change is a frequent concept we learn to embrace within in our unique circumstances and change often makes us more empathetic, more resilient, and more understanding. The irony of discrediting change within our marriages is that often times we attempt to disregard the times of rocky transitions, in order to “appear more whole,” when in reality our whole-heartedness and the trust we developed through these transitions actually depend on the lessons learned from experiences of undergoing change.
We can control the dynamic of our “home.”
It is well noted that life within the military scarcely goes as planned, in fact, the utterance of “it’s out of my control,” is quite common. There is one ever important aspect of our lives we can control and that is the dynamic of our home. As we take responsibility to build loving and lasting relationships within whatever walls we occupy, we allow our families and marriages a safe place of love and belonging. We build healthy homes by practicing kindness, empathy, and honesty.
Positive self worth and self care battle resentment.
Resentment is a common problem in military marriages. In fact, I would be willing to wager we all have a “one time my husband was on a beach in Greece for a TDY while I was literally at home scooping poop water out of my clogged toilet,” story. The key to battling resentment in military marriages is to not repress our feelings. Rather we counter feelings of resentment by openly and thoughtfully communicating how we feel as well as stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility for how we treat ourselves in moments of overwhelm. We are all worthy of love and care even when the only person around to practice those things is ourselves. As we initiate protocols that are set to rescue us in times of fatigue and emotional distress we will feel less inclined to project feelings of resentment and envy.
Honest and clear communication is mandatory.
Honest and clear communication in any marriage is important but this communication in a Military marriage is mandatory. The reality of relationships within the military realm is that we rely on non face to face communication more so than the majority of other relationships in the civilian world. We build trust through our communication practices when our partners are far from home for long periods of time. We build faith in each other as we talk through our personal hardships openly and honestly and trust our partners to do the same. We fortify our sense of belonging when we talk through awkward and hard challenges. As military families we rely heavily on our ability to build and strengthen connection through communication.
Showing up makes all the difference.
Military marriage is hard. We deal with unique challenges that all of us know all too well without having to read in list form. Sometimes our spouse are broken, distant, and frustrated and sometimes we ourselves own those roles. We have to show up anyway, for our spouses and for ourselves. As we continuously show up for this life we live, we communicate a message that we are committed to doing hard things because our relationships are worth it. As we continually battle through hard times, relish is the great times, and work through the unknown together we show ourselves and each other that we are value what we have, are grateful for what we’ve built, and have faith in our futures together.