By Wendy Perry
“The thing you feed is the thing that grows…”—Michael Perry
We could begin this article by comparing military and civilian marriage and divorce rates, but let’s face it…those are trends based on information obtained from other people…most of whom you do not know.
Over half of military service members are married, and that means that there are hundreds of thousands of husbands and wives, just like you, serving together and trying to blend two of the most complex relationships possible—commitment to country and commitment to each other.
Trends and data help us gain perspective on large segments of a community or our society. As it relates to marriage, however, most of us non-scientist types are more concerned with what is happening here and now…in “our” home…in “our” lives…in “our” families.
Some of your experiences resemble those of other couples. Yet, there are experiences and perspectives that are all your own. As a married couple who were also dual military, we hope to help you better appreciate your unique experiences and possibly provide some insight into ways you can protect your marriage, even under the intense pressure that military service can often put on a family.
With all that pressure, how do you protect and even enhance the relationship that is most important to you in life? Sometimes you’ve got to circle the wagons!
“Circling the wagons” is a term originating from the settling of the western U.S. territories, when settlers, traveling in wagon trains, would arrange the wagons in a circle to protect settlers, livestock, and families from outside attack.
The important thing to understand about circling the wagons is that the shelter and safety were on the inside of the circle, as the threat loomed on the outside.
For a married, military couple, the threats on the “outside of your circle” include frequent moves, separation, deployments, impact of military life on children, increased OPTEMPO, employment for civilian spouses, family stability, transition after separation/retirement, and all the stress that comes with these and more.
How can you defend against an enemy that you can’t always see, hear, or control? The effort must go towards protecting and fortifying in a way that builds a successful defense…no matter what comes.
Military life can be difficult; married, military life can seem unmanageable, but it is possible and it is worth it! How do you embrace the unique military experiences and buffer the tough times? We have 6 recommendations that worked for us for more than 19 years and may work for you too.
1. Date Night!
Make time to date. This may seem easier said than done, but it is essential to keeping the fire lit. Going on a date doesn’t always have to cost money, require travel, or a babysitter. Some of our most memorable dates include camping in a tent in our bedroom and enjoying a little couples’ spa time in our bathroom.
2. Grow Together!
It is inevitable that we all get older with time and it is almost assured that we grow and change as well. While each journey is individual, it is important to stay connected and to constantly stay in a posture of exploring and discovering. Allow room for growth, and support and encourage each other’s growth, start together and end together.
3. Be Selfish!
This is probably the hardest one because most us are all about service and sacrifice. However, when it comes to our time, our spouses and our families it’s okay…no it’s essential that we become a little selfish. We are all given the same 24 hours in each day don’t take any time for granted and don’t waste it focusing on the small stuff.
4. Get Creative!
The only assigned roles in your household are the ones you both agree to. Marriage is a mutually created reality, your reality. How you do it is not subject to anyone else’s thoughts and opinions of what “right” looks like.
5. Remember who the real enemy is!
Amid all the challenges we face as married, military couples it can become easy to transfer the feelings of anger and loss of control that can occur in unstable, ever-changing environments to those around us. Make every attempt to stay reminded that your first Battle Buddy is your spouse, and that he or she not only has your 6, but also has your heart.
6. Pray Together!
The most important thing we have done…together. If it were possible to get through this life successfully on our own, God would have stopped at Adam and animals. You know the story, Adam needed a help mate and God created Eve. Adam and Eve on their own were destined for destruction. What can we learn from their story…husband and wife are good together, but without God in the marriage, it is doomed for disaster.
It is our prayer that you have benefited from this article and encourage you to take a little time to reflect on how unique, wonderful and awesome your military marriage is!
The goal should be a lifelong marriage that withstands time, space, and anyone who would dare come against it. Take an oath to support, protect, and defend it against all enemies – seen and unseen. Be encouraged! What God has brought together, no man can destroy. (Mark 10:9) We also encourage you to attend a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conference or a Military Marriage seminar. These weekend conferences provide time for you to get away and focus on each other while experiencing an intensive and encouraging opportunity to heal and strengthen your marriage.