Eighteen, 1-8, 10 plus 8, or otherwise known as my age when I changed my status to “married.”
I didn’t quite fit the average mold for the stereotype of girl-plays-house, and to be frank I never really even considered the negative onslaught of judgment against my decision … until I dove head first into the military spouse pool.
Now, I’m not going to write another article aimed at shaming the shamers, addressing the D-word that is too often addressed in cowardly social media groups, or even decoding statistics. I’m going to dive into the argument FOR “us,” the gals and guys who entered this realm as mere puppies — because some of us made it through. Some of us defied the odds and dodged the finger pointing. Our marriages are still intact and we are surviving, learning and thriving. Our advice, learn these truths:
1. Humility is essential.
You can read all the manuals, comb through blog post after Instagram hashtag and yet end up more confused about this lifestyle than when you began. Acronyms everywhere, rules about everything, as well as grasp new ideas and practices that are most often estranged (excluding to the few and proud military brats).
As young spouses we had no choice but to navigate through the confusion by asking questions, finding mentors and listening to advice. In short, we were humble enough to admit we didn’t understand and we loved our service members enough to seek understanding.
2. Sacrifice isn’t a bad thing.
Sacrifice is probably the most overused word in the military community. It is understandable that the notion of sacrifice triggers a chain reaction of emotion. “Well, you chose to marry young, deal with it.” What the nay sayer’s won’t tell you, however, is that sacrifice is required in every-single-relationship since forever.
Sacrifice teaches us to take a personal inventory and prioritize based on what we deem most important to us. As we sacrifice we learn which elements of our lives give us the most meaning, love, and drive, all while finding other elements that do not yield a superior return.
3. Finding ourselves doesn’t require being by ourselves.
Once I was chatting with a group of spouses about a new woman who had moved into our neighborhood. We were setting up a date to invite her to a get together when one spouse piped in and mentioned that she was merely 20. The roars of doom, of “She’ll never get to discover who she really is!” erupted. There is a negative notion regarding marriage that everyone has probably referred to at least once in their lifetime, “the ole’ ball and chain.”
Sure marriage requires us to take on new responsibility but it by no means imprisons us — at least if we’re doing it right. Marriage is the upmost confidence of our character. For someone to willfully want to spend life joined with us should empower our self worth. This confidence can lead to a new level of self discovery, and a myriad of hidden talents we may possess.
4. If you don’t work nothing else will.
Successful marriages take work regardless of age. Marrying young may present a different array of obstacles but different does not mean impossible. Military marriage is far from a fairy tale. There are deployments, TDYs and missions that cause temporary separations.
Reintegration can be extremely difficult. Moving frequently is not a walk in the park. Military marriage is hard, and it takes work regardless of our age. Maturity in dealing with such hardships is not always determined by a number but by how we choose to deal with adversity.
5. Pay attention.
I’m not just talking about paying attention to conversation period but pay attention to the intricate details of conversation. Learn about military life by paying attention to it and your spouse’s navigation through it.
Remember the commander’s name and your spouse’s company name. According to a study done in the 2013 Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, remembering simple details about even seemingly mundane conversation tends to contribute to the satisfaction of respected partners in a relationship.