It is often said that the army is not just a career choice but a way of life. In these days of rising divorce rates, a military relationship which involves long periods of separation and anxiety seems destined to fail. At the same time though the social respect, physical competence and the financial perks that come with the army life are too substantial to be casually dismissed. So if your partner wishes to become a part of this institution, here are a few things you can consider.
Loss of control
One of the first things that you are likely to face as the partner of a military personnel is the loss of control in your relationship. You will find that it is practically impossible to plan out your time together without taking military obligations in consideration. As soon as your partner joins the army, he/she will leave for training which means the times you can meet, go out or even chat online will be severely restricted. Even if your relationship survives this initial stage, later on there will be more challenges to face. You no longer know where and when your partner will be deployed. Even if you are staying with your him/her, you have no idea where you will be moving next. Even simple things that non-military families take for granted like planning a vacation or an ordinary weekend outing are no longer in your control. On the flip side, it makes army families much more flexible since they learn to go with the flow. There is also more spontaneity in their lives since they believe in enjoying right away instead of waiting for the special day.
Can you deal with the separation
One of the biggest challenges faced by military relationships is separation during deployment. The serving personnel is bound by duty to report to his or her base while the partner or family has to stay behind. Frequent and long separations often lead to insecurity, loneliness and loss of intimacy – all of which can create havoc with the strongest of relationships. If your idea of a relationship is where two people can count on each other’s constant physical and emotional support, then you may have to talk over the impact that partner’s joining the army will have on your emotional bearings. At Spouses and partners of military personnel therefore need to be extremely positive and trusting of their relationship. They need to keep themselves busy till their soldiers return and believe that the days of separation will surely come to an end.
Speak to army families
If you are from a civilian background, the news of a loved one joining the army will mostly conjure up images of separation and loneliness. While these are an undeniable part of military relationships, you also need to see the other side of the picture in order to arrive at the right decision about your relationship. Get to know army families or visit military bases to meet them. Find out institutional resources which help army families to cope with the challenges and then speak to these personnel about what army life entails. Even with firsthand accounts of army life, you will probably get two different pictures – one focusing on the stress and separation caused by deployment or postings and the other on the love and adaptation which only grow stronger with challenges. Being familiar with both sides of the issue will help to put your thoughts in order and consider what to do about your relationship.
Before you take a call on your relationship, it would be a good idea to discuss with your partner why he/she feels inclined to join the army. Was the decision occasioned by a specific event in your relationship – like a real or perceived affair – or did you always know about your partner’s interest in serving the country. Again consider if your partner’s decision to join the army is a genuine career choice or merely the result of a restlessness, a need to do something different or simply an urge to get away. If your partner is using his/her conscription to make changes in your relationship, it may be his/her way of telling you that he/she wants to move away. You can get an idea about your partner’s intentions by going over the transparency of the process. Joining the army is not something you can do overnight – there are aptitude tests, interviews, medical examinations and discussions. If your partner kept this entire process secret from you, his/her reasons for joining the army could be more complex; on the other hand, if he/she was always enthusiastic about trying for the army and never hid his/her attempts from you, then this may be what he/she really wants.
Take a call
Once your partner’s intentions about joining the army, it is your turn to give the matter some thought. Being in a relationship with a service personnel is not everyone. Go over the challenges of a military relationship and see if you both have it in you to overcome them. At the same time, keep in mind that there are military families that live and love this life every day. Above all, there are several support services and lifestyle perks that the institution offers both to its personnel and their families. In the end though it is you who will have to live with the consequences of your decision so be honest with yourself before taking a call.
If you come to the conclusion that being in a military relationship is not for you, then gently break the news to your partner. Don’t wait for him/her to leave on training and deployment to announce your breakup – it would not only be cowardly on your part but extremely unfair on your partner when he/she is already coping with the pressures of training and a new environment.
If however you decide to give your relationship a chance, then be positive about your partner’s career choice. Support his/her decision and feel proud of the values that your partner has chosen to uphold. Use whatever time is available to you both to connect with one another and make beautiful memories. Avoid the temptation to fight or criticize one another. Do not dwell on the concept that you might lose one another. Instead enjoy the time you have together and make plans for the future. Having a mutual goal that is realistic can help you and your partner feel closer as a couple, and give you something to look forward to.