Life in the army can be extremely challenging not only for serving personnel but also for their families. So many things that are taken for granted in civilian life, for instance career, stability and family support, become difficult to sustain when living as a military spouse. So if you are planning to get married to someone in the army, consider the following aspects before you go ahead.
Separation in married life
If your idea of the perfect marriage is where the spouses are always with each other, then you better think twice before marrying someone in the army. One of the biggest challenges faced by army families is separation during deployment. The serving personnel is bound by duty to report to his or her base while the 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 marriages. Spouses of military personnel therefore need to be extremely positive and trusting of their relationship. They need to keep themselves busy till their spouses return and believe that the days of separation will surely come to an end.
Loss of control
This is one of the most acutely felt challenges for spouses of military personnel. Once you are married to someone in the army, it is practically impossible to plan out your life in advance. You no longer know where and when the next deployment will come. Even if you are staying with your husband, 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 other hand, 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.
Frequent relocations are yet another major hazard of army life. If you do decide to stay on post with your husband, you have to follow him every time he is posted to a different duty station. The whole routine of packing, moving and unpacking your household stuff can be extremely stressful on a family especially if there are children. Each time there is a new posting, the family is uprooted from a familiar ground and is expected to strike roots again in a strange place. This not only creates a sense of insecurity in very young children but also affects adults in a negative way. However there are several resources, both institutional like the MAP or Military Assistance Program and personal, which help army families to go through the nerve-wracking routine of moving from one station to another.
Effect on children
Another aspect to consider if you are planning to marry someone in the army, is whether and how you would like to raise your children. Kids have a tough time when either parent has to be away for long periods on deployment. They not only miss the absent parent during special occasions like birthdays, festivals and school events but everyday as a matter of routine. Moreover frequent postings bring with them the problem of changing schools and leaving behind friends. It may take weeks and months for kids to adapt to new environments and by the time they have started to do so, perhaps a new posting is in the offing. However the institution sees to it that installation schools follow a standard pattern as far as possible, so that kids are affected minimally by change of schools. Moreover there are always other army families, counselors at bases and experienced army spouses eager to lend a helping hand to families going through a transition.
Difficult to have a career
If you are considering marrying someone in the army, decide how important your career is for you. Following a serving spouse through his or her postings makes it difficult for the other partner to have a successful career. Again there is the additional responsibility that comes with the spouse being deployed at other places. This effectively means that you have to look after the home and kids single-handedly which makes focusing on a career that much more difficult. However if you decide to settle down at one place, you might be able to follow a career of your choice and as your kids grow older you will find more time to devote to your work.
Losing familiar support network
A familiar saying among old military families is that when you marry someone in the services, you actually marry the services. As you follow your spouse through his or her postings, you have to learn to do without familiar support network. Non-military families have the safety-net of parents, siblings and old friends when there is an emergency. However army families have to depend on each other for emotional and physical support in times of need.
If is quite difficult as an army spouse to maintain your own circle of friends. As you follow your spouse through postings, you will be forced to leave behind friendships that you have nurtured and in turn find your spouse’s colleagues and fellow service personnel forming your social circle by default. If you are an army wife, you may even find yourself the sole woman among all the guys at certain get-togethers. The upside of this situation, is that you learn to make friends easily and treasure the ones that stand the test of time.
Coping with multiple responsibilities
Being an army spouse is not for the fainthearted! It requires nerves of steel and volumes of patience to raise the kids, run the home, manage your own job and have a social life – all single-handedly. Often the pressure is too great and having to cope on all fronts can lead to the spouse falling victim to stress. So take on only as much as you can. If your kids are too small, be a stay-at-home mom for a couple of years or take on a part-time job. Also beware of falling prey to other’s expectations of what a fulfilling life means. Do only as much as you and your family are comfortable with.
A career in the military is not the way to get rich. So, if you are getting married to someone in the army, be prepared to live within your means. Make a budget and try to stick to it because the last thing you need is to add more stress to your life by incurring unaffordable expenses. Also be prepared with a game-plan in case something tragic happens. Be acquainted with your spouse’s financial responsibilities, investments, insurance and other major debts so that you are not left to fend for yourself if something happens to your spouse.
There are several aspects worth considering if you are planning to get married to someone in the army. It is a challenging life, no doubt, but the rewards too are many. A marriage with serving personnel will require you to be that much more patient, trusting and positive – not such a big deal considering these are the special men and women guarding our country and protecting our people around the world.