November is Military Family Appreciation Month! In observance, We’ve Created Tips for Newlywed Military Families.
This article is from the perspective of someone marrying a soldier (Lord knows we need more support out there for spouses).
Military spouse - that’s a title I thought I’d never have. I think that’s the case for most military families. Sometimes you meet someone new in your town and fall in love... that person turns out to be a soldier and will be deployed in the next week. Or in my case, your partner of many years has decided to make a career change later in life and enlist. The common thread in both these cases are that the person you’ve committed to has committed to the United States. Without question, your partner must support our country; this loyalty and dedication will also be required of you should you decide to start or continue your committed relationship.
My husband and I at his Air Force Basic Military Training Graduation
So let’s get the scary question out of the way:
Do you need to marry someone in the military to be with them?
Nooooooooooo. I love seeing those memes about soldiers marrying the first girl they meet because it shows the terrifying mentality most young military couples experience. It is not mandatory; you have options! If your S.O. is located in your city, sweet, date them normally. If your partner relocates, you can have a long distance relationship or move closer to them. Do whatever floats your boat. Let me make this clear once more, you do not need to marry a soldier to be in a relationship with them!
So why is marriage so strongly advocated in military culture?
For one, it’s true: the benefits are great! From housing to healthcare, military families receive benefits unlike any other industry. For two, if your partner has not reached E4 rank (this varies by military branch and service), then they are required to live on base. They only way to live off base without the ranking requirement is to marry. For three, when you sign your life away to serve the U.S., it’s always comforting to have a partner. Enlisting is a big, frightening leap - wouldn’t you want to have a support system? In my personal experience, the literature offered to military wives does not shy away from this point. It is clear that it is in the U.S. government’s best interest that military spouses serve as systems of support and encouragement for their soldiers, reinforcing that the main goal of the couple is to serve the country.
PCS: Where are we going?
Depending on your partner’s status (active, reserve, etc.), hopping around from place to place might be your new way of life. You may have some say in where you’re sent to, but that also depends on your soldier’s job (position availabilities vary by base). A way for you and your spouse to formally submit your preferences is through a “Wish List.” This list allows you to rank your preferred bases both domestically and internationally. Some of the bases can sound exotic and exciting, but you should always do your research! Military bases are infamous for their remoteness. For example, Japan sounds amazing!...until you realize the base is in the middle of farmlands. Google maps and Wikipedia will be your best friends during these searches.
What about my career?
“What about your career?” was the horrifying phrase I thought I was accepting by marrying my soldier. It was the question my whole family was asking. The military spouse stereotype is that of a person that leeches off the benefits of their partner - doesn’t work, just stays on base doing nothing. That stereotype even has a name. - dependapotamus. But that’s not you - you have ambition, want to build a career and contribute to your new life. You are not alone and you have every right to make your vision a reality. You do not have to sacrifice your personal growth.
Be warned: the military only offers support for basic jobs. For example, applying to work at the theater on base. Sometimes you can apply for the office jobs on base, but you’ll need connections as spots are limited. If you want a career (job/industry that requires specialization, a degree and experience), you will have to look for it just like any other civilian.
Our LA Editor Camila and her husband
Remember: Everything is still Normal
Life doesn’t change too much when you marry a soldier. Sure, the job is intense and your spouse will need to dedicate a lot of time to their career, but home life, the portion they share with you, is still “civilian.”