Thursday, June 02, 2005

Me, My Boyfriend and the Army

Ever since I met my boyfriend, I knew he was special. I knew if I hung around him long enough, I would never want to let him go. It was the so-called “aha-effect:” so this is what it means when you just meet the right person “and you just know.” I found it so patronizing before, but for about a year now, I belong to that same patronizing club.

So, I have established that I want to spend the rest of my life with this guy. He’s in the military, which is okay now, because I’ve got my own things to deal with, i.e. finishing school.

I’ve always been a very independent person, just made plans for myself, and then put them into action. However, when you meld two lives together, there isn’t often a lot of common plans…especially when your partner is in the military.

There’s always a third element in your relationship, it’s you-me-and-the army. When making plans, not only do you have to consult your partner, but you also have to consult the army. Buying a house, going to school, taking a vacation are all very influenced by the army: where you live, how long you are going to stay there, and when you will be allowed to go on leave. And on top of this the military is a 2-person career.

Sarah writes about her situation:

Know what I do now that I'm an Army wife with two degrees? Cook and type.

I have a friend here on post who quit college when she decided to get married. While her husband was in Basic and AIT, she went to cosmetology school. She makes way more money cutting hair in her home than I did teaching college English. She has a skill that's marketable no matter where she moves, while I'm stuck because apparently I need a PhD to do what I want to do. It wouldn't even have to be in anything related to teaching college English; I just have to have the piece of paper that says I studied something.
Moreover, I don't necessarily think that Army wifeing and careers go hand in hand. My first loyalty is to the military and my second is to my own job prospects. Not surprisingly, being an out-of-work professor fits easily with our PCS rotation :)

And slowly I am starting to realize this.

If my boyfriend is to stay in the military, and we are to stay together, I won’t have much of the glorious career that I dream of having one day.

But on the other hand, I have a great partner, who completes me in ways I could have never imagined. One of the things I found so attractive about my boyfriend was that he has a job he really likes, a job where he grows professionally and personally, where he likes and respects his co-workers, and where he gets a lot of personal fulfillment. A lot of people will agree with me, when I say that this is a rarity nowadays.

I don’t really know what my boyfriend wants to do in a few years, when he would be up for reenlistment. I have a few friends who are heading out for their second deployment to Iraq soon, and none of them plan on reenlisting. And I can completely understand, their lives are on hold until they leave the military. They are all single, and it isn’t easy to start and maintain a relationship when you are deployed or about to be deployed. They will have sacrificed a lot in their 4+ years in.

However, if you have a good relationship or a good marriage, your life isn’t necessarily on hold while you are deployed. Granted it is more difficult than relationships without long separations, but nevertheless you have something, and it grows and moves forward.

When we first started dating, my boyfriend managed to bring into the conversation that he wasn’t so sure about reenlisting. And then a few months later, he reiterated that. He has never said, he doesn’t like the military and/or looks forward to getting out. There is actually no reason I can see that he wants to leave the military, other than making it easier on his family and because of the long and lonely deployments.

Just as my boyfriend has offered me the possibility of a future with him without the military, I have also offered him a future with me with the military. I respect him so much, not only for what he does as a soldier, but also that he chose a job that he actually likes. He is someone who could find a civilian job anywhere, however I really can’t imagine who he would be without this job. It’s a part of him. And I believe, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

In the meantime, while trying to tweak my professional aspirations to fit into military life, I'll keep cosmetology school in mind.


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4:46 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

No matter how much the PC crowd wants to tout it... there is never a 50-50 cut between a couple in a relationship. One or the other or both will have to give up something they would've done if they had been on their own. The real decision is... is the relationship worth more than what must be given up. Many people tell themselves "yes" but honestly resent it... and they are the ones who eventually fall apart.

Of course it doesn't help that we are constantly bombarded with Hollywood types telling us we can have everything we want whenever and however we want it. People hear it, don't stop to think how it can't possibly be true and... then they get angry.

Even if you didn't stay together with your boyfriend - life would almost certainly turn out differently than you ever thought it would. But, if you never end up with the career you had in mind... think of all the exciting possibilities that may open up by not going with that tracked career! One thing is - the internet has opened up so many opportunities where none ever existed before. So, keep your eyes open and don't dismiss new ideas too quickly - you never know where you'll end up!

3:33 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

There are a million things to discuss here, so let's save it for over dinner!!! Can't wait...

10:01 AM  
Blogger katiedid said...

I think this is just a completely beautiful sentiment: "However, if you have a good relationship or a good marriage, your life isn’t necessarily on hold while you are deployed."

Sorry, I have nothing else to add... I just wanted to admire that sentence.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Household6 said...

It's all about compromise. The hubby had an opportunity to move to Italy to start something new. He respectfully declined (which can be hard to do without it being a career killer). He declined because it would be basically impossible for me to get a job in my career field.

I think I have started over at least 6 times since we've been married, but you learn how to work with it. I like working and become insane and really grouchy if I don't so even it its a temp job I work.

I have contacts all over the US now of where I can work once the hubby retires so it can work, you just have to have good communication and a spouse willing to compromise.


12:40 PM  
Blogger Kierstan Burke said...

I have to tell you, my boyfriend recently went into the military and is almost done with basic. I know noone else in the military or anyone else in my position out of all my friends. So it's really difficult. I found your blog and I have to say it really does make me feel better and it is nice to know there are other woman that understand.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Griff said...

My boyfriend is about to go to Sandhurst to train as an officer in the army. As long as I've known him, which is around 6 years I've known this is the career path he wants to follow. We've put it off and put it off until now, and now its crunch time, if he doesn't go now, he will no longer have the option.

I flit between feeling angry and just pure heart broken, not only because I genuinely don't know how I'm going to cope with the seperation, but the fact that now all my career aspirations and just plain old dreams have to go on hold - or at best be co-ordinated around the army. I understand relationships require compromise, but all the compromise is falling onto my shoulders, but even thinking that makes me feel guilty, like I'm so selfish.

I don't know anyone else in the military, or anyone with loved ones in this situtation, so knowing that there are others in this situation who have the same kind of issues in their life makes me feel less alone.

Thank you xxx

1:31 PM  
Blogger Neli said...

My boyfriend also said he wants to be part of the commandos (in the Netherlands), and I am so restless. I tried to convince him not to, that it would be too painful for me, but he says it's his dream. And then I started feeling guilty, cause I am stopping him from his dream...
We've been together for almost 2 years, and as crazy as it may sound, now I am starting to doubt either his or my love: if he loves me he shouldn't abbandon me and risk to get killed; if I really love him I should let him go. So what's the case? Maybe we just both love ourselves more than eachother. I am so scared... terrified. And since I never felt any patriottic feeling, to me it's not important whether he "serves the country". I don't care. I would like to start up a family soon, and really want him in one piece, both physically and mentally. And I wish the same for myself too! It's such a horrible feeling. Now I onlyhave to wait for him to go to the "introductory days" so that he finds out whether it is really what he wants, and whether they want him... an keep my fingers crossed! I know it is his dream, but it changes your life completely. And also as a principle, I am against wars. I think soldiers are dumb to risk their life for no good reason and if I could I would get all the weapons destroyed!!
Sorry for this, but I really am worried...

4:58 PM  
Blogger dannielle said...

Hi all. My boyfriend is also in the army, and soon to go on a 6 month tour in Afghanistan.

He loves his job, and has pride that he is doing his bit for the country, and to protect the people he loves. I also, feel so lucky to have found a man like this (as you have!)

It is hard to deal with being apart so much, but it also makes our relationship stronger. And we truly appreciate the time we do get to spend together, which means we don't take each other for granted (a real relationship killer!)

On the career note, i personally find that i have thrown myself into my career even more. My boyfriend is so proud of what he does, and i want the same satisfaction. When he is away i can throw myself into my work, which takes my mind off things, and means that i also progress in my job. I am proud of what i do, and that we maintain an equal relationship.

x x

8:38 PM  
Blogger Monica said...

My boyfriend and I have been dating for 3 years - and I have to echo the sentiment that the situation would just be so much easier if we weren't that serious, but I love him so much it hurts. He just recently got his pilot slot with the Air Force, which has been his life goal since before he could walk, and I am so proud of him! I always knew, once I got to know him, that there would be times when I came second to ROTC and the AF; he has to be away for training, for this and that. We also went to colleges 500 miles apart - so the separation was already a factor! But we just get along, and we're fortunate enough to trust each other, so the distance really only fanned the flames, so to speak. However, I just graduated college and am getting ready for law school, and I'm thinking about my career. I'm ambitious, passionate about school and my internships, and I have really lofty goals for myself. I am so torn up because I feel like I'll have to choose between him and my career, and everyone I speak to about it has a different take on the matter. Some say it's impossible to have a career with a military husband, and recommend throwing your hands up and committing yourself to paperwork, housework and moving around. Others say it can work out, but it's difficult, a constant struggle, rewarding, etc. I guess the only path I can plan for right now is to keep on loving him through law school and flight school, and see what happens. I don't think I'm doing him wrong by not airing out my doubts, because I don't even have any factual basis for those doubts; I have to give it a shot. I'm just hoping everybody ends up happy!

8:25 AM  

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