The Struggles of Dating a Citadel Cadet


If you're in Charleston, South Carolina at any point during the academic year, I can guarantee that you will see a flock of guys (and some girls) dressed in a white uniform with a matching, weird looking, white hat covering their severe lack of hair. You will probably wonder where they all came from and why they're dressed like that. These official (and sometimes intimidating) looking people are cadets from, The Citadel, South Carolina's military college. Fellow Charlestonians often shudder upon hearing the lifestyle these cadets endure and wonder how they survive inside the gates of the prison, I mean, college. Well, I and many other girls have a first-hand look at just how crazy it is to be a Citadel cadet, but we see it from a different perspective - as the girlfriend. Before my boyfriend began his journey at the Citadel, I worried about how he would change as a person, how hard it would be to date him or see him, and how much things would change from of all of the horror stories I'd heard. Now, I can tell you first-hand about the difficulties of a dating a Citadel cadet (specifically a first-year, Knob) and how to deal with them. 

Alone Time is Limited

The only time I get to see my boyfriend alone is on the weekends when he has leave. Sometimes they aren't even allowed to leave depending on if they have inspections, mandatory Citadel events, like football games, or if their officers just won't let them leave. You can make up for this lack of quality time together by visiting them at their library between classes or duties, but it's just not the same when you're in a quiet library surrounded by other cadets who might be watching your knob thinking about how they can mess with him later.

They're Stressed and Sleep Deprived 24/7

Because of how many duties they have throughout the day, the cadets are almost always tired. Waking up around 5 a.m. every day and performing tasks like cleaning for inspections, drills, PT, meetings, AND classes on top of everything else wears them down exponentially. If your boyfriend is anything like mine, they are prone to mood swings due to lack of sleep and energy, and can accidentally take their tiredness out on you in the forms of overreacting, snapping, or being just plain grouchy. As the girlfriend, you have to have lots of understanding and lots of patience. They are doing way more than the average college student and it's going to benefit them in the long run. Remember how proud you are and focus on helping them get back to normal. 

You Might Not Understand The Citadel Life 

Names and terms like, "TAC officer" and "SMI" may seem like a foreign language at first and take some getting used to. I personally annoy my boyfriend on the daily just asking what each new term I hear means, and I almost always am still confused by the end of his explanation. But I'm just trying to learn, dude! Give me a break! There's also learning how their schedules work, what tasks they are expected to perform, and other things that may seem obvious to them but are unfamiliar to you because you don't live their lifestyle. Gently remind them you're asking because you care and want to learn they'll appreciate that more than you just asking over and over. 

Their Connections with Their Classmates are Special 

Cadets form unbreakable bonds with each other after the literal hell they go through together. They show up nervous and scared on Matriculation Day (move-in) which is followed by  Hell Week with no contact to the outside world so they're only allowed to communicate with each other. Then they participate in team bonding with their squads, PT, and all of the other crazy things the Citadel throws their way. Throughout everything they have to do during their time at the Del, they build friendships and share experiences that no outside person can. I actually felt sad for a moment when I realized that I couldn't have that bond with my boyfriend, but I snapped out of it when I remembered since I can't be there, he needs this just as much. 

They Can Get a Bit...Cocky

Being a cadet comes with a (rightfully earned) sense of pride. After all, not a ton of people would willingly choose this unique college experience. All of their duties make them stronger physically and mentally, which surges the pride they have for their school and for themselves. Of course, it's perfectly acceptable to be proud - I mean, I can name a ton of reasons why I'm proud and I don't even go there - but sometimes the pride shifts to arrogance. My boyfriend used to act cocky as a joke, but now I feel like he's little more serious when he gets braggy. It's all fun and games until the cadet gets a little TOO full of himself.

There's Very Little Free Will

When you go off to college, you usually get this ultimate sense of freedom that you can do whatever you want since their parents aren't there to tell you what to do anymore. Nice, right? Too bad Citadel cadets don't feel that. They have strict schedules that allow limited free time, and those free times are usually filled with tedious activities such as shining shoes, cleaning their rooms, meetings, or other busy work implemented by their superiors. Not only does this take away their hard earned free time, but it also takes away time you would be able to spend with them. Their time is not their own, and as their girlfriend, you have to respect that and get excited with them about the rare moments you can spend together. 

Regardless of how much of a struggle it can be at times, I have never been more proud of my boyfriend. He enthusiastically chose this college experience, knowing what was in store for him, and has taken everything like a champ so far. When we walk downtown on the weekends in his eye-catching uniform, I feel a pride for him like no other.