Advice on Military Relationships

Being in a military relationship is much different from how it’s presented on social media, with wives making beautiful signs for their babies to hold while they wait for their husband to appear after an eight-month deployment. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, there are certain tropes that have made themselves frustratingly present in my life for the past few years.

My boyfriend and I have been together for almost three years now - we have been dating since senior year of high school. He has since joined the Navy and been stationed out in San Diego, California for his training. The past two years of our relationship have been long-distance. No, we have not gotten married and no, that is not a good idea. The first time I went to visit him out in California, my dad was worried that he was going to propose. I said, “Ew, absolutely not, Dad, we’ve talked about this.”

A difficult part of this relationship is struggling not to think about the future. I have conflicting thoughts about it. I picture myself writing for some news outlet and living in a city. My boyfriend wants me to move in with him somewhere on a base in Virginia Beach. I know that he would never want me to sacrifice my passion to be unhappy, but it’s scary knowing that you would have to give up so much for the person that you love.

Military relationships are difficult because they require more compromise than most relationships. My significant other and I were living across the country from each other for two years, so visits were expensive and infrequent. I worry about my financial future because I have spent so much money on traveling. I worry that he will find some tan, skinny, surfer who enchants him with her amazing six-pack.

That didn’t happen. It’s unusual however, looking back, how grateful I was for the amount of room that being in this relationship has given me to find myself. I did not expect this. I had always perceived military relationships to be somewhat suffocating or oppressive, considering the common misconception that one is always just waiting around to see their partner again and spending all their time missing them.

To be honest, that was my experience at first, but I realized that it was making me so unhappy; which is the exact opposite of how being in a relationship is supposed to make you feel. I found my own happiness in the physical absence of my partner, which makes being with him after long periods of time so much better.

If you are in or considering entering this kind of relationship, don’t label it as such. It’s not a “military relationship,” it’s a relationship. I hate that label, because it implies that there is anything different about it than a normal relationship. Sure, there’s the distance, ever-changing time zones, bad cell reception, and weeks without communication. But if you add that label, you also add pressure. Treat it like you would any healthy, normal relationship, with maybe some heightened communication skills, and you will be successful. I can guarantee that after being with my boyfriend of three years; these relationships should not define who you are, they’re not a quirky personality trait. Sometimes I forget that we’re long-distance just because of how normal it is to us now.

Don’t place a definition on your relationship, no matter what kind it is. You will create expectations for yourself that will never be met and will ultimately lead to the demise of your possible future happiness. Find yourself in your partner’s absence, if you haven’t found yourself already. You can’t be with someone if you aren’t complete by yourself, so never depend on them for your happiness. You are your own person, not some fragment of the stereotypical, long romanticized “military relationship.” They can be beautiful and difficult and amazing, but without your own complete happiness you will always feel as though you’re just waiting around to see your significant other again.