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5 Things to Remember In A Long Distance Military Relationship

Advice from a Coastie girlfriend…

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What did they tell you when you went off to college? Test the boundaries, right? Try everything at least once! Get involved! Remember: drinking at your age is ILLEGAL! And finally, the good old don’t let boys be a distraction!

Oops.

I was never really all that good at following directions, anyway. Andrew and I met a few years ago at a baseball game. I was at an all-girls boarding school and he was at an all boys Catholic prep school and they just happened to take field trips to cheer on the Orioles on the exact same day.

I fell head over heels for him. But it wasn’t until he went back to the Academy that I realized what that entailed.  See, there are hundreds of articles out there about why being committed in college is a mistake, (let alone to someone who is 12 hours away and practically owned by the military!) Rest assured, this isn’t one of them. You clicked on this link, I’m hoping, with the intention of strengthening your relationship. You go girl! We both know that with the right mindset and the proper communication, love always wins. So here are five things to keep in mind when you two are apart:

1) Manage your emotions.

The first time I felt the pain of saying goodbye to Andrew, it was the Sunday after Spring Break of this year. The ten minutes that we spent waiting for that train to arrive felt like ten seconds. The ten minutes that his family and I spent waving to him from the platform after he had boarded felt like ten years. I had grown used to his company – his laugh in the living room watching 30 Rock, the smell of toasted gluten-free bread and bacon in the morning and reaching out to find his hand to hold. Andrew’s mom saw the tears in my eyes and hugged me, turning to whisper into my ear, “I know it’s hard, but we have to be strong for him.” And she was right. You can’t cry at the wrong time. Our role as “civilians” is strictly supportive. I noticed she was wearing sunglasses to conceal her emotions, and I haven’t said goodbye to Andrew without a pair since.

You learn quickly that it’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it. He’s like top shelf liquor; harder to reach, but the best there is! (Okay, I’m sorry, here’s a barf bucket.) But seriously, if he’s the one that makes you the happiest, the one that you can’t really imagine a life without, then you’ll do anything to make it work. When a love like that is on the line, you willingly suffer through months of no sex, and the seemingly endless amounts of dropped Skype calls. 

The definition of home suddenly changes from being a place, to a person.

2) You’re not alone!

Sometimes I’m the only one in my apartment on a Saturday night, and I think of all the social sacrifices I’m making to maintain my relationship. I’m sitting there with Netflix and a bowl of cheerios scrolling through drunken tweets about Pizans and University Village and… wait, he did what to that ice luge???

I get down, wondering if I’m strong enough to get by with just virtual hugs and countdown apps on my iPhone and the mere promise of a beautiful future. I think, “I deserve to be out there, living it up! Hashtag YOLO.” But what you don’t see is your cadet saying no when his buddies who signed up for liberty that weekend ask him to go to New York City. You don’t take into account that even though his brain is fried from a full 8 hours of classes and drills, he stays up till 2am to hear you voice. You don’t see his heart breaking, knowing that he can’t be there to walk with you to class or sit with you at Paws or help you find your ID when you lose it for the second time.  It takes two to tango! Besides, the girls in the crop tops and 5-inch wedges at midnight are out there just trying to find what you have right now. It’s all a game – and you’ve already won!

It doesn’t hurt to reach out though. Recently I found a Facebook group made by coast guard girlfriends FOR coast guard girlfriends to support each other and stay updated on academy life. Chatting with someone who knows your exact situation and creeping on older girls to see what your relationship COULD turn into is such a cool thing. It’s a great way to stay grounded, and it benefits the well being of both you and your cadet.

 

3) Fighting doesn’t mean he loves you any less.

In fact, it means the complete opposite. Other girls swoon when they see pictures of him in uniform. Family members say you two are “cute” & the comment thread under your relationship status is sprinkled with Emoji hearts. But the arguments aren’t nearly as “aww” worthy. Military duos tend to move quicker and become a lot more serious compared to the typical twenty-something relationship. Commitment isn’t taken lightly!

Andrew and I have been friends since high school. We know the 16 year old versions of each other and we (unfairly, but very often) base our opinions of things off that. They say that a fight lasting more than an hour is a serious problem in your relationship… I’ve had a fight last three days!! Just know that it’s normal, and in the end it only makes you stronger.

4) Maintenance: A plant dies if you forget to water it.

You don’t need an excuse to send a letter or a care package. Call me old-fashioned but I think handwritten notes and homemade gifts are just the bomb dot com. It’s a simple, fun way to let the other person know that you’re thinking about them and provide them with a little boost of inspiration. Now I know for some of you there just aren’t enough hours in the day – especially now that it’s crunch time with final exams and Capstones. (Seniors: only a little less than a month before graduation!)  And that’s why people like Nichole are so wonderful. Nichole Mentz is based out of New Port Richey, FL and has just started her own Etsy Company called Miles Between: www.etsy.com/shop/MilesBetween It’s mostly, “Made to order care packages and welcome home signs. I put a lot of time and love into each and every creation and it [means] so much [knowing that] others get to see what I enjoy doing!” she says.

Another one of my favorites is http://www.leafcutterdesigns.com. The California start-up sells adorable dime-sized notes that come with a magnifying glass. You can also purchase a tiny package with a tiny trinket and a 50 character or less note tucked inside. Some of the featured ones are:  “You’re as cute as a…” with a button or “You light up my life” with a light bulb. Consider his heart melted – and all for $10!

5) Stay positive!

It’s common knowledge that the younger you commit, the earlier you tend to break apart. But listen to the experts: according to Dr. E.C. Hurley from the Soldier Center, those in the military who DO bury the hatchet report having issues adjusting to relationship expectations and ideals.  Translation? Lay it all out in the beginning. TALK. People in the armed forces tend to have attachment issues; a constant need to belong. So instead of searching for reasons why this isn’t all meant to be, try focusing on the here and the now.  Always answer a phone call! And never run away from a problem.

His happiness is your happiness and vice versa, right? When you feel like it’s the end of the world and you just want to break down, remember why you fell in love in the first place. Where are those Swab Summer letters? Grab some ice cream and flip through some of your cutest ‘Cory & Topanga’ pictures. Scroll through texts, watch An Officer & A Gentleman– do whatever you have to do. As we grow up, one of the most important things we learn is how to comfort ourselves.  Because 9 times out of 10, your cadet probably just has a lot on his plate. Realize that it’ll all be okay. After all, distance means very little when someone means so much.

 

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