Married to the Military

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Military marriages differ from most civilian ones. As military spouses, I wonder if we are really prepared for how different our marriages are from our hometown friends and family. Our marriages are different because we are subjected to outside stressors and challenges that are unique only to us. Our friends back home don't have to move every two to four years or forced to meet new friends or recreate a support network. They also don't have to spend months or a full year alone while their husband or wife is deployed.

Besides the moving and deployments, our active duty spouse can sometimes work crazy hours under tremendous stress themselves. Their job may not be a nine-five job like their civilian counterparts. The 'operations tempo' of their job can bring an additional stressor to the marriage. Because our marriages are unique to our lifestyle, sometimes we need to pay them extra attention.

Marriage is a work in progress. That's how Chaplain Capt. Joel Kornegay, 17th Training Wing, would describe it. Kornegay has been counseling new and longtime married couples through conflict for the last several years here at Goodfellow. He believes that some couples under estimate how much the military lifestyle will challenge their marriage through deployments and 'optempo'. Both described challenges leave little face time and little intimacy for couples. Because of this, he says couples must develop other pieces of your marriage - communication and trust.

"If you can't communicate stateside, deployments could fraction it even more," advises Kornegay. "When it comes to deployments, preparing for separation will only help communication during long departures from home."

He suggests working on communication and expectations as early as possible before deployments.

The other facet of a marriage is trust. Kornegay warns that technology has benefited all of us, but it has also created trust challenges for marriage.

"Emails and text their spouses may receive can leave them insecure or questioning trust," Kornegay said. "Spouses need to recognize how seemingly harmless relationships can challenge a marriage. Specifically long hours at work with male and females working closely together can cause contention in a relationship."

With all of these challenges we face, how can we combat the marital pitfalls of being married to the military?

"Never give up," said Kornegay. "A healthy marriage takes work and focus and if you have children, they can be a powerful motivator."

He believes that a healthy marriage is the best gift you can give your children.

"If you don't think your marriage is where it ought to be, don't wait until the marriage is in trouble to find help," urged Kornegay. "Sometimes couples wait until their relationship is truly broken to seek help. By then, they are really asking for permission to end it, not invest in the relationship to fix it. Don't wait."

There are multiple resources available to married couples. From books and self-help guides, to marriage retreats and counseling, the help is within reach. The military offers multiple programs for couples that include Military and Family Life Consultants, Mental Health and reoccurring Marriage 101 classes offered by Airman and Family Readiness Center. Also Military One Source offers therapy from off base providers to couples seeking relationship counseling. No questions asked and nothing is reported back to the active duty member's health profile.

As military spouses, sometimes we have to take the lead in our family management. There is no shame in wanting a healthy marriage and no stigma in asking for help. No matter how long you've been married, you know that it's not always easy. Take the lead. Grab a book, call Military One Source or sign up for a marriage retreat. Our marriage and families are worth it.

The Goodfellow Chapel is offering a marriage retreat for military couples. 'Marriage Cares' will be held May 18-20 at Flying L Ranch, Bandera, Texas. The cost is $20 and it's refundable. The retreat will focus on renewing relationships by trained Air Force Chaplains. Child care is provided at the ranch. Space is limited to the first 20 couples. For more information call (325) 654-3424 to register.

What spouses are saying about being married to the military

We talked to the spouses of the 315th Training Squadron and asked them to give us their best advice on being married to the military.

My best advice is talk to your spouse. Encourage them to get involved with resources at work because that in turn resulted in me being introduced to the key spouses and from there other spouses. I find it key to be in contact and talk with other spouses who are going through the same thing I am.
J. - Married five months

My biggest piece of advice is: Be flexible, understanding, and have a good support network. What I mean is a married spouse will be happier overall if they can accept the ever-changing lifestyle of a military member and be understanding enough to support the issues as they arise and not confront them. I find that if I plan and accept those things, then I am not as disappointed and upset when and if a change occurs. This leads to a happier more "go with the flow "family. By the way, I would also put a plug in for the 315th TRS Spouses Club as that support network. The club is by far the best I've come across in my 12 years of being in the military.
K - Married two years - prior active duty member and military spouse.

Build your support system from day one. You never know when you'll need it but having it, you can get through anything thrown your way.
K - Married six and a half years

The only advice I have is you have to roll with punches.
V - Seven years and nine years with military.

The best advice I have for being married to the military is "soldier on" as our soldiers do. We are not only the spouses of our best friends, we too share in the careers, fears, and the unknown. My husband has been on one deployment with one looming in the near future, Three TDY's and countless training's through his crossover from enlisted to now officer. In the short time (three years) we have been married, I have moved as many times as years I have been married and have felt the highs and lows alongside my husband in regards to his career. I have gone back to school and will finish in a few months. I have taken part in community theatre productions, volunteer work, art classes for adults, as well as the usual "house manager" duties. I have also worked odd jobs to fill up my day. At the end of the day, your soldier needs to know you're safe and happy in order for them to complete their mission, deployment, education, etc., and be of sound mind while their doing it.
J - Married three years

We will be married for 21 years this May. All but one year in the middle, when we were transferring between Army and Air Force, we have been active duty. I have always said that mine was a shadow signature when my husband signed the dotted line, all three times (he re-enlisted in the Army once). He has had my unconditional support without complaint 99.9 percent of the time. I have also created a safe haven from work in our home. During his seven deployments, I have kept him in the loop as much as possible with what is going on at home though I try not to vent to him. When we couldn't have daily contact, I kept a journal to share with him so that he didn't miss out of the funny things or the important things. Support, don't nag or complain when things are beyond personal control. Remember mission comes first. Play - make a point to have fun even through the struggles. Invest - your time and efforts in things that will edify and uplift your family. Listen - to him, to your kids, and most of all to what comes out of your own mouth. Love - through it's what keeps them going!
K - Married 21 years

As for advice, the one I get the most is to be patient and to make every effort to be understanding of his duties and to find little ways to show him that you love and support him. I have to say that I do worry about deployments. I don't know what to expect, where he will be, for how long, what he will be doing, etc... But we've been thinking of cute ideas to keep the fun and romance alive long distance.
K - Married seven months

While friends outside the military community are wonderful there is no replacement for the support and companionship of other military spouses. A friend who has no experience with the military cannot decipher the strange language of acronyms we use and have difficulty comprehending that our life can be directed by such strange forces as TDYs, RNLTDs, BRACs, MEBs, PCS seasons, etc. I've sent a text like this before: "Heading to TMO bc no success with MEB. Hoping to change RNTLD to GFAFB to avoid PCS season" And without any further explanation or translation my fellow military spouse replied with "Hugs." Now who else would know that's just what I needed?
J- Married seven years

One thing that always helps us through stressful times is that when we are thinking negatively about something, regardless of what it is, we try to come up with at least two positive things associated with it, no matter how insignificant they may be. Even if they are far-fetched, it usually gets us laughing and cuts the tension significantly. Also, we always say I love you and kiss each other goodnight no matter what the day held. It's easy to forget how wonderful it is to be together until you're up for that next deployment so we try to give each other a reason to remember every day.
S - Married one year

Be open. Open to friendships, open to new assignments, open to experiences. When change comes your way, always open yourself up to the potential positivity. You will be surprised with what you find.
E -Married for four years

My husband has been in the military for eight years now and the advice I would give would be to remember to leave time to do things together-play games, go on a date night once a month, watch movies, laugh. Being a military spouse is not easy and can put a lot stress on your marriage, but what I always try to remember is that if you communicate and love each other, then you can get through anything.
L - Married six years

The absolute best advice I can give is to understand and recognize that when your husband comes home with bad news, it is not his fault. He is not intentionally handing you this news to piss you off and getting angry at him will only make things worse. If you stay calm it makes the bad news easier for him as well. Support him first, show your frustration with the girls later.
E - Married seven and a half years

I did not see my life turning out the way it has. I wanted to be a career woman where my husband was the stay-at-home spouse. I had grown up watching my mother and grandma supporting their husbands but never truly living their dream, and I swore this was not how I was going to live my life. I guess I wish someone would have pulled me aside and told me that there is strength in being the "spouse" of an active duty member. We hold our families together, soothe our spouses when the demands of the military overwhelm them, and nurture our communities. I see so much heart break when a spouse does not take his/her job seriously. Our job is essential. Don't be afraid to be social, to try new things and to step up when the military demands so much from your family. It is hard and it will continue to be hard, but you are going to see and learn so much about yourself, your community and the world in the process.
L - Married eight years