Military relationships, like all relationships, take work — but it’s worth it.
This week, I’ll be getting married for the second time. My first marriage to a Navy fighter pilot was a great adventure that lasted over a decade, from the Naval Academy years to three nine-month deployments, and brought my two amazing little girls into my life. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last. But now, three years after a divorce, I’m getting married again, and I’m excited for the new adventure to come.
In the DC area, it’s hard not to meet people with a military background. And so here I am this week, starting a new life with a Marine veteran, becoming a stepmother, and lots of other wonderful things.
Here are ten things I’ve learned from one former military marriage and one to come:
Always be on time. It’s hard to lose this habit. Even years after your partner has left the military, they’ll still be a stickler about time (and annoyed by those who are late).
Be flexible. Life will throw a lot of things your way that you didn’t expect. You’ll move way more than you want to, you may end up with a totally different family than you envisioned, and you may end up in a job you never pictured yourself in (whether you love it or not). Adaptability is key. It’s a lesson that lasts long after military service.
Communicate. Time apart can be hard. It’s important to talk every day, and if you can’t talk every day, write emails or letters. Just show the other person you remember them, whatever way you can.
Learn to cook. This is something I resisted A LOT for many years, and I finally gave in. Eating out is expensive. It’s not always practical. And it really does show your partner you love them, especially if it’s something you don’t enjoy that much.
Pray together. Couple who share the same view on faith really do grow stronger together. Pray for each other, and pray for your marriage.
Read each other’s books. If you want to know more about your partner, see what’s on their bookshelf. If they’re in the military, read about what they do. It doesn’t have to be military history – there are amazing novels, books of poetry, and memoirs about the military experience.
Work out together. Not only will you keep each other goal-oriented and healthy, but it’s a great way to spend time together.
Don’t have too much stuff. It’s annoying to move it all. And stuff costs money. It’s better to save together than to buy a lot of furniture or things.
Let your partner have whatever car they want (if they can afford it). In my experience, people in the military love their cars. Don’t make your military partner settle for a dull, practical car. Stay within your budget, but let them have fun with it.
Dream together. You may not get to choose where you live for some time, but it’s fun to dream about the future. What is your dream vacation? What is your dream city to live in after leaving the military? What military base would you most like to live on? If you’re on the same page, it gives you something fun to talk about and hope for.
Victoria Kelly is a former military spouse and the author of When the Men Go Off to War and Mrs. Houdini. She graduated from Harvard University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Find her at victoria-kelly.com.