By Jolie Shave
Though I wish I could, I’d be naive to argue that all military marriages are for love. I want to be a hopeless romantic and say that every marriage in the world is the result of a cliché fairytale love story, but we don’t live in a fairytale world.
Our world is so full of judgement and false presumptions that are often unjustified. Being in a military relationship myself, I’ve fallen subject to the preconception that all or most military marriages are founded on promises of financial benefits. While I acknowledge that there are some money-based marriages, I will also say I’m not one of those cases. And I know I’m not the only one.
I understand why there are so many negative connotations behind military relationships or why there’s an assumption that they marry young. Having a spouse at home automatically qualifies a servicemember for on-base housing and extra money allotted for making payments on that home, otherwise referred to as Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). The BAH bill is set to cover 95 percent of housing costs in 2019, according to militarybenefits.info. BAH is one of the many benefits that act as an incentive to become part of the Uncle Sam family — who wouldn’t want almost-free housing?
From the outside looking in, it may seem like money supersedes love, but it’s difficult to see all of the other components that come with a military relationship. While basics such as housing and healthcare are covered, I’ve learned that nothing can compensate for deployments.
In February, my boyfriend was sent on a Temporary Duty Assignment in Guam. Even though he was only away for a month, it felt like an eternity. Between the 15-hour time difference and his work schedule, I was lucky to get a “good night.”
Next July, he’ll be in Kuwait, and hypothetically living for (almost) free on a military base with Tricare coverage wouldn’t make me miss him any less. This hypothetical will become a reality for one of his friends, James, and his wife, Riley, who are expecting their first child in March.
Riley says that they are uncertain of when James will be deployed next, but it could be as soon as early 2020 for as long as nine months, in which case he could miss the birth of his son along with the first few months of his life.
James and Riley were criticized for marrying at the age of only 19. They face criticism now for expecting their first child at the age of 20. Some could perceive that they’ve done it all for the benefits. But those people will still be on the outside looking in, where they would not be able to see Riley taking her newborn son home from the hospital without his father by their side. If people could see all of these inner workings, they might see that the pros don’t always outweigh the cons.
Benefits are shiny and enticing, but not all military relationships or marriages revolve around them. If I hadn’t been in one, I may have judged my relationship like so many others do already. But I’ve learned that perception is hardly ever a reality.
I hate admitting that I care about how other people perceive my relationship, but I know that I’m in it because I love the person I’m with, and I don’t think anyone could marry into the military on any foundation other than love. It takes true devotion to commit to a lifestyle in which a wife may have to raise children alone for unknown periods of time or not always know if the person you’re committed to will come home at all. At times, it’s terrifying.
Before you make judgments based upon what military girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses or even children gain, consider what they sacrifice.