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Undesired Locations: A Military Marriage Hurdle

New Military SpouseBy Sunshine Burgess

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ~Lao Tzu

When a couple marries, regardless of faith, the marriage vows usually say something about “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad”, well maybe for military marriages, “for good assignment or bad assignment” should be added. You may have thought marrying into the military that you were going to see the world, but you forgot those little nowhere towns were a part of the great big world.

My husband I are celebrating our fifteenth anniversary this week. He married me in a small town in Mississippi that was his second assignment within my lovely home state. I remember him saying many times that he didn’t join the military to get the grand tour of Mississippi although it was all I had ever known and I am sure I probably could have been quite content to spend my entire life there. However, I didn’t just marry the man, I married his career and his dreams; so I knew I was about to be in for lots of moves and lots of uncertainties. A “seasoned” spouse gave me some sage wisdom, she said, “No matter where the Air Force sends you, make it your home, be happy you are together, and never make him feel guilty for choosing this life.”

I took her words to heart and I wish every spouse would do just that. In the last few months, I have heard of countless marriages ending because the spouse couldn’t handle living where they were any longer. Even on the worst days, I can’t imagine ending a relationship because of it. Many spouses decide to “move home” and say they will join the active duty member at the next location. Isn’t this really saying “I just don’t love you enough to endure”? There are so many times when couples are forced to live apart due to remotes and TDYs that I find it hard to understand why anyone would voluntarily choose to be apart for something as small as a bad location. In my opinion, one person’s Hell is another’s Heaven, so “bad” location is relative. Always remember that wherever you are being sent, there are people who have chosen to live there, so try to look for the things that have made them stay. Try to find the good.

The one consistent thing about military life is change. If you don’t like where you are or what you are doing, it will likely change soon. Just give it some time. This is something I reiterate to my children at least weekly. Yes, I know people who have had nothing but fabulous assignments, but at some point their luck may run out and unlike me, they won’t know how to make the best of the seemingly bad location. I am saying this as someone who has had ups and downs. Our marriage started off with a one year remote to Korea, but we landed an amazing follow on to Germany. We returned to Biloxi, MS (his 3rd Mississippi assignment), but Katrina hit within two months of arrival and demolished the area. Living in a recovery area had many challenges, but we were together. Another remote followed that with a follow on to Okinawa which was changed a few months out to….Mountain Home, Idaho! At no point in my life did I EVER say I wanted to visit, much less live in Idaho. I literally cried as we drove down the never ending road to the base, but at no point did I ever entertain divorcing him or living separate because of it. I adjusted my mindset and thanks to an amazing group of people at that base, I cried when I drove the opposite direction on that never ending road leaving. Now we sit in Del Rio, Texas. It is okay; I can hear you groaning and see that look of pity of your face. It has been almost two years and I still haven’t threatened to leave him, even if just to stay with family. I would see leaving him as something I did in reaction to something he did and had control over. At this point in his career, he has very little control over his assignments. In fact, if he did try to change something, it would likely reflect very negatively. Many careers have been ended because someone chose NOT to take an assignment. I refuse to be the reason that his career ends before he is ready. I just can’t carry that burden.

I suppose my point is that you married a member of the military. It isn’t a job that they can just quit one day and decide to do something else, at least not until their commitment is up or they have reached retirement. I always laugh when someone asks what awesome location we will be going to next. One, we never know and two, it is usually not all that exciting of a destination. All I know for sure is that my husband loves his job and I love him, so I am here for the long haul whether that be traveling Europe or living in a secluded town in the middle of nowhere. The most important thing is keeping our family together when able and him never feeling like he has lost our support. I hear people all the time say that they married their best friend and if that is true, then you can make any situation a party by just being together. When given the choice, choose TOGETHER!

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4 thoughts on “Undesired Locations: A Military Marriage Hurdle”

  1. They say you cry when you go to Mountain Home and cry when you leave! I did both! The best advice I ever recieved was a new assignment is never good or bad, it is what you make of it! It has really helped me, but I know we will eventually move home and for now I can be thankful for seeing the parts of the world I never would have visited on my own! Great article!

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    1. My husband and I are also celebrating, our 15th anniversary. Moving home and spending time with family in places I love is how I get through. It’s rather judgmental and closed minded to assume, or even believe that it says “I just don’t love you enough to endure” It couldn’t be further from the truth. Really I can’t help but ask, what difference does that make if it is what works for one family? In fact this summer I will be taking my kids on a three month road trip, to all the places we love- to my hometown. The third time we have left for family ( ah the gasp at my lack of devotion, sorry) My husband will stay and work here in Las Vegas, where it’s “undesirable” especially in the summer @ 112 degrees. The fact is, he DID choose this station. I didn’t want to go, but it was good for his career and he really wanted it. For us marriage is about a partnership, maybe I am just not as “good” of a military wife, but I don’t feel as if it shows a lack of LOVE or devotion! WE came to a compromise, we worked out a plan because- I didn’t marry the military.. I married a man, and he values my feelings equally – In 12 years of his service we have endured 6 years of separation two years remote in Korea, 2 tours in Iraq, 1 in Afghanistan, not even beginning to take into account the various trainings and tdy’s so I guess the reason I am even responding to this is, maybe you should consider, that it doesn’t even come CLOSE to saying ” I don’t love you enough to endure” for us, it says WE ARE STRONG ENOUGH TO ENDURE . It says, that we work towards each others happiness 100% and it’s a two way street. To be honest, I find it a bit insulting and a little misguided to advise spouses to never seek out or make their own happiness a priority. Just as you know spouses who’ve split up because of a move home, I know several who’ve saved their marriage after going back for a few months or even a year. It’s very common for seasoned couples to live apart for the sake of a High School senior, or to just settle into a new location ahead of time. We currently have three geographical bachelors in our unit, all married to nurses, whom I assure you have just as much of a sense of duty and devotion to their career as their soldier spouses do. Home is a state of mind, not a dot on a map. For us, it’s in our hearts and we carry it with us- now, when we we move back to our hometown to stay when he retires… everyone there knows our children, have watched them grow up, despite never actually residing there. The man in the produce aisle knows them, asks them how school is etc. The whole community knows them. They don’t fear that move, they look forward to it. When we make that ets..it’s not just a move it’s “going home” For him, and myself and our children. He is proud that I have forged that bond for our kids in a town they’ve never even lived in, but spent months and months of their lives in…because by the end of the school year, quite frankly I have had eeeeenuff…of Vegas, of the City, the pollution, the crowds, the smut- I have had enough, of seeing the silver lining, of making like locals, of finding every little family friendly spot I can sniff out- but we are all about that life for 9 months, all in- double down, all bets on making this place a happy home, Vegas style all chips on the table BUT there is not one thing wrong- with letting it all out and saying- we need a break, of saying I could USE a break, that I want to make it a little easy for a few months and just breathe in the air I love, and the Sky over my home and let the kids loose with cousins..I want.a.break.( and no it is not going to destroy mine or anyone’s marriage..or say..”I hate it here, more than I love you” ) and to believe that it is any sort of reflection of my marriage or anyone’s is just presumptuous, silly and feels like the same Mommy vs Mommy, Wife VS Wife blogger BS that there is already WAY TOO MUCH of – when I pull back into my drive way right before school starts in the Fall, I will open that door, with a HUGE smile, feeling happy, refreshed, confident in my marriage, ready to conquer all the challenges, stronger and with a smorgasbord of diverse experiences after weeks on the road. Yes, bloom where you’re planted, yes, try and make the best always, always, in everything, let’s encourage every military couple to find what works for them! what strengthens THEM, whether it’s working or staying home, kids or no kids, going HOME when you really need the arms of a sister or mom for few months- or being that independent one who can conquer every city- good for them all…..because we already have staggering divorce rates, and support them whatever way they find fit……… but enough of telling people what they choose isn’t “enough” – and enough of telling Military wives that they have also enlisted into a life of martyrdom, ENOUGH WITH THE CULT OF COMPARISON!! that if they someone doesn’t adhere to they are less than- , or damaging their marriages… as a very wise man once sang “Who says you can’t go home” —- Bon Jovi

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  2. I would add that any assignment is what you make of it. Even in those less desirable locations, you can find the good. Some places are a bit harder than others, but the good is there:-)

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  3. Keesler was my husband’s 3rd assignment (Del Rio was his first) and also my hometown and I, like you, would have been perfectly content if we never left but I knew that it was always a possibility. We’ve PCSed twice, once to MD (lived in PA) and the now we’re at Dyess, TX. Neither one of us wanted to come to TX (he felt he did enough time in TX with Basic (Lackland), Tech (Sheppard) and then his first assignment (Del Rio). We knew it would be our last assignment (due to being close to retirement) and were hoping for a base in a state we KNEW we wanted to plant our roots in (and yes, he tried to get back to Keesler because it was my hometown and he actually LOVED being stationed there). However, instead of going into our final assignment with a miserable attitude, we knew to make the best of it! I’ve met an amazing friend here and now consider this assignment a blessing! I also made amazing friends at our assignment prior to this. I wasn’t happy to be in the area but we made the best of it and chose to enjoy it instead of allowing our misery to take over because I knew it was only temporary and soon the military would move us again!

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