Monday, February 4, 2013

My Top 3 Military Fiancé Survival Tips! 03/24/20130 Comments I don’t claim to be an expert in Army affairs, but I do have experience in what it’s like to date and be engaged to the military. Two and a half years ago I met my hero and delved into a whole new world: the U.S. Military. At times it feels like limbo: you’ll be official in the foreseeable future, but at the same time, you can’t claim dependency or even get on base without being escorted by your service man or woman. However, “limbo” is the ideal time to become comfortable with the military life, before the craziness of dealing with TRICARE and PCSing starts. This may sound cliché, but my biggest piece of advice to another military girlfriend or fiance is to be your own advocate. No one is going to do the work for you. I first began learning through stories my now fiancé, Austin, would tell me of his own experiences. Even now, every time he speaks about work, I try to remember what he's saying so that i can learn and be aware of what's going on in the near future. I’ve also been doing my own research, and I consider myself a self-appointed student of the Army. I’ve checked out online books like Married to the Military: A Survival Guide for Military Wives, Girlfriends, and Women in Uniform or The Military Marriage Manual, among others. I also visit official military websites. What has been most helpful are military wives’ blogs that tell me first-hand what life is like in the military world as the significant other. Secondly, don’t be afraid to reach out to your soldier’s FRG for support and friendship. You might be surprised at how welcome you feel. If you aren't comfortable doing that join an online support group. Despite living states away from Austin’s post and not being married yet, I’ve never felt disconnected from the military family. This was especially important when he first left 2 October's ago. Finally, if you don’t live close to the base, seek out support from others in the community who do have a military affiliation. I have three friends in my area who are retired Army wives and they have been a godsend. They all are much older than me, but having mentors is important. The wisdom and guidance they give are even better than words in a book, and I look forward to carrying on their legacy and positive attitudes. Add Comment Advice on break-ups? 03/08/20130 Comments I get a lot of people asking me for advice about break ups. I will give it a go. Beware that this is how i personally would handle this situation. This is in response to the many questions you lovely readers send me. Hope it helps! Don’t waste your time on people who don’t treat you well. That seems obvious right? Well I’m pretty sure that I am surrounded by masochists because I get a lot of mail along the lines of “He cheated. How do I get him back?” and “I love him, but he broke up with me and now he’s dating my cousin,” etc. Breaking up hurts, but being with someone who treats you like shit hurts way more in the long run, so nurse your breakup hangover with a pint of ice cream or a few vodka sodas (for my over 21 fans) and be reassured that he or she will probably die miserable and alone someday. Listen, listen, listen. Yeah, I know. Of course we heard him when he said he didn’t want a girlfriend, but like, we don’t want to be in a relationship either. I can’t tell you how many times I made this mistake. I saw a cute guy I liked and I went deaf. I ignored all the signs that this is not a good fit and continued blindly ahead. If this is too vague for you, I’ve compiled a list of signs that this person will not be a good girlfriend/boyfriend from various friends’ and my pas experiences with “not listening:” Tells you he (or she) just wants to have a good time Is wearing a wedding ring, but is currently in the middle of a divorce Does not bathe, or have a job, or do anything productive really Has a carseat in the backseat but makes no mention of having a child Still lives with his ex, but only because “finding an apartment in this city is hard” Is “polyamorous” (look that one up kiddies… it’s not cheating if it’s an open relationship) Which brings me to my next point… Be honest with yourself about what you want. Don’t change to fit his or her wants and needs. This was huge with my friends and I in high school. One of my girlfriends would suddenly take a keen interest in the rules and game strategies of football and before I could say, What the fuck? I’d see her start drooling over some senior walking down the hall in his varsity football jersey. When you’re older, it’s even worse. You meet a man who is just perfect. Then you realize he wants to have five kids and live on the West Coast by the time he’s 35 and you just got used to the idea of owning a plant and being on an actual lease. So be realistic and stay true to yourself. You may feel like you’re losing out on something in that moment, but really you’re just opening yourself up to meeting someone who actually wants and likes the same things as you. Focus on YOU. According to me, every person I ever dated has an amazing relationship with someone else now. It’s easy to become jealous after a breakup. People move on and your ex will date other people. But so will you even if he gets there first. And just try to be satisfied with the fact that deep down he will never find anyone better than you and you’re way hotter than his new girlfriend anyways. It works for me. Just kidding (sort of.) As for all the other specific questions you guys asked, I will try to answer some of them in this list of Do’s and Dont’s. Don’t get back together with him if he was a shithead the first time. This will likely not change. Don’t date your best friend’s ex without her permission no matter how much you love him because that’s asshole behavior and no one likes an asshole. Do blog. I love hearing other people tell me about their blogs. Writing is super cathartic! Don’t worry about friends who choose him over you. They clearly weren’t good friends in the first place. Don’t worry if you act a bit crazy in the midst of a breakup. We all have our moments. Just don’t get yourself arrested… it sucks. Don’t wait for him if he begins dating someone new, but you know they aren’t meant to be. Life is not a Nicholas Sparks novel. Do let yourself fall in love again. Even with all the shit parts, I still think it’s worth it. There you go. That’s all I’ve got for now. Add Comment Why we do it. 02/20/20131 Comment This post is stemming from inspiration i found from an email i received from a non military affiliated woman. She asked us, "Why do you do it? How are you able to be in a successful relationship with a man you never see?" This post is for you. This is also for any other ladies feeling sad, or angry, confused, or whatever…because you're not alone tonight. There are nights where i lay in bed, staring at my ceiling, wondering why i do it. Why wait for someone who can't be here with me when i need him? Why wait for someone to come back to me when he's the one that's constantly leaving? Why wait for a brief moment with him after so many months apart? Why wait for something that might never happen? Why wait for him at all? I'll admit there have been times where I've completely lost it. There have been times where I've thrown things across the room and dented my walls. There have been times where I've screamed into pillows so no one could hear me. Times where I've gone and sobbed in the shower until i couldn't breathe. If you've done it, then I've done it too. If you've thought it, then I've thought it too. If you've felt it, then I've felt it too. Every single day i think, “What kind of relationship is this? Who has a relationship with someone they never get to spend time with? Who deals with this crap? I can't plan a single damn thing without having to consult the military first.” I mean, it's insane. Right? My whole life revolves around Skype, phone calls, and the promise of a future together. I don't fall asleep next to him, i fall asleep with him on Skype. I don't get to touch him, or hug him, or kiss him, nearly as much as i'd like to…or nearly as much as i'm entitled to. I find that i secretly resent girls who get to see their boyfriends or fiances or husbands all the time - the line “i miss him” doesn't mean anything to me when they say it. Even though they are allowed to express how they feel just like i am. I feel like they never understand what missing someone is until their someone has been taken from them. So, why? Why do we do this to ourselves? Is it not enough that our men are taken from us, shipped off to god-knows-where, and then returned to us only after their duty is done? Who, in their right mind, would want to deal with that? We do it because we love them. We do it because we are the strongest women on earth. We do it because one, single, solitary moment with them is worth a lifetime away from them. It doesn't mean we have to do this with a smile plastered on our face, and (lord knows) we certainly don't most of the time. We do it because, for his love, we would do anything. Honestly, most of the time, i hate it. It takes a pretty strong person to ignore the sting of tears, threatening to spill onto the canvas we call our face…the smallest thing can bring tears to my eyes: a song, a smell, a word, a place. Anything and everything can make me tear up. Pretending to be happy is like an Olympic sport for those of us who are in love with someone who serves; their duty is to their country, while our duty is to love them. Despite all the pain we endure, it is truly an honor to love a man like that. I fall among the silent ranks of those who love someone in the military. I live, love, and suffer in silence, with thousands of others who are waiting just as patiently as i am. We cling to moments, few and far between, because they are the promise of something more. We wait for the phone calls, the text messages, the emails, because they remind us who were waiting for. We don't measure time in days, or weeks, or months… we measure time from when he left, to when hes going to return. We have learned that long stretches of time without them is worth the teeny amount of time we get to spend with them; “Keep calm and wait.”, its our motto for life. So, when you ask why we do it, remember, we also ask ourselves why we do it. We ask ourselves every single day why we deal with this loneliness, this pain, this stupid thing we call love… and every time we remind ourselves: because one day he'll come home to me. After all, if it was easy, it wouldn't be worth it. 1 Comment Military Myth Busting: 7 Common Spouse and Family Stereotypes 01/10/20130 Comments I decided to bust some of the more common military myths. While I think people are generally supportive of military families, the disconnect between civilian and military families is growing. This military-civilian disconnect can lead to some serious misunderstandings, so I want to set the record straight on the most common military myths I have heard regarding Military s/o's and families. Military s/o's are a very diverse group with a variety of individual interests and values. I came across a website where women were talking about these issues, here are some of the myths that are going around. Military Myth 1: Military personnel are not intelligent Statistics from military recruiting show that service members between 18-24 have more college education than their civilian counterparts. Furthermore, military personnel are highly trained and educated in their field. Service members are expected to be competent in highly specialized fields and be able to make judgement calls. Military Myth 2: Military couples marry young Everyone can probably think of a young military couple who rushed to the aisle when they hardly knew each other. I will also tell you that some of these relationships actually turn out well, so don’t be too quick to judge. Military spouses are not all young either. On average military personnel marry only about a year younger than their civilian counterparts. Military Myth 3: Military s/o's are women Male spouses and boyfriends account for seven percent of all military s/o's. About half of that seven percent is comprised of dual-military marriages. Military Myth 4: Military s/o's have no career aspirations Many military s/o's are employed and many more run businesses out of their home. A larger than average number of military s/o's have chose to stay at home because of child care concerns, home schooling or difficulty finding a job. In the end, this is a decision families make based on their situation. Military Myth 5: Military spouses are lazy and get married for benefits If you want to live a life of luxury, I would not advise you to marry a service member. Even considering benefits service members will never make what their civilian counterparts earn. Military spouses and even girlfriends are the opposite of lazy; they volunteer, raise children, handle home repairs, juggle finances and get involved in the community. Military Myth 6: Military families don’t pay taxes and get lots of benefits All federal taxes and most state taxes still apply to military personnel. Only service members serving in a tax-free combat zone are exempt from federal taxes. Many people assume that military get free housing, free healthcare and free education as well as a free retirement plan. While there are many good benefits available they are not that simple; many benefits do not cover everything or have some cost associated. Military Myth 7. Military s/o's cheat There are infidelities in civilian and military relationships alike. The potential for loneliness or isolation that may come with deployment can perhaps amplify the behavior, but this does not mean that all military couples are unfaithful. Many military couples are committed and have never had a problem with infidelity. What military myth or stereotypes have you heard? What do you say to people if they mention these stereotypes? Let us know in the comments! Add Comment Questions & Answers About Military Life

On Facebook, I asked a few civilian couples if they had any questions about military life. No one answered. Maybe it's just me, or maybe it was the format, because what I received instead was a deluge of responses from military wives who think some people are not asking the right questions.

Some examples:

"How do you do it?"

This was an often repeated example of "insensitive" questions. I must admit that I receive this one quite a bit, too. Whether or not it bothers me really depends on the day and also my internal dialogue: Am I really "doing it?" Or am I just getting by?

In any case, to answer the question: we do it because we have no other choice. First of all, the military does not send home a permission slip to be signed by the wife/girlfriend before deployment or before they leave. There is no vote. (Remember, the military is protecting democracy, not practicing it.) This narrows down a woman’s options. She can A.) fall apart, or B.) rise to the occasion. Most of us choose option B, even if "rising to the occasion" only amounts to summonsing the strength to make something besides macaroni and cheese or a bowl of cold cereal for breakfast.

To make this point even more clear, think about what it's like to raise a two-year-old. Every whine and tantrum is cruel and unusual mental torture for the parent, and yet letting the child get lost in a corn maze is both illegal and morally wrong. So you get by as best you can and ignore all those mothers who say, "You think two is bad, wait until he is a teenager!"

It's only later, once time has had a chance to heal those emotional wounds, that the parent looks back with fondness to all the times said child fell asleep with his diapered bottom sticking up in the air, his legs and arms tucked beneath his belly, or how cute he looked when he smiled after dropping a plate of spaghetti on the floor.

"Your husband won't have to leave again, will he?"

If it is your neighbor who asks "will your husband/boyfriend have to leave again," reflect on the amount of times you asked him or her to help you with the lawn mower or to investigate strange noises in the attic.

If it is someone from whom you've never solicited support, try: "Give me some time to enjoy the moment, and then I'll think about the future."

"Military families don't pay for groceries or healthcare, do they?"

No and yes. We do pay for groceries, but if we are lucky enough to live near a commissary, we don't pay taxes on our groceries.

We don't pay for healthcare, or at least not in the traditional sense. Nothing is ever truly "free," least of all any of the military benefits. The pros and cons of military medicine are best left for another column, but it's fair and efficient to say that families "pay" for their healthcare in ways that might seem totally foreign to most: missing the delivery of your first child, for instance.

Clearly there is a disconnect between what military families want to talk about and what civilian families want to know. This gap, I fear, is often filled with bitterness (on both sides). But the truth is that all of us have more in common than we might first imagine. For instance, military families should remember that they aren't the only ones who "do it" all by themselves. Single mothers do this every day, and they have no Homecoming in sight. Likewise, there are other careers (I'm thinking of firemen, police officers, etc.) that are equally as dangerous as the military and involve the same amount of commitment to service.

Having said all of that, I recognize (in a deeply personal way) the unique aspects and demands of military life. And I know that the one thing a person can never go wrong saying to a military wife/girlfriend is, "Thank you."

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