It’s not easy when one partner makes a decision alone that affects both partners, especially when they are married. When I made the decision to enter the military I did so on my own, without really consorting with my partner though at the time we were not married. We were in love, and she decided to accept that decision. That was a long time ago and so many things have happened since then. We have served, and I did mean to say “we” because a military spouse, man or woman, lives with every decision their spouse makes, every aspect of their lives are affected by their spouses servitude to the military…good and bad. It is a difficult life for a spouse, it can also be exciting, but when that spouse is deployed things can turn stressful quickly, the spouse doesn’t always know where they are going, how long they may be deployed, and what if they are injured this time or worse. Then there is the household, the bills, the children, the spouse becomes the main representative and unofficial liaison between their husband or wife and their families. So yeah, I will use “we”, because let’s face it folks, in a marriage we are partners right, for better or worse, when one is down the other must pick up the pieces, and many civilian spouses have their own careers.
As is often the case, many military personnel marry young, then they grow with experience, they both get older and form their cognitive beliefs, understandings of the world around them, their faith may change, their perspective on the military may change. And what if that happens? How do you deal with that as partners, as spouses, friends, parents and lovers?
As most of have come to know, those of us who’ve been deployed to a combat theater, into a conflict or in certain areas of the world, those tours of duty can change a person, how they process and how they view the rest of their lives. In turn this affects the lives of that soldier’s families, immediate and extended. Sometimes the affects are very little and are accepted, or are managed, other times the affects are far reaching, to everyone around them. Sometimes it’s not what the soldier brings home emotionally as much as it is the repercussions’ of their tour and how that affects that soldier’s career. Once in a while a soldier decides to leave the military life, but like the old saying goes; you can remove a boy/girl from the country but you cannot remove the country from the boy/girl. No matter the circumstances’ that lead to a soldier leaving the military, there is life, that partnership and their spouse’s lives are forever changed.
An example might be for a soldier dealing with PTSD, that soldier and their spouse may decide that leaving the military is the best thing for them, and that may be the case, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the soldier has changed how they feel about the military, or their own service in said military. Their spouse may have left that life behind and taken with him or her, a bad taste in their mouth for that lifestyle, that organization or for the reasons that led them to leave. As with all large corporations and organizations go, not everyone is successful, and not everyone has a positive experience. Whether that is the case or not the very reason that soldier made that decision so long ago to enter the military may still be valid, that soldier may still miss that lifestyle, the brotherhood, the familial feeling from those fellow soldiers they served with. A man/woman cannot live as a soldier for very long and walk away without feeling like they have left behind some extended family, personal or not.
As with any large conflict that affects one or both partners in a relationship, we need to work together and engage that conflict as a team, as partners. And sometimes we need to stay connected with each other and how we feel about the other’s state of mind or feelings. There may be new cognitive dissonance among the changes or the experiences that led to changes for one or both partners. Cognitive dissonance being those things that cause internal struggles because of a disconnect between how we feel about something, in this example it may be that the spouse no longer has a positive appreciation for the military because of “what it has done to their partner”. But they love their partner and want to support them. We all grow in different ways, and that may be a very real and very appropriate feeling for them, but it may not be for their partner. For someone to decide that they will enter the military, whatever branch that may be, they quite literally have to weigh their own life against the freedoms of their loved ones. Is their life worth freedom to someone else, to their neighbor, their children, and their partner’s? That sort of a decision cannot be weighed lightly, that is a sacrifice not everyone can or would choose to make. And that decision has nothing to do with organization that is just a vehicle.
In the end, how we address a soldier cannot be measured by the job they took, the vehicle they chose, the branch in which they served, but by the kind of person they are, they must be measured by the sacrifices they have made and we as partners, spouses, friends, must be careful to make that distinction. Often when we are impassioned about something we tend to blanket react and that may come off as disdain for all that is military. Show focus for what you have issue with, but please be careful to not let that disdain cover the personal sacrifices that soldier has made, if that happens you may inadvertently shut out that soldier, leaving him/her feeling alone, and misunderstood. Then you will lose a connection with that partner, one that was formed around and forever threaded with the sacrifices’ they…and you have made.
As in all aspects of our lives, civilian or military, we are in a constant search for internal consistency, balance. In a partnership/relationship, we are ever changing if we are both growing, and if we are both growing then we are always looking for that balance, and it may take both parties to find it.