Now comes the time for a very harsh truth. This is not a concept I am addressing from personal experience. This is coming from statistics and observation. I have seen firsthand how true this is. After my first two years on active duty, divorce notices ceased to surprise me. I don’t mean to make light of a difficult situation, but it is important that you understand the toll that a military life takes on those who are (or are not) military members, when it comes to romantic relationships. The military is not like most occupations. There is no calling in sick (there technically is, but that is a complicated situation in itself), there are no guaranteed days off, the hours, set or not, are subject to change and the needs of the service, and just because leave or vacation is approved, doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t be interrupted.
All of this becomes a recipe for a very difficult romantic life. You might be thinking, “that doesn’t sound so bad,” or “if you love each other enough then you will find a way to make it work.” Maybe it doesn’t sound so bad and maybe you are right. Unfortunately, there isn’t much room in love for maybes. It is something you can’t possibly know until you experience it. I know exactly how rotten of a philosophy this is, but the bitter truth is that the statistics don’t lie. When something like divorce becomes so frequent that it no longer surprises people, you know that something more is going on. This is not something that was new when I entered the armed forces. During training, we heard instructors or other members joking about “practice marriages” from a place of personal encounter or experience. I would run into members from other bases whom I had never encountered before and the subject of “practice marriage” would come up at some point. It was so common that it was ingrained into military culture.
There are a lot of different causes for it. People don’t always make the best decisions in high stress environments. Perhaps you haven’t seen a member of the opposite sex in a while, and you forget how to think things through before you act. Maybe you learned about the extra pay that accompanies marriage (which doubles when it is two military members) so you find a member of the opposite sex that has the same greedy thoughts and is willing to enter a “marriage” for financial purposes. In my opinion, the most common situations are people that thought it was a good idea to get married and entered the marriage with good intentions. The military may be good at creating cynics and destroying faith in people, but not always and not entirely. The military is full of younger people with a very limited understanding of life, and it is easy to make poor choices.
It is often our mentality or our attitude that gets us into trouble. The military is a culture of its own and most people don’t realize that a lot of the sarcasm, the sense of humor, and the world views are not temporary, and usually aren’t a joke. Unless you live in the world, it is easy for a lot of things to lose their charm. It often takes time for someone to realize that a lot of things with service members are not one-offs (like jokes, sarcastic remarks, odd behaviors, etc.) and when this is not realized until after the nuptials, the problems eventually arise. It is difficult to identify who is to blame. Both are at fault if it comes to this. It is important to not rush into anything, but that goes for most things in life. Of course, you should get to know the person you are with before you make lifelong commitments. Practice makes better, but that doesn’t mean you should use your heart or the hearts of others in order to do it. Think things through. Take it slow. There is no rushing or forcing happiness.