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What You Need to Know Before Becoming a “MilSpo”

Learning how to be in a military relationship of any kind can be difficult. How do you know you’re ready to take the next step?

The adage that military spouses serve right alongside their husbands or wives, but only one wears a uniform, is a long-standing saying for a reason.

Military life can be rewarding and exciting, but it can also be more stressful and lonely than in the civilian world. Those stresses can’t avoid coming home when the military work day is done; national security doesn’t follow banker’s hours.

Date nights will get rescheduled. Holidays will involve phone calls rather than hugs. Trips to the Post Office will become routine. Military spouses and their families have to be flexible, communicative, resourceful and adaptable. But it’s a good thing that there are handbooks, both official and unofficial, that offer advice, support and resources so the struggle won’t be as foreign as the lands you will be visiting during your life as a military spouse.

Military spouse benefits can feel few and far between when coupled with the challenges of military life, but many people find success and worth in these relationships.


Sometimes it’s better to wait

Waiting until couples are at least 25 years old before marrying dramatically helps forecasts of a longer relationship.

About half of all marriages with couples younger than 20 don’t last to see the gifts for their 10th anniversary. Marriages between people older than 25, however, have a 75 percent chance of reaching that marital milestone.

And the trend in the military is that soldiers and their sweethearts are heeding that advice, with only about half of all active-duty personnel being married. That fact makes the military one of the industries with the lowest divorce rate. Much lower than the general population, which is about 70 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.


Know the lingo

Another tip is to know the language – even embrace it, since the sooner military spouses understand the difference between ACU and USO, the faster the couple can share their daily lives and understand what happens when the uniformed half leaves the home front for training or deployment.

A simple rundown on the ins and outs of military language can be found in our article on understanding complex military lingo, and more in Part 2.

Knowing the lingo also helps couples craft a plan for when duty calls, and the military spouse is alone for extended periods of time. But everyday military life is also just plain difficult at times. Schedules change. Moves to less-than desirable locations are inevitable. Rather than fight it, couples have to learn to embrace it. But spouses don’t have to figure it out alone.


Find resources to help you

Units have groups that can offer military spouse benefits. The internet is awash of military wives and husbands blogging about their lives and lessons that can provide food for thought as well. There are even checklists to test your readiness for marrying into the military family.

One such checklist can be found at the blog SoldiersWifeCrazyLife, which provides some insightful observations:

  • Are you emotionally ready for marriage? To anyone, let alone a soldier
  • Are you prepared for the work that goes into a successful marriage?
  • Can you give up the predictability of civilian life for the globe-traveling life of the military?

While the decisions regarding marriage to a military sweetheart rests with the couple, lots of thought and conversation before the exchange of rings can pay off. And like any marriage, constant and open communication is essential.

There is no secret formula or magic bullet about anything in life, let alone about having a successful marriage. That said, the Military Wife and Mom blog has a great list of tips that will save a military marriage, from staying away from drama in the military community to embracing the roller coaster life the military offers.

A wise woman once said about her life as a milspo that: “We always had a home, but we didn’t always have a house to put it in.”

I lived by that mantra throughout my childhood because that wise woman was my mother. She and my dad have been married through 23 years of active duty and are now happily retired — and still married for 54 years and counting.

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