This blog is going to probably end up all over the place, mostly because I’m passionate and deeply unnerved by the epidemic.
I recently started dating a civilian. I say “civilian” like he was some sort of alien and maybe it’s because it feels like he is. We set ourselves up on a completely blind date initiated by our hair stylist. When I met him he was wearing pineapple Vans on his feet and a Rolling Stones T-shirt. He was a Beatle. Not officially, but you get my visual. I was actually quite surprised the guy had a hair stylist. My point is, he was different from the other men I’ve dated – and by other men I mean military men. Chances are you know a military man when you see one. Either the hair cut gives it away, or there is a sweater tucked into jeans with a belt and that gives you a clue, or there is the combat boots with dress pants that seals the deal. So as you can imagine, this guy in general was quite a different experience for me.
But there was something else very different about this guy. He had lived in one general area his entire life, frequenting all the same bars and restaurants for years and years. His whole family lived within a 10-mile radius and he was still best friends with his high school buddies. He had been married and was devastated when it ended, and had only dated a few women in the seven years that followed his divorce. All together he had probably only slept with nine women in his lifetime. He is 39.
This may seem high for some of you reading this right now. Maybe you have only slept with one person your entire life, and for that I applaud you. But judging by the conversations my male military friends have sitting around the bar, this number of conquests can be obtained in a month.
But the number of people other people sleep with is not the point of this blog. It is to point out the biggest reason why relationships in the military seem to sink – Freedom and Opportunity.
When Tiger Woods was out there being a bad boy, many people crucified him for what he had done. But he had two things that people in the military also have, which I feel carved the way to infidelity; Freedom and Opportunity.
I’ve dated several men in the military from all different branches of service. I even got married in a rush when I was a young seaman thinking that was a guaranteed way to stay together. But when I got orders to a state on the total opposite side of the country, I knew it was over.
I have met the man of my dreams at every duty station. The dashing Marine in Washington. The British Royal Marine in Diego Garcia. The handsome Sailor in Italy. Another handsome Sailor in San Diego. Yet Another Handsome Sailor in Maryland. And let’s not forget the in-the-best-shape-of-his-life Canadian in Afghanistan. I loved them all, but you know what came between us? Freedom and Opportunity – on both sides.
Now here I am dating a civilian. His job doesn’t require him to travel. He works solid hours and arrives home at the same time every day. He isn’t in danger of being transferred to Djibouti. He isn’t going to get to reinvent himself in two years when he takes an unaccompanied tour to Bahrain. He is here and he will always be here. I’m not going to say this guarantees that he’ll never cheat on me, but the opportunity and freedom to do so is slim.
In the military you are meeting different people every single day. People are transferring in, you are transferring out, you are moving to Korea, and then Hawaii, and then Germany, and then Virginia (sorry about that.) You are TAD for this school and traveling to that conference. You are staying in hotels and constantly making friends with strangers. It’s a different life.
Recently my civilian and I had a conversation about cheating. He had this horrified look on his face when I joked about him cheating on me.
Civilian: Why are you joking about that?
Me: I’m just kidding around.
Civilian: It’s not funny. I would never do that to you and I would be crushed if you did that to me.
Me: Ok, seriously, I’m just kidding.
Civilian: Also, why do you find it necessary to post so many photos on Facebook and receive so many testosterone-driven comments by guys?
Me: Geez! Those are my military friends…and they are married!
Civilian: No wonder you think Monogamy is a myth.
And there it was. His way of thinking was different. His points of view. I see now why men often times marry a civilian. I saw the advantages right there in that moment. He doesn’t live this fast-pace life. He calls me a hero and brags to his friends about my deployments. It’s hard to be a dual-military couple, when you both know first-hand about all of the freedom and opportunity. I like the way my civilian looks at me, like he isn’t going anywhere, like I’m the only person in the room.
In the military, a lot of things are temporary. Duty stations, living quarters, assignments, even uniforms these days … but also, relationships. The fastest sinking ‘ships’ in the Navy.
Shining Service Worldwide is a charitable organization that supports all women who are part of the military family. Our goal is successful re-integration back into civilian life.