He looks good in a uniform, has a steady paycheck and healthcare, and he might get a home in Japan or Italy. From first look he seems to have everything that a girl would want in a future husband, and in many ways it is true, but there are certainly some things to consider if you are finding yourself in the position to date a military man. There are certainly a lot of things the Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine can bring to a relationship, and we’ll talk about those, but being the girlfriend or wife of these fighting men also has its drawbacks, so we’ll talk about those, too.
As I said in the opening, there are definitely some great fiscal advantages of having a military boyfriend. He gets paid twice a month and that payment is pretty decent considering it is all expendable income. Yes, a young man just starting in the military as an enlisted member only makes about $600 each paycheck after taxes, but they do not have housing or healthcare costs, so that is $1200 a month for him to use for whatever he pleases: many non-military members making considerably more a month would love to have that kind of expendable income.
Speaking of healthcare, the military provides complete health and dental benefits to their service-members. For their family members the health care is also free, and the dental comes at a very low cost. Here is one of the bad parts, though: most military hospitals do not have a very good track record when related to many of their civilian counterparts. Military hospitals simply do not have the capital of civilian ones, and many of the doctors in military hospitals are fairly new at their trade. For that reason many military families opt to see civilian doctors instead, which ends up costing them an insurance premium, but even that premium is relatively cheap.
All told, however, the military takes care of the physical needs of its families. Beyond healthcare, they provide an allowance for married service-members to pay for housing, a rate which is based on median local rental rates, and another allowance to help pay for food. There are multiple facilities on military installations to purchase goods tax free, work out, and have some family fun at very low prices. So, for a marriage-minded woman who would like some financial security, jumping into a relationship with a military dude is a fairly sound deal. If you don’t care much about marriage prospects none of this matters, though, so read on as we talk about some of the difficulties.
To start, most military folk are course creatures. From basic training they are stripped to their bare bones psychologically and rebuilt as steely-eyed, weapon-bearing fighters (well, some are). From there they learn to cuss up a storm with their buddies as they also learn to bond and survive as a team. While this process prepares them to face dire conditions and build cohesion between team members, it also makes them not quite as refined as they might have been had they instead chosen college and a suit-and-tie job.
Even worse is how they come home from difficult ventures into places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Sometimes the shear difficulty of such deployments forces them to withdraw emotionally as a survival mechanism, letting the pain of losing friends and difficulties back home roll off their back so they can remain vigilant and watchful over their buddies to the sides of them. Even that watchfulness serves to create difficulties because it often feeds a hyper-vigilance they cannot shed upon returning, keeping them keyed up and incapable of relaxing in public places.
Dealing with these things is usually a simple matter, though often requiring a little counseling along the way. Often, though, they go on without even noticing how they’ve changed, and even if they do will often feel that seeking help would be an admittance of weakness. It is here where those who are dating such a military man may need to steel their own resolve and gently guide that person to receive the help they need, while dishing out generous servings of patience and understanding.
All of this glanced over another huge factor in military relationships: there are frequent periods of 3 months to a year where that guy will be off on a foreign base or roaming the seas on a ship. Beyond the obvious difficulties of such a long-term, long-distance relationship, it also becomes difficult for both parties to maintain trust toward each other. No matter how much a person wishes to believe their significant other is remaining faithful, there are simply too many stories of those who weren’t, and bitter friends on both sides will be more than happy to share their belief that no man or woman remains true.
Beyond the strain of deploying on relationships is the pressure it puts on a family. If you and your military boyfriend do get married, those trips away can be very difficult to explain to a young child, causing some anxiety and creating problems for the family civilian people never face. It’s also very strenuous for that mother, who must not act the part of both parents and doing, or arranging to have done, all of the duties of the family which were formerly done by two. Then, when he comes home, there is a little struggle as he tries to return to what he remembers of his former roles and some reticence on the part of the mother to relinquish her duties as they have become part of her pattern. Again, all of this can be handled, but it takes time and patience.
So why bother, right? Well it’s simple: if you have found the person you love and want to be with, do not be too intimidated by their occupation as a military service-member. I bring to attention all of these strains their duty to our country provide not to discourage you from engaging in a meaningful relationship with them, but to help you understand at least in part what it means to be an Airman, Marine, Sailor, or Soldier, giving you a head start on recognizing some of these potential distracters so you can account for them as necessary.
There is one thing I didn’t mention in the positive aspects above but certainly adds a lot to why you might do well to find yourself dating a military man: because he has faced death with the faith of a special bond between brothers at arms, he has learned a depth of faith and trust with which most people never have the opportunity to become familiar. If you can tap that well, be one of the buddies he puts his trust and faith into, that guy will make you an extremely lucky gal.