What It’s Like Being a Military Significant Other

I’m sure most of you have seen the movie Dear John – a love story between a United States Army Special Forces staff sergeant named John, played by Channing Tatum, my love, and a college student named Savannah, played by Amanda Seyfried.

They exchange love letters during their time together, since John is always away on mission. Their situation is a lot harder than you think. The fact that they only get to talk through love letters and have limited time together is excruciatingly painful and difficult to take on. The upside would be that they got through it all, but then again it’s a movie, but it CAN happen in real life.

I never actually thought I’d find myself in a relationship with a military man, but one day I met an infantry man, and to cut the long story short, we fell in love and became an official couple. Our relationship lasted for about a year, until we had to end things – we’re still in good terms though.

I don’t think I can ever stay mad and bitter at someone who constantly gets deployed and whose life is always on the line. I guess I can say that being a MilSo or military significant other is 100x harder than being a civie or civilian significant other, but it is worth it.

What I learned from being a MilSo

After over a year of being in a serious relationship with a soldier, I have come to realize these facts:

#1 His job will ALWAYS come before you. Don’t take this one personally, in fact, be proud of your military man for the work he does, he’s a real-life hero. This is one of the most difficult things to deal with at first, but you will learn to accept the fact that he has two lovers – you and his job, and sometimes his job’s the girlfriend and you’re the mistress.

#2 Deployment is a bitch. Lucky you if you’re a POG or “person other than grunts” girlfriend, but if you’re in a relationship with a grunt or infantry man, this means that your boyfriend will get deployed and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

My soldier was deployed four times during the time we were together – twice to Afghanistan, once to Iraq and once to a place he couldn’t tell me about. The pain of not knowing if he’s still alive or where he is was just too painful to handle. Most of the time, deployment lasts for about a year, but in the case of my then boyfriend, because he got injured and blown up twice, they had to send him back home right away for medical treatment.

#3 Skype and Factime are the greatest apps ever created. If you’re in a relationship with a military man, you will not survive without Skype and/or Facetime. Thank God for technology!

#4 Being a MilSo takes a lot of patience, understanding, forgiveness and hard work. I have never been the patient kind, but because of my soldier, I learned how to be. Relationships will always have problems. It’s inevitable, but like I have already mentioned, your boyfriend will get deployed and the issues you have will have to wait until he’s back and in good mental and physical condition.

I had to learn to keep to myself whenever he’s nearing deployment, and I don’t bring the issue up right away when he gets back. Let me just remind you that when they come home from deployment, it’s like they’re a totally different person. They have seen things we will never even come close to imagining. The war shock is too much to handle, so don’t even think of nagging at them about the issues you have before they get deployed and when they do come back.

Learn to wait for the right time, be understanding and forgiving of their shortcomings. They have so much on their plate and it will take a lot of hard work on your part to keep things together.

#5 Promises will be broken. Now let me just make this clear – your military man won’t break his promises on purpose, it’s just the way things should be. I remember when my then boyfriend told me he was coming home for Christmas, I waited for about 11 months for this to actually happen. But in the same month he was supposed to come home, he told me that the military denied his out of country leave last minute, because they had an issue with him going to a country tagged as “medium-threat.”

It’s not like I could do anything about it, so I just told myself, “Suck it up, woman.” It’s not easy to not let things like that go, but it isn’t his fault that he couldn’t make it. The worst case scenario would be your soldier promising you he won’t get redeployed any time soon because he’s still recovering from his last deployment’s injury, but once he’s “kind of” good to go, they redeploy him and that will just piss you off. There’s nothing you can do about it, though. You just have to get used to it.

#6 He can’t tell you everything. There will be times that he will get deployed to a place he can’t tell you about. Not even when you beg and bawl him to tell you. Just learn to trust him.

#7 PTSD. The struggle is REAL. Most, if not all, have PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The severity will of course vary, however, don’t hesitate to seek professional help when you think your military man is in too deep.

#8 Distance is nothing if you love your partner. Long distance relationships aren’t for everyone, but if you think you have what it takes to deal with time and distance bitch slapping you all the damn time, then you’ll be a perfect military significant other.

#9 Talking to fellow MilSos will help you keep yourself together. I learned to talk and open up to my fellow MilSos during a time when my then boyfriend was deployed to a place he couldn’t disclose. I was just so sad all the time and worried that he might be in trouble yet again. Talking to them helped me get through deployment, they’re basically like second family, and you learn to support each other during difficult times.

#10 You’ll be in a dry spell. He will be away most of the time for long or short periods, but it’s still the same banana.

Despite all the hard work you have to put in and sacrifices you have to endure to keep the relationship going, it will all be worth it in the end. I don’t regret all the days and nights I’d stay awake worrying about him, the ungodly hour phone calls, getting no sleep at times because you’re waiting for him to call at a specific time, the petty fights before deployment, or letting issues go, because you’re more concerned about him than yourself.

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