Dating has always been a wonderfully complicated experience people experience in their lives. New relationships make your heart race with anticipation and wonder, and those of us who've experienced a long-term relationship learn to appreciate the little things we've gained from each other along the way. It goes without saying that no two relationships will ever be alike. So in light of Veteran's day, let me share my experience in a relationship with someone in the military.
What are the first things that come to mind when you think of the word military? Maybe characteristics such as strong and calculating, perhaps you picture the embodiment of a well-oiled machine, or you hold a disdain for it. Nonetheless, the military and its service members are a force to be reckoned with. Depending on the branch which they serve there are different responsibilities tied to it. The Coast Guard, protectors of our fine borders and guardians to the States. The Army, known for their feats on the battlefield, charging through as the brave boots on the ground. The Air Force, soldiers of the sky, keeping the world safe from above. The Navy, keepers of the vast sea, commanders of our vast fleets. The Marines, the unrivaled portion of our military, first into battle screaming "Oorah!" to whatever foe they face. These proud branches serve as protection to us, and their service members are our heroes.
But what does it mean for a civilian and a soldier to have a relationship? Well, in short terms, it's unconventional in a good way. There are certain things you can and can't do while dating a member of the service, things that are normally overlooked in typical relationships, and there are things to consider when in such a relationship. While no relationship is alike, adding in a commitment, like serving the military, is definitely going to affect the relationship. How two people handle that difference together is entirely up to them.
Here are some things to consider when pursuing a relationship with a service member.
1) The Uniform
The uniform your significant other wears is a representation of their branch and the service that they provide to protect our country. It is not a costume for a civilian to wear, and most importantly, it is not something to be disgraced. Out of consideration, respect your partner's uniform. Regardless of what branch they serve, they not only made the decision to sacrifice their own lives in service to their country, but they went through a rigorous training and education program in order to earn the right to wear that uniform. Whether it is their dress blues or their working uniform, know that it is a representation of their choice to serve, so respect it.
2) The Work
The work of a soldier does not have the luxury of being a nine to five. But that's not all there is to work in the military. There are so many other types of opportunities that the military brings, and connections are always a plus in the career department. However, when in a relationship, there is one crucial thing to remember. The military is a big part of your partner's life, but it is not the only thing in their lives. In other words, learn about your partner for who they are as a person, be inquisitive in their lives before, during, and (if applicable) after their service. There is more to a person than just their profession or their lifestyle, so take the time to learn about who they are.
3) Your Expectations
Now, this may come as a shock to most, but things don't always turn out as you expect them to be. Crazy, right? Who would have thought that sometimes the plan you make isn't what happens at all? Same goes for dating, especially with service members. You may look at videos on Facebook or Instagram depicting the heartwarming surprise reunions between soldiers and their loved ones, or how the broken soldier is healed by the loving nurse and they both fall in love and live happily ever after. While such notions are lovely to consider, reality often gets in the way of things. To be completely honest, there will be hard times, there will be times you don't get along, and there will be times you guys can't keep away from one another. But don't let your expectations of a relationship ruin the potential you are starting to build. Communicate with one another and work through your struggles, focus on all the cute and lovable memories you've made together rather than the strain such a commitment puts on a relationship, and you both will be heading on a path to a happier life.
Most importantly in such a relationships, cherish one another. It goes without saying that the work these service members do is dangerous, there's no use in beating around the bush on this. But do not let that discourage you from seeking out a relationship with a soldier. They're people too, just like you and me, and they deserve a chance a love.
From personal experience, I did lose someone I loved while they were deployed. I still miss him every day, but I will never regret meeting him. I am forever grateful for the time we had together. My happiest memories are of him and I doing ridiculous things, and every time I think about him, I can't help but smile. Losing someone you love is no easy thing to bear, but it is not the end of the world unless you decide to handle it that way. Know that I am not the normal example of how a relationship should play out, but to be frank, what relationship is normal? And furthermore, where's the fun in that? So long as if you both learn to love and be loved, there's nothing you cannot do together.