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Married to the military

One of the weird things about being married is that the longer you are married, the more complicated marriage becomes. I feel like, for me, when I was first engaged, I would see these elderly couples in restaurants holding hands and I would think, "Yes. That is going to be us." Now that we have been married for over 10 years, I have realized that the love stories aren't really that simple. There is no way to know the history behind 2 people holding hands in a restaurant.

Our biggest challenge in our marriage is that my husband is in the Navy. It feels like with the Navy that there is never ending work. You never really arrive with the Navy. When we first got married and he was lower enlisted, he would work work work to qualify. Then he would work work work putting in his officer package. Then work work work to get his bachelor's degree. And get through power school and prototype. And then he had to work work work to qualify again once back on a boat, this time as a junior officer. And it is just work work work work. 20 hour days. Leaving before kids get up and coming home when they are in bed. Missing birthdays and holidays and moving us across country from family and friends and restarting our lives in new areas every 1 to 3 years. I have all these pictures of places I have visited at our various duty stations-- by myself. Or with the kids. And I write him emails about it or leave him notes on the counter so whenever he gets home, he has an idea what's been going on with us. We have huge chunks of years that we anticipate him being gone, "Well, let's make the most of this holiday since you won't be here next year." Eventually, I want to arrive. Instead, you talk to higher ups and they say, "Oh, yeah, if you think you work now, just you wait." And it feels like tour after tour, duty station after duty station, you can expect work work work. Always coming second. Always adjusting your schedule around his. Always knowing there is an end date at your current residence, in your current friendships, at your kids' current school. In their friendships. I talk to so many spouses who say, "Yeah, but that's his career." It may be his career. But I am the one who has to break it to the kids that Daddy-- who promised to be here-- is missing their birthday party. That Daddy's schedule shifted to the right and now he's missing x, y, and z. I am the one unpacking boxes with a baby in the baby carrier while our kids have potty training regression, anxiety, and interrupted sleep. I am the one taking solo selfies in a new town and reaching out to neighbors and researching the next duty station. Regardless of the roots you put down and the distance you put between yourself and your spouse's "career," the Navy comes first. And your roots are surface deep. It's exhausting. After 10 plus years and all of the other numbers I can throw in here (how many houses? Duty stations? Kids? Pregnancies?), I am tired of it.

I think this duty station tied a ribbon around my feelings regarding the submarine schedule. We had such a hard time at this duty station. My last pregnancy did not go well and I felt really abandoned by our military community. I also felt like a lot of people stopped wanting to by my friend after all our struggles and all my feelings. It hurt my feelings a lot and I felt betrayed by the military community-- that we put so much into his career and that it wasn't there to catch us. Being so alone put additional weight on my husband as well because-- while he is always my best friend-- he was my only friend here. He had too many roles to play here and I felt disappointed at every turn.

Another struggle in our marriage is that the longer we are married, the more marriages we see fall apart. It is really hard. It becomes very easy to see how thin the thread is that holds 2 people together. How easily it can all fall apart. With that in mind, it makes me doubt my choice to follow my husband through his career, which was my choice. I chose to stay at home with our children. I chose to put my degree on hold. I chose to put my career goals on hold. I chose to support his career. Granted, those choices benefited him, but we have a plan. We have discussed our plan. I know our plan; he knows our plan. That was our choice that we made together. And seeing these marriages fall apart makes me doubt my decision to put so much stock in one person.

It feels so complicated. It feels like a leap of faith. And I find that as the years go on and our lives become more entwined, the more I am trusting him with and the more it scares me. I feel like 10 years ago, I had a lot less to lose when I looked into the eyes of my sailor.

At the risk of sounding naïve, I think that is somewhat the beauty of marriage. It is a deeply vulnerable relationship. Regardless of whether or not we both have careers and diverse investments and retirement portfolios, we are laying it all on the line for each other. We have agreed to support each other through our worst. I don't know what else life has in store for us over the next decade, but I know that the last 2 years were my hardest so far. Even when I pushed everyone else away, my husband stood by my side. He persevered. When the clouds broke and the sun came shining back in, he was there waiting. Working to meet me where I was at. Working to hold us together. Making sure that thin thread was still between us and that we didn't come unraveled.

After over 10 years together and all the other numbers... the number of submarines and houses and moves and children and tears shed and arguments fought... it helps to uncomplicate things occasionally. To go back to the moment when I was first standing on the beach, digging my toes in the sand and sneaking glances at the sailor who I thought might like me.

That's what I hope for the next decade-- uncomplicated. It feels like that if we can make it through all of the things that we have made it through so far, that we can survive the next couple tours of his Naval career. It feels like that if we can keep choosing each other when it was hard, we can keep choosing each other as things get easier. It feels like that if I can get through the past 2 years, that I will be able to accomplish my goals no matter what comes our way at future duty stations.

It feels like that if he can see the best in me when I'm not sure anyone else can, that I can keep seeing the best in us.

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