Being Married in the Military


In December, we were lucky enough to have Kelsey, a military woman and a military wife share her wedding graduate post with us. It turns out, a lot of you wanted to talk about the difficulties and sacrifices of being married to/in the military. As a daughter of two military brats, this is a conversation I really wanted us to have. My grandmothers, both military wives, taught me a thing or two about sacrifice in marriage, not to mention a thing or two about grit, a spine of steel, and keeping a hold of yourself while making sacrifices. As I was wading through supporting my family at a difficult job, my grandmother was there to help support me, and to tell me that I’d make it through. Sacrifice was part of life, but something we could learn from and move past. So, on the heels of yesterday’s post about the importance of self in marriage, I thought today we’d have Kelsey talking about being a wife in the military, and the allegiance we owe to things beyond ourselves. You also can find Kelsey at her new project Military Women Speak.

Being Married in the Military | A Practical Wedding

Of all the challenges that a couple may face in the early stages of marriage, we have dealt the most with the realities of military life, and a career change.

My husband, Russell, and I are both active duty naval officers.  The military has been a factor in our relationship from day one.  We met in San Diego in 2008, when we were stationed on Navy ships.We had dated for about six months when I negotiated orders for my next tour in Washington DC, and Russell was able to do the same.  We decided that once we moved to DC we would move in together, but before we could do that, I had to deploy one more time to the Middle East.  I felt like we were taking some big risks, and I was nervous… moving across the country together, and moving in together, preceded by a six month separation?  We hadn’t even been dating a year!  Would things work out for us?  Was this a huge mistake?

The reality is that the military doesn’t make things easy on relationships.  Taking ours to the next level involved some big risks, but we were ready, and somehow, I knew it was right.

Happily, everything went according to plan. Russell got everything set up for us in DC, and I returned home from deployment.  I had only been home for two weeks when Russell proposed, which honestly, shocked me.  It didn’t feel like we were rushing, though.  In the year that we dated, we had already dealt with some serious things.  Our relationship flourished despite work obligations on operational tours and Russell saw me through the death of my father last year.  Our year of dating felt like five years crammed into one, and we were ready to take the next step together.  We got married in July 2010, at a brewery in San Diego.

Career-wise, we’re always needing to think ahead to the next milestone.  We know that Russell is going to serve at least eight more years in the Navy before retiring.  Although there are incredible benefits to making the military a career, there are downsides to it, as well.  Over the course of the next eight years, we can expect to move at least three more times (to where, we don’t know; it’s not always in our control).  We can expect separations due to time underway and deployments. It’s likely that Russell will have to complete an Individual Augmentation, which is an Army-like deployment on the ground in a combat zone.  As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on, it’s become common place for members of ALL services to fill billets in these areas.  Navy folks are squeezing in IA’s between regular tours and deployments.  It’s dangerous duty, and typically lasts a year or more.  If (or more likely, when) Russell has to serve this duty, we don’t know… we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.  What we do know is that his next milestone is a three year sea tour.  Russell will be assigned to a ship, and will go back to that operational schedule again.

Of course, we would love nothing more than to spend all of our time together, enjoying each other and focusing on our new marriage. Although our loyalty to each other takes priority in our hearts, the fact of the matter is, we have other loyalties too. Before Russell and I exchanged wedding vows, we both vowed to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Just as we have a duty to love, honor, and cherish each other in marriage, we also have a duty to serve our country, which is something we don’t take lightly. There will be times when military obligations take us away from each other, but that’s the way it is. We’re proud of this duty; we incorporate it into our lives, and our marriage. I’m not saying it’s easy, it’s not… sometimes it’s really, really hard! But we take it like we always have; one step at a time, working through the challenges of here and now, being each other’s biggest supporter, and appreciating every second we have together.I’ve decided to leave active duty at the end of this tour.  Understand, I would leave even if I wasn’t recently married.  A lot of the reasons why I joined the Navy in the first place don’t apply anymore, and there are other things I want to try.  But what comes next for me isn’t very clear…  All the unknown factors involved in changing careers is scary, compounded by the fact that the military makes it difficult to plan ahead.  As I said before, we don’t know where we’re going next, or when exactly.  It kind of feels like walking off the edge of a cliff, professionally…  Also, being married changes things, and weighing my options in light of that has been more challenging than I expected.  I’m an independent, type-A kind of woman, and it’s been a little hard to accept that my ideas for myself might need some re-prioritizing.  It’s taking some time for me to fully embrace the plans that we have together, when that means adapting my own plans to fit our dream. As excited as I am to have found my other half, it sort of freaks me out that my success and stability is no longer solely up to me.  Now, it’s my husband and I, working as a team, which requires give and sacrifice on both our parts.  That’s truly a wonderful thing, but I’m finding that the switch doesn’t flip overnight.  Along with the giddiness of being in love and newly married comes these realities, and it’s taking some time for me to adjust.  I thought it would be an easy, automatic transition, but it turns out it’s not.

So the realities of military life are ongoing, and my career change is still up in the air… but that’s where we are right now.  Six months into marriage, we’re incredibly, deliriously happy, and also starting to come to terms with what being married really means. Thanks to APW for letting us have these conversations, where we can share both the good and the real!

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  • A-L

    “It’s taking some time for me to fully embrace the plans that we have together, when that means adapting my own plans to fit our dream.”

    This is the take-home quote for me today. I think this can range on so many different levels. From one’s career development (be it because of relocating for one person’s job, or taking time off or working part-time when kids come into the picture) to changed spending patterns to cover expenses you didn’t have before, or even just what kind of a car one plans to buy (I’ve been dreaming of getting a sporty car with a stickshift, and my husband is not at all fond of manuals…thankfully I have a few years before needing to decide on this one).

    Basically, I think there’s an adjustment to be made when going to the team mentality, and I thank you for putting it so well. Good luck to the two of you!

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      This was the part I was going to comment on, too. This is true, obviously, even for those us who have no affiliation with the military!

      • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com KA

        Exactly times ten!

        Even though my experience with the military is limited to my mom’s WWII-era childhood on army bases and my great-uncle’s tale of storming the beach at Normandy, this is still something I can relate to. Hugely.

  • Richelle

    What an honest post, from a brave and thoughtful woman. Thanks Kelsey. A lot of this really does apply to all of us newlyweds. I also don’t think I was prepared for the shift from “me” to “us.”. What a difference it makes though when your partner is also making the same shift. I can imagine the tension when one is still on “me.”. But when we’re both on us, it’s magical and powerful and uplifting and we can do more and dream bigger than I could have on my own. Good luck Kelsey with your new career and with your “us”, wherever it takes you. And safety to you and Russell always.

  • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

    My heart goes out to military couples like Kelsey and Russell. Marriage is hard enough on its own; the added stress of being apart and never being sure what could happen to each other is so rough. But I love Kelsey’s thoughtful post about what it means to be a married team, and how that doesn’t necessary happen overnight, but it’s something so worth working toward. Even for couples not in the military, this is a great lesson to learn.

  • http://www.misallocationofresources.blogspot.com Jenn

    Having to deal with so much uncertainty must make it a little easier over time to just roll with things, right? I feel like that’s something I desperately need to work on, the whole “doing everything you can and then having a little faith it will all work out” bit. Does that ever get easier? I am so bad at giving up control, or even acknowledging that there are things outside my sphere of influence.

    • http://militarywomenspeak.wordpress.com Kelsey

      Oh my gosh, I so know what you mean! Yes, my time in the Navy has definitely taught me to roll with things; you just have to, with so much uncertainty and so many things out of your control. But yes, I think it does get better as life goes on, and you realize you’re going to be OK, come what may. Building a strong support network of friends and family helps, too ;-)

      • http://misallocationofresources.com Jenn

        I forgot to mention… APW DC Happy hour next Wednesday! (are you a member of our facebook group?) You should come!

        • meredythbyrd

          I live in DC! What’s the group? I’d love to meet some of you all in real life.

          • http://misallocationofresources.com Jenn

            Its not a searchable group, and I’m not sure how to add you without finding you first on facebook! but let me know how to find you and I will add you.

            we’re meeting up at RFD’s in Chinatown, from 5:15 ish or whever you finish up at work, until people are tired of hanging out :)

          • http://justneedthisspace.wordpress.com ddayporter

            I didn’t even realize it wasn’t searchable. Maybe I can fix that. But yeah, add one of us as a friend on facebook (you can find us on the APW Discussion Forum under Wash, DC Meet-up) and we can add you to the group! My comments are the last ones on the second page of the discussion thread.

          • Kayakgirl73

            I’d be interested in joining also. I work in DC and live in Fairfax County.

          • http://linseykitchens.wordpress.com Linsey

            I’m suffering from jealousy over here…Seattle ladies? ;)

  • http://www.palindromeathome.com Melinda

    I’m so glad APW is talking about this. For the five years before we married, my husband was in the Navy. The separation, the last minute moves, the uncertainty – as Kelsey says, it’s hard. There’s no way around that.

    I think perhaps, this is why yesterday’s post sat funny with me – because our relationship has hinged on making sacrifices for each other. I sacrificed some dreams to be with him and he sacrificed a cozy land life for my freedom.

    I completely agree with A-L that this is the money quote of this article: “It’s taking some time for me to fully embrace the plans that we have together, when that means adapting my own plans to fit our dream.”

    I knew that as an ambitious person, if I married another ambitious person, we might bump heads. I absolutely knew that one or both of our jobs might dictate that we move somewhere that wasn’t my dream. Building a team dream often means sacrificing a personal dream. However, I find joy in building the team dream (sometimes after mourning mine a little bit).

    • Leona

      I completely know how you feel. I met my husband right after he enlisted and right before he went to basic. I was taken with him but so afraid to invest real love because the odds were that I was never going to see him again. When he got his first assignment at a base only a couple hours away, we both took it as a sign that we were MFEO (made for each other, if you haven’t seen Sleepless in Seattle).

      Since then, we’ve promised to put each other first whenever we can and take things day by day. Sometimes we get to choose to be together and sometimes the military chooses for us but either way, we both wind up making sacrifices and often I don’t get to do things the way I imagined. I think I’ve grown as a woman on this journey, though, because I haven’t just given up on the things that are impossible right now– I’ve just envisioned them in a different way. I’ve always wanted to go into the Peace Corps but since that feels like abandonment for me, I find ways to achieve the same feeling right now by volunteering and planning to study abroad. Being a military wife has made me resourceful and even relentless in a way.

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  • Zan

    “I’m an independent, type-A kind of woman, and it’s been a little hard to accept that my ideas for myself might need some re-prioritizing.”

    Oh trust me, I’m right there with you. It is terrifying — but you deserve a pat on the back for plowing ahead anyway. Seriously, don’t underestimate how brave this is. And as we saw from the ‘self-full’ conversation yesterday, making the right decisions for you (even as you have to sacrifice so much for “you guys”) is a really important investment in yourself.

    Oh and Russell deserves a high-five too! (Or pat on the back, or hug, or whatever, I’m an accolade of choice sort of girl) Isn’t it awesome to have that support as you’re on the precipice of something so big and new? I always marvel that my guy is willing to stand right next to me and hold my hand as I curl my toes over the edge of the cliff and say, “When you take that leap I’m going with you, and we’ll be just fine.” But then, I guess that’s a big part of why we want to marry these fine men in the first place :)

  • meredythbyrd

    “As excited as I am to have found my other half, it sort of freaks me out that my success and stability is no longer solely up to me. Now, it’s my husband and I, working as a team, which requires give and sacrifice on both our parts.”

    As someone else said, this is the take home quote for me today. It was the thing I most struggled with when trying to figure out if this was a “serious” relationship and whether I wanted to make the commitment. It was also the thing my sister most struggled with when trying to accept that some of my previous life goals were shifting a little to let in new life goals. She couldn’t accept that I could sacrifice some of them to allow for a more fulfilled me. It took me some time too, but I had the benefit of being in love.

    Your story also reminded me of my future sister-in-law and her husband. They eloped so that if the Navy moved them they’d move together. Or something like that? Good luck on your career change!

    • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

      Actually, this in particular seems to be one of the hardest things about friendships with non-married/non life-partnered women after you get married. Or at least it has been for me. My single friends balk (and worry) at the idea that not all of my life goals are priority 1 anymore. I remember thinking it when I was single, and now that I’m married, I realize what it looks like from the outside isn’t the whole picture. The greater fulfillment of marriage comes from having team goals, which are a combination (presumably well balanced and collaboratively agreed on) of our individual goals… but which don’t include absolutely everything I said I wanted to do and be pre-spouse. Which makes sense, because people change, but I get the feeling that my single friends worry that I’m changing in a bad way, being “lost in my marriage” or something. And I am not sure I can explain it to them… I feel like it’s a “you’ll see” type of thing… even though I hate ever looking at something that way!!

      • http://militarywomenspeak.wordpress.com Kelsey Mackay

        YES. Except it’s not so much my friends or family who are worried about me getting lost in marriage, it’s me. I definitely don’t feel like I’m losing myself… I’m just wary of sacrificing too much, and losing all direction and purpose in the process. So right now I’m struggling with which sacrifices I’m willing to make, and which things are non negotiable? I’m figuring it out as I go, or trying to! The military just makes this harder, in my opinion. SO much personal sacrifice is asked of military members and families, even expected, and it’s made me fiercely protective of the choices and independence I do have. It’s been a challenge hanging on to the non negotiable parts of myself while on active duty, and now I’m learning how to do this again in marriage. It’s a work in progress! I’m relieved to know I’m not the only one trying to figure this out!

  • http://abouttobe.wordpress.com Mary

    Man this is powerful stuff. It’s one thing to be apart from another, but to be apart and not be sure if the other person is physically safe? I’m not sure I could deal with that. Kelsey, I have SUCH an enormous amount of respect for you and Russell. Seriously.

    • http://fionalynne.wordpress.com fiona lynne

      I was thinking the same thing reading through. My husband has a lot of work trips, at least every other week and up to seven days. I don’t like him being away so much but I know it’s good for his career and for him. But put his travel in this context and I’m feeling like a lucky woman…
      I have so much admiration for you two!

      • Alyssa

        I grew up an Army brat, and I can say with all my heart that I think the only thing stronger than a military wife (having a partner in it or being in the military yourself) is a mom in the military.

        Don’t get me wrong, there are some horrible ones out there (I heard SO many stories of what people have done to each other while their partner was deployed) but what I’ve noticed that is common among those that last is the acceptance of their situation. My dad was there when I was born and then went back to Okinawa until I was ten months old. He also missed a LOT of my life, including two years when I was going through puberty. (My mom is still mad about that….) But when questioned about it, my mom always says, “We’re not special, and it did suck. But it was his job. It’s what we signed up for. What am I supposed to do, not be married to him?”

        I try to think about that when things get tough with my husband. It doesn’t always work, but it is inspirational! :-)

        • http://werondwif.blogspot.com Stacey

          Alyssa, I love your mom’s perspective on all this. My husband and I were married last June and he is currently serving a year-long deployment with the Army National Guard. It’s far from easy. It’s not so bad when he’s on base and we can skype & email & stay in regular contact. But when he’s on missions, like he is right now, I spend a lot of time each day worrying about him.

          However, as much as it sucks, my take on it is much like your mom’s. “What am I supposed to do, not be married to him?” He’s my husband, the person who shares my life and my future. We may have had a funky first year of marriage, but he’ll be home in the fall and we have a bright future ahead of us.

        • http://diaryofagolddigger.blogspot.com/ The gold digger

          mom in the military.

          My dad was career air force. He was in Vietnam when I was a kid. My mom was at home with three kids under five and no way of communicating with my dad except by written letters. I can’t believe she survived with her sanity intact.

        • http://linseykitchens.wordpress.com Linsey

          First, thanks, Kelsey, for what you and your husband do. It’s a mighty job, and I’m thankful for strong people like you two so I don’t have to do it. :)

          And Alyssa, I agree whole-heartedly! One of my dearest friends, whose husband is in the Air Force, had their first baby weeks before his first deployment. While reading a book about a single mother, it occurred to me for the first time–DUH–that my friend was a single mother. She was doing it all on her own, and her hubby, supportive from afar, could not change a single diaper, get up in the middle of the night or even soothe sanity. Great sacrifices, on both their parts. And both of them, like Kelsey and her hubby, stronger than I’m willing to be. Damn, they make me proud.

    • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

      This is the thing that would make it almost unbearable for me. To not only be away from my partner, but to know he could be in harms way. I have such respect for Kelsey and Russell.

    • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

      EX-actly – it makes me physically nauseous to even think about my partner being in any kind of harm. We’ve dealt with travel apart from each other, and with my job there will definitely be more, but I would not be able to handle the thought of him working where people were trying to kill him.

      • http://militarywomenspeak.wordpress.com Kelsey Mackay

        Yeah, it’s definitely a strange thing to have to live with, but I don’t think we’re unique. First of all, dealing with all the stresses that come with military life has really helped me grow in faith, so that’s a big comfort for me (I know it’s not for everybody). Also, I’ve lost a couple members of my family in other circumstances (my sister to cancer and my father to alcoholism), which has really made me realize that 1) Life is short, no matter what your job or situation, and 2) our lives are really in God’s hands. In that way, I’m able to give up the urge to control a bit and not worry so much about my husband’s safety. Of course, I still worry about it, but at the same time, I have to let him go. Even though we’re married, he’s an independent person with his own life and destiny, and I can’t control his safety anymore than I can control that of any person I love. So what if the worst case scenario happens, and he’s seriously injured or killed? It’s a terrible thing to consider, and the answer sounds brutal, but… life would go on (eventually). We would find a way, or I would find a way to live. Like Alyssa’s parents say, we’re not special. People survive things like this all the time, it’s just a part of living, whether you’re in the military or not. That said, I’m VERY thankful for our health, our safety, and the time we’ve been able to spend together thus far. Our military experiences and the losses I’ve experienced in my own family have made me incredibly appreciative of all that is good in our lives.

        • http://justneedthisspace.wordpress.com ddayporter

          so much respect. that’s a really great outlook to have, I’m so sorry to hear you’ve learned it through some tough losses in your life, but I stand in awe. that is all.

          this entire post is very humbling, considering how zach and I were just talking about how difficult it would be if he left for 3 months to do his student teaching abroad, in New Zealand. gosh.

        • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

          Wow, your faith is so awesome and inspiring. Thanks!

  • http://littlewhitechapel.etsy.com Paige

    This was so touching. Going through the process of changing your goals/plans to fit your coupledom is hard enough, but doing while on active duty is just mind-blowing. Serious props to both of you, and I wish you all the best in the future.

  • Harriet

    Kelsey, thank you so much for sharing this. My fiance is only at home every other weekend and holidays because of work, and I’ve been worrying about being a long-distance marriage (which we will be for at least the first year of our marriage). The difference between my situation and being a military wife is obviously huge, but I’m still going to keep this in mind: “one step at a time, working through the challenges of here and now, being each other’s biggest supporter, and appreciating every second we have together.”

  • KMA

    Thank you so much for this! This is tremendously honest and brave. For a family that is thinking about becoming a military family, this was a conversation we really needed to hear. Good luck to both of you- and I hope you come back and tell us about what you do next!

  • http://w38th.blogspot.com wendy

    Thank you for this great post! I’m also about to marry a career military officer and it’s so refreshing to read other women’s perspectives on this. I have plenty of friends who are getting married/just recently got married, so we’ll talk about things, and then I bring up “well, we have to move in 2 years, no idea where to, we don’t really have any control over that, I don’t know exactly what to do about my career” and I just get blank looks. It is true that we’ll promising our lives to each other, but when he enlisted he promised most his life to this career, and that will always take precedence until he retires.

  • http://www.queerskiesahead.com BirdRoughsIt

    Thank you for sharing your story, Kelsey!

    This is what jumped out at me: “As excited as I am to have found my other half, it sort of freaks me out that my success and stability is no longer solely up to me.” Your story and experience really emphasize this, but what strikes me about it is how true it is for *marriage*. I’m applying to grad school, and five years ago I could have said, “Instate tuition in Alabama is great, I’m moving there and going there!” but now I have my wife to consider on so many other levels. There’s no more just up and going without checking in with anyone else. I find that both terrifying and incredibly comforting.

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      Exactly.
      My partner is Spanish, and I’m American. We met in Spain (I went to do a year-long Master, met him, and stayed 4), and we decided together to move to Italy. We’ve made the difficult decision to move to the U.S. after we’re done here. “Taking him away”* from his country (or one nearby) is a big deal to me. If I hadn’t been with him, I wouldn’t have stayed so long in Spain and I would have moved back to the U.S. to be closer to my family whenever I pleased. (But then again, if I hadn’t met J, I also wouldn’t have come to Italy, so I should be thankful for that!) So we’ve both had to adjust to the idea that we have to do what’s best for both parties, and on a pretty grand scale!

      *He doesn’t say that, but sometimes I feel like it’s the case.

  • http://www.nickandlizgoglobal.blogspot.com Liz

    Swap out “military wife” for “foreign service spouse” and you could be telling my story and the story of many of my fellow foreign service spouses. My husband is currently serving a 2-year tour with USAID in Afghanistan. I’m in Kabul with him — working a job that I don’t like — but coming here together meant a lot of sacrifices for both of us. And many of our colleagues left spouses and kids back home — a huge sacrifice. Challenges and sacrifices abound for every relationship here.

    “As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on…” — I hear you on this one! We’re looking forward to moving on to our next post in June (we also expect to move 3+ times in the next eight years!), but USAID is going to be working in Afghanistan and Iraq for a long time. My husband is likely to be assigned to a tour in one of these countries again in the future. And at that time we’ll likely have a kid, so I won’t be able to come with him.

    I sympathize with your challenges, and give a hearty ditto to being “incredibly, deliriously happy, and also starting to come to terms with what being married really means.”

  • kristen

    wow. thank you for sharing your story. i love that you are committed to honoring your vow to defend the united states as well as your vow to your husband. thank you for your sacrifice and for your wisdom!!

  • Marina

    This is the part that hit home for me:

    “Before Russell and I exchanged wedding vows, we both vowed to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Just as we have a duty to love, honor, and cherish each other in marriage, we also have a duty to serve our country, which is something we don’t take lightly.”

    Marriage doesn’t make the other commitments in our life disappear. Sometimes you just have to acknowledge that and go with it. Thanks for the reminder of this. :)

  • abby_wan_kenobi

    Good to read this this morning. As my long-distance husband and I try to navigate job changes to feed two ambitious careers and trying to relocate to a part of the country where we’d be happier, it’s good to be reminded that lots of people deal with uncertainty and someone else making those choices for them as a matter of course.

    As an unmarried couple we tended to sacrifice what made our relationship easy for what was best for our careers. Now, 7 months into our marriage (which involves crossing 3 state lines to see one another) we’re starting to feel out the next step – hopefully something that is really good for our relationship without being devastating for either of our careers. We definitely struggle finding the right balance of thinking about “us” versus “me”.

    Thanks for sharing!!

  • Seaurchin

    Kelsey,

    Similar story! Holy smokes. Neither B nor I are in the military, I do, however work on boats, and that takes Me away a lot. We had also been dating for 6 months (apart for 3) when we decided to move-in together, I left for 2 months and came back to an apartment and B. We lived together for 4 months when we both left our jobs, I had knee surgery and he moved to another state, which is when he proposed. We are still living apart, planning a wedding, and I’ll be leaving again for 3 months before moving in again. And talk about the difficulty of changing the paradigm from “me” to “us” in life-planning!

    Anyway, thank you for sharing your story, as it is giving me more faith that we aren’t alone in un-conventional and (hopefully) lasting relationships!

  • http://twentyfivetowife.blogspot.com Amanda

    I got engaged a week after being half a world away from my fiance for two months! Actually, so much of this is similar to my experience. I work in tech, and my fiance works in development (as in, “developing country” development, not R&D or something), which brings us to very different kinds of places. My jobs tend to keep me in large cities, and his tend to take him to far-off small towns, and he’s already asked if it’s ok if he gets back from Kenya a week before the wedding (I told him no, two weeks at least, but we may have to meet in the middle on this one…)

    Sometimes I really love the time alone. Sort of like what Meg was talking about yesterday, it’s like a short trip back to singledom and making my own rules and going out on a whim without checking in with anyone and sometimes just watching trashy TV with a pint of ice cream. But it certainly adds some extra things to sort out (like whether I’ll be following him to Kenya within the year, or whether we’ll end up having to spend the better part of a couple years in fairly far-away cities from each other while he researches his dissertation and I continue to nurture my baby career).

    Of course, it was completely normal for my grandfather to go away to sea for months on end, leaving my grandmother home with the baby. They were in a town full of people who did this. And it wasn’t all that long ago that many if not most coastal towns were like this. I really wish now that my grandmother were still here to pass along all of her wisdom from such experiences.

  • hoppy bunny

    “the switch doesn’t flip overnight”

    Boy did that hit home! Thanks for the post!

  • Amy*

    My husband is currently in the early weeks of basic training. It’s hard being apart, but it’s even harder not being able to talk to each other. (Since he’s in the early stages of training, he has restricted phone access and they are holding his mail.)

    Before he left, we trained for and ran our first marathon together. It was an incredible experince, and I’m so glad that we did it together. I think if he hadn’t been leaving, we wouldn’t have felt the urgency to do it. Running a marathon would have remained a far distant future goal. When I get lonely or sad, I try to remind myself that if I could do that, I can do anything. (I don’t fully believe that, but it helps to say it over and over.)

    For couples who aren’t facing military (or otherwise) separation, I’d urge you not to wait on your dreams and goals. Seize the day!*

    • mere…

      My boyfriend went through Navy Basic Training over two years ago and those 8 weeks were one of the most challenging things I have ever been through. Let me just give you a virtual hug, a “you can do this!”, and a little reassurance. I STILL remember perfectly the smile T gave me when the liberty call was issued and he got to give me a hug. Biggest, most genuine smile ever. My memory is admittedly horrible – but that first smile after Basic will be with me forever.

  • http://bride-sans-tulle.blogspot.com Sharon

    Kelsey, this post resonates in so many ways, particularly the part about making that switch from “me” to “us.” Thank you for writing this and thank you for Russell’s and your service to this country.

  • Liz

    Sincere thanks to Kelsey and Russell for serving our country. I admire both of you, as well as the members of the military and loved ones of members of the military who commented, more than I can say. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Renee

    Half of our relationship has been spent apart. He’s in the Navy and I traveled the world for a year before coming home to his proposal. He won’t be on deployment for a while, but the Navy is finding plenty of opportunities to take him away. When we got engaged I moved near his base with no job prospects or friends. I just started meeting other Navy wives and could actually feel my relief when I realized that other people are dealing with the same things as we are. It’s so nice to know you’re not alone. As much as the military spouse situation sucks, it made my day to read about someone else dealing with it. Thanks so much!

  • http://www.dealingwithlupus.blogspot.com Amber

    Thanks for posting this– my brand new husband is on the delayed enlistment list for the Navy– he’s going to basic 4 days after our wedding (we got legally married early so they could go ahead and put me on his papers) and I know it will be tough. I also know it’s what’s best for both of us though. I would love to talk to some Navy wives and try to get a feel for what it will be like, although I was briefly married to a Marine so I have some experience, just not much.

  • http://militarywomenspeak.wordpress.com Kelsey Mackay

    I just want to say thank you all so much for your kind words and support! It really helps to know there are others out there living in similar situations, and learning the same lessons I’m learning about marriage, sacrifices, choices, growing, etc. I love the APW community for allowing us to connect and talk about these things! It’s so important. Thanks APW team :-)

  • Kate

    Thanks for this post Kelsey (and Meg). I’ve been an Army wife for about 7 months now, spending a year with my husband for some training before we move on to the next post, where I will be going to law school. As much as I’ve waded through a lot of stereotypes and cultural norms about being a wife in general, I’ve done the same with being an Army wife. Where is my personal comfort zone in supporting my husband and his career without totally giving up my own identity, the things I like to do, and my own dreams? Thinking about these things hasn’t been easy all the time, but the team approach between the two of us has helped. Much as I worry about the path both of our careers will take and the path our family will take, so far hubby and I dream together and some of those dreams are pretty darn exciting. Our present relationship and our dreams for the future continue to reassure me that this was the right decision, though it comes with its own challenges.

    Thanks again Kelsey!

  • http://splitpurplenalities.blogspot.com Jenni

    “As excited as I am to have found my other half, it sort of freaks me out that my success and stability is no longer solely up to me.”

    ::sigh:: This really hits home for me. Although my boyfriend and I aren’t engaged yet, we’ve been dating long distance for 3.5 years. He’s in the Air Force, and I’m in graduate school for my PhD in a science field. Typically, a newly minted PhD would get a postdoc at a handful of locations … none of which are in South Carolina, where he’s about to be stationed.

    It’s so hard to reconcile my desire to finally be with my boyfriend with the expectations that come with my career. I feel embarrassed for telling people that I’m going to look for a job in SC. “Wow, she’s following her boyfriend?”, I imagine them thinking. “So much for feminism, or for launching her career. That’s what our mothers did.” Most people probably aren’t even thinking that, but in a field where my fellow female grad students have so many options available to them, it hurts that my personal life limits my professional opportunities.

    Up until now, my life path has always depended on me. Do I have the grades to get into this college, do I have the test scores for this graduate school, do I have the right qualifications for this internship. Now my path is strongly dictated by my partner’s abilities. There’s nothing I can do to affect a test he takes that could determine where we’re stationed. It’s a scary thing, to have your future completely out of your hands. But, I feel like this probably happens for many couples. Maybe with the military it’s more obvious, maybe the balance of decision making is more shifted to one partner or the other, but I imagine that other couples must experience this reliance on one partner’s success at least once in their lives.

    I’m hoping that before I graduate, we’ll be engaged. It would be a lot easier to say that I’m applying for jobs near my ‘fiance’ than near my ‘boyfriend.’

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  • Sarahbean

    Wow thank you guys for posting this- I’ve now been married to a UK royal marine for 6 months, and got a fair amount of attitude from friends who couldn’t understand the need to shift from ‘this is me, and my priorities’ to ‘this is us, and our priorities’, and all the complications to that which marriage within the military brings. It’s lovely to read from another savvy, intellegent woman facing it all and I’ll definitely be checking out your blog!

  • Alexandra

    Kelsey and Russell, thank you for your service!

    Great point about me/us with the decision-making and goals. That seems to be pretty universal. ;p