But, for obvious reasons, the idea of dating a soldier during wartime can be daunting.
Mikki Glass, a New Yorker who is dating a First Sergeant in the US Army, says that when she first met him she had concerns, “Especially since I had no idea what that [dating a soldier] meant.
“But I realized that this was THE guy and that it was better to be with him than to worry about what might not ever happen, such as him being deployed.”
Likewise for Kayt Sukel, a US Army wife living on a base in Germany. When Sukel first met her husband Nick, the war hadn’t started so his job wasn’t an “overpowering concern.”
However, these days with the War on Terror in full force, both women now have partners with very dangerous occupations indeed. Of course this isn’t to say that there aren’t benefits to dating someone in the military, or that the difficulties aren’t bearable when you meet the soldier for you.
David Rowsell, a Combat Engineer for the Canadian Army, says that the danger he faces in his work places the biggest amount of stress on his girlfriends. A large part of his job involves diffusing mines, so it’s understandable that some potential lovers might get spooked.
“I think I’ve lost girlfriends from being in the military because they’ve thought that the job isn’t safe,” he says.
“If they’ve never dated a guy in the military previously or had a relative in the military it’s really hard to deal with.”
When Rowsell meets a girl for the first time, he says he often has to fight the rep that some Army guys have for being jerks. “Also, I have to be wary of girls who are really into the fact I’m in the Army. There are some women out there who view us as a meal ticket because the pay is great and the benefits are really good.”
As unstable as a soldier’s life is during wartime, there are perks to a military life. In times of peace, Rowsell says that he is often finished work by 3pm and the military tries to plan their operations around the school year so that personnel can spend as much time with their families as possible. “After a tour of duty, you get at least a month off work and won’t be deployed anywhere for a year,” he says. “It’s a good lifestyle for people that want a family.”
Long Distance Loving
For Sukel, the worst thing about being with a soldier is all the absences. “Not only do soldiers deploy for 12-15 months at a time, but during that year they are [not deployed] they are gone for three months at a time to train,” she says. In order to cope with the distance, Sukel says you have to learn to take care of yourself, redefine your idea of “partnership” and be able to stand your own company for long periods at a stretch. “Sometimes there is very little contact,” says Sukel, “and you start worrying and wondering about just what is going on.”
When your partner is deployed, you have to communicate however you can and being a bit of a romantic helps. “Of course your girlfriends miss you,” says Rowsell, “but they’ll write you and send you packages. Most of the time you’re able to call home from anywhere using prepaid cards the Army gives us, and you can chat online.”
Glass says having a boyfriend in the military means having an immediate extended family, if you want it. “I am very close with the guys in Troy’s unit and while the guys have been away, the wives and girlfriends of the deployed soldiers have all gotten close. We help each other. We support each other. And we take care of each other when one of us needs it,” she says. “We just lost a soldier and the girls have been holding the soldier’s wife together as she deals with this terrible blow.”
Being in the military puts certain constraints on one’s personal life and freedom, and this can be hard for civilians to deal with. More often than not, military personnel have very little say over where they are posted, so marrying a soldier could mean moving to the middle of nowhere to be with them. (Rowsell is posted in Gagetown, NB, population 9000.)
And marrying another soldier doesn’t necessarily make things easier says Rowsell, who is posted in Gagetown, NB, population 9000, since “there is no guarantee you’ll even be posted at the same base.”
Your military girlfriend or boyfriend could be called away at a moment’s notice and their employer doesn’t care if you’ve made dinner plans or don’t want them to go. Glass’s boyfriend was in Iraq before she met him and there is no guarantee that he won’t be sent there again, which understandably worries her.
The Bright Side
For those who do fall in love with military personnel, it’s not all about hardship. Sukel loves that being a military spouse has taken her to live in Europe and provided plenty of travel opportunities. “I think it’s like being married to anyone else in a high-profile long-hours job, like a doctor of lawyer,” she says. “For the right person you just accept the deal and make the most of it.”
Committing to someone who places themselves in the line of fire to serve their country is tough. Because of all the extra hard work involved, the quality of the relationships is different, and some might say stronger, thanks to the restraints and pressures. “You have to have better communication sometimes because you aren’t always together,” says Glass. “And you need to have lots of trust, which we have.”
Dating someone in the military isn’t going to be everyone’s idea of a good time but, with the right attitude, plenty of happy couples make it work just fine.