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What is it like to be a geo-bachelor?

November 22, 2013

Geo-bachelor (n.)- geographic bachelor; (1) a service member who is stationed in one locations, whose family resides in another location; (2) the spouse of a service member who chooses not to move to a new duty station.

It’s not a topic that has been written about frequently, because most military families pick up and move with every new set of orders. My husband and I racked up 5 moves in our first 5 years of marriage. Moving frequently strains military family members. While the service member is looped in with a degree of job continuity from duty station to duty station, military family members get to start over from scratch over and over: new jobs (maybe-if you can find one), new location, new household to be set up, new schools, new friends, new navigation routes and unfamiliar surroundings. It can be overwhelming.

This is not why we ended up as geo-bachelors. We ended up in this situation because I don’t exactly have a portable career. I am in a PhD program that requires my attendance at a brick and mortar institution. As more military spouses explore more diverse education and career options, more of us end up as geo-bachelors, so I thought a run-down on what it’s like might be useful.

The first thing you tell yourself when you are considering geo-bach-ing it is that you’re apart all the time anyway, thanks to the deployment fairy, so it won’t be that different. This is a myth. It’s a myth that will be busted the first four day weekend that comes along or when your service member gets an unexpected half-day and you are stuck an 8 hour and $400 plane ride away. Up until this happens, you will fool yourself into believing that the empty bed and missing combat boots are just like deployment light ( you know, minus the danger element). The guilt is what will get you, because no matter how much your inner feminist says that it’s not your job to give up your career and your dreams for him, part of you will feel like a bad wife for following your dreams.

Right now I live exactly halfway across the country from my service member. I work 80+ hours a week and he works about that much too. As a result, we see each other 4-5x per year. It sucks hairy ass chunks, and that’s probably being kind. Don’t get me wrong, the sex, when we do see each other, is mind-blowing. This may just be because of how long the dry spells are, but there are lots of ways to have mind-blowing sex that don’t include torturing yourself.

It’s expensive. You are going to buy two sets of everything again. It’s insane. Groceries cost less when you are sharing groceries and can cook and plan for two instead of one. In addition, you have all of the travel expenses, and in my case 2 cable bills with high-speed internet so we have a hope and a prayer of using Facetime occasionally.  We have gotten around this at some points when he has been able to live on the ship, but the ship’s internet is hideous so then we’re back to email and the occasional phone call when he’s not too busy and I am in a place in the lab that gets halfway decent cell reception.

All of this is doable if you have a strong support network, at least it’s doable for a while. I haven’t been particularly fortunate in that regard. My milspouse friends are awesome and seem to always make time for a chat when I need them, but it’s not the same as a coffee klatch where we can share experiences face-to-face. I haven’t been lucky in finding people who understand the stresses I am under.  As one woman I know put it, when my husband was in the hospital, “It’s not like he wouldn’t be deployed some of the time anyway.”  *Cue stabby music** This is where the real struggle has been for me. Civilians don’t understand “normal” military life. They don’t want to know or hear about it. They really don’t want to hear about how going home to an empty house–again– is depressing, or how someone giving you a hug is an occasion for tears because it’s been 2 months since someone touched you at all. In the end, the isolation is what gets you. You stop talking to people because they don’t want to hear about the funny thing or stressful thing your spouse told you over the phone. They don’t care how he’s doing, because he doesn’t exist in their world. And they make it clear they don’t care how you are doing, because he’s an off-limits conversation and he’s still a part of your life.

Being a geo-bachelor is hard work because it is so much extra effort to keep the plates spinning, the family together and moving in the right direction, and everyone moving in the right direction. Finding a way to get back together after geo-bach-ing it is also extra work. It’s a ton of planning and is fraught with all the competition between your career and his, your needs and his, etc.

The only real value I have found in slogging it out as a geo-bachelor is: I’ve really learned how much I love and value my husband. It sounds stupid, I am sure. I’ve always loved him, but I’ve learned exactly how much by having him be away so much. I learned that there wasn’t a single thing I’ve accomplished, and I’ve had quite a few triumphs in the past few years, that has mattered more to me than my spouse.

I don’t know that I would have been happy without chasing my dreams, if I wouldn’t have resented him at some point because my life goals were getting tabled. I do know that those dreams have ceased to have some of the luster they once did and family means more to me now. I still want a successful career, but I am less willing to take a future position that would keep us apart.

If you have specific questions about the geo-bachelor life, feel free to post them and I will answer to the best of my ability. I hope this gives you a brief insight into the trials that come with this particular brand of military life.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2014 9:01 pm

    I love this. I found it because I read this earlier today- – and it pissed me off. It sent me on an internet hunt to find others who are geobaching and making it work. I just want to leave some words of encouragement. We geo-bached while I was in a PhD program and have continued since I got a great job immediately after. Everything you say in this post resounds with me, especially the part about possible future resentment if I hadn’t pursued my dreams. Hang in there!! And find other spouse PhDs here:

  2. September 10, 2014 8:17 am

    My wife and I are about to be in a Geo-Batch situation due to her being pregnant and me being in an unstable order position, getting ready for two moves in a 4 month period that I refuse to subjugate her to. I’ll have her join me after I get settled in the second place, but the whole situation of trying to set her up with family while trying to find a roommate or long-stay hotel is painful. She’s very much a loving soul, not wanting to part with me, and every day leading up to this short separation is getting harder. I couldn’t imagine a prolonged separation like you have gone through… I’m marking this site as a favorite, a reminder that I have to be strong since others before me have gone through worse. Thank you for this article, and thank you for being so willing to share with us.

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