Military Marriages – our take
We were asked if we were going to have any comment on the Petraeus scandal. Since this should be a private matter between the couples involved, our response was not just NO, but OH HELL NO. But then our commenter wanted to know if we were going to talk about how
“this story affects normal families, who deal with the pressure of long deployments and possible infidelity, because of just being in the press so much, or people who have healed through a moment like this to have it triggered/brought up again by possibly one’s commanding officer’s actions…and how if at all is it hitting different military family communities.”
A couple of friends have written so much more eloquently than I ever could ; Alison Buckholtz in her piece for Slate http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/11/the_petraeus_scandal_on_base_what_military_spouses_say_about_infidelity.html , and Bethanne Patrick in the Daily Beast http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/11/14/in-praise-of-holly-petraeus-and-other-military-spouses.html
Alison makes the point that infidelity isn’t a problem of only military marriages, it’s a marital problem everywhere. Is it easier for a soldier to stray? If the only criteria is distance, yes, I suppose so. The old saw about a sailor having a wife in every port – the history of the British East India Company soldiers having a wife in England and a “bibi” and children in India – the amount of half American/half Vietnamese or Cambodian children at the end of the VietNam war, all point to the inescapable fact that biology exists no matter where in the world a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine may be or how far back in history we look. Bethanne gives a matter of fact history of the world of the military spouse – and I remember (being older than dirt, according to my co authors of Left Face) when my husband and I married, his 1st Sgt really did say that if the Army wanted him to have a wife, she’d have been issued with his duffel bag and security clearance.
I know that there are families who have had to struggle with this very issue – and I know that the screaming headlines and the “prurient interest” and “schadenfreude” that this news is creating are stirring up the bad memories. I know there are young military spouses who are wondering “will this happen to me” whilst their other half in uniform is downrange. None of us can say whether it will or not. The numbers that we know don’t tell the full story, after all most of us aren’t going to have the FBI searching through our emails, and secrets can be kept.
What makes a good “military” marriage? The same things that make a good “regular” marriage! Love, trust, communication, acceptance and affection and working together ; and each of us makes our own marriage and decides what we consider success. Another important ingredient? Work. We work at our marriages, those of us in the military have a few extra issues to work out/work around/work through, but every marriage has their own issues. Not just deployments, but the pre and post deployment issues, the stress and mental strains of all of those times of flux; not just the moves/PCS, but the settling in, the giving up of jobs and friends, the new schools our children go to and comforting them when they can’t join this or that because the rules are different; down to the little mundane things – fitting the furniture into the new quarters and trying to get the curtains to fit, and finding a decent hairdresser. Does this make us stronger? Or more adaptable in keeping with our unofficial motto of “Semper Gumby”? Or a mixture of both? Are we so very different from our non military friends? Have we made being a milspouse a career or as another friend called it “a badge or a halo” or because the spouse “desperately want to own some of that “military” identity”? That’s a question we each have to answer for ourselves.
Our marriages either blossom because of the joy of the frequent reunions, or shatter because of the frequent absences. Whether or not our divorce numbers reflect the reality of military marriages, whether or not we end up staying together because of a myriad of reasons or because that is simply what our community expects – that is our own business and should remain that way.
The marital issues between General and Mrs. Patraeus are their own, we can only wish them the time and peace to deal with their own issues in private; the time and peace we all need and deserve to deal with whatever our marriage has become in the past or will be in the future.