Dating Someone In The Military Can Be A Struggle — Here’s How To Cope

I met my boyfriend (now my fiance) when we were in middle school. We started “dating” in eighth grade and were high school sweethearts, only breaking up once for about three days after a silly fight over him going bowling without inviting me. Since then, we’ve been together and our relationship has gone from strength to strength. However, there has been one big challenge we’ve faced. My boyfriend joined the army after we graduated high school. Turns out, dating a military man is really hard. Here are the things that have been toughest to face and some tips on how to cope based on what’s worked for me.

Challenges of dating someone in the military

  1. You don’t get to spend much time together. My fiance is currently stationed in Hawaii and I live in New Jersey. There are thousands of miles between us most of the year. And while he does occasionally get leave and I do get to visit him a couple of times a year, we’re spending a lot of time apart in the moment. I have a few friends with partners in the military and they’re in the same position. Not being able to see your boyfriend or husband for long periods of time is really tough. It’s probably the hardest thing about dating someone in the military.
  2. Sometimes communication is nearly impossible. FaceTime is great and we get to chat on WhatsApp sometimes, but there are times when his training schedule takes up most of his day and we don’t get to talk for a few days at a time. This is especially true when he’s on active duty. When you go so long without talking, it can be incredibly lonely.
  3. You never feel secure because there’s so much uncertainty. This is a reality of all military relationships. While my fiance is currently stationed in Hawaii, I don’t know if that’s going to change and if he’ll be sent to Japan or Germany next time. I’m not really in a position at the moment to pick up sticks and leave my life behind to follow him right now, either. All the uncertainty makes it hard to plan for the future.
  4. Your partner is likely to be stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted a lot. Being in the army is not easy, and there are times when my fiance is really stressed and emotionally/mentally/physically tired. As his partner, I want him to be present when we talk and to have time and energy for me. Sometimes he doesn’t, and it’s hard not to take that personally.
  5. You constantly worry about whether they’ll be okay. I can’t tell you how much time I spend worrying about him on a daily basis. Sure, he’s not in Afghanistan or Syria getting bombed at the moment, but his job is a dangerous one. Being in a relationship with a military man means regular sleepless nights wondering if he’s okay and feeling anxious about what I’ll do if one day, he’s not.
  6. Making financial ends meet is a struggle sometimes. When he’s home, my fiance and I live together. He does try to help contribute financially, but since he’s not living here, most of the day-to-day expenses fall to me. I work full-time and have a side hustle too. I don’t expect anyone to pay for me and I’m not looking for anyone to take care of me. That being said, it’s always better (and easier) when there are two incomes coming in.
  7. Your mental health (and his) can suffer. An estimated 7% of veterans end up with PTSD, and I feel like the real number is probably much higher. Thankfully, my fiance isn’t one of them (yet, and hopefully ever). However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still experience anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions due to the nature of being in the army. My mental health suffers too sometimes because of our circumstances. It takes a lot of time and effort to make sure we’re in a good place individually and as a couple.
  8. Military culture is a whole other ball game. If you’ve never been in the military or dated someone who’s in it, you won’t understand this. It can be a very big adjustment. Sometimes I don’t even get it, and when I do, sometimes I find it toxic. It’s hard to roll with, for sure. However, you kinda have to when your partner is part of it.

How to deal with dating an Army man

  1. Try to stay flexible. This has been one of the things that’s helped me to roll with the punches most. Marrying a military man means there will be parts of my life that are always a bit up in the air. He’s a soldier and he’s dedicated to service and I have to respect that. That means our life will always be somewhat dictated by that, at least in the immediate future. I try to remember to stay open-minded and be willing to be flexible sometimes. That’s easier said than done, but it makes things much easier.
  2. Be as supportive as you can be, but not at your own expense. I always try to be there for my fiance because I want to be a good partner. Some of his challenges are very unique to his job. That means I can’t always understand them, but I do try to give him encouragement and be a sounding board. He tells me how much that means to him, so I must be doing something right. That being said, there are times when it becomes too much for me and I have to take a step back for my own well-being. Don’t be afraid to prioritize yourself too.
  3. Rely on your own support network to uplift and encourage you. My mom, my brothers, and my best friends are all such huge sources of love and care for me. In fact, one of my best friends is in the same position because her boyfriend is in the navy. Having someone who knows what I’m going through and who can relate to me means the world.
  4. Practice serious self-care. I can’t recommend this enough. Your life doesn’t revolve around your military man. You matter too. I always make sure to look after myself by eating well, exercising, meditating, and taking time to do things that make me happy like reading and listening to music. When I’m at my best, I can be a better partner.
  5. Maintain your independence. Again, it’s very hard not to let your partner’s life become your own when they’re in the service. I saw myself going down that road and I hated what it did to me. I started asserting my independence more and making sure I had a life I liked living even when my fiance was away. It makes the absences easier because I’m not at a loss for what to do.
  6. Make every effort to keep up communication. My fiance makes sure he gets in touch with me whenever he has time, and I reach out to him too. I know that sometimes he won’t be able to answer right away. However, he really likes having a message from me on his phone when he gets a spare minute. Keeping that connection going keeps our relationship strong.
  7. Make the most of the time you have together. Whenever my fiance does get leave or I get to go visit him, we live life to the fullest. We have lots of great sex (obviously), but we also make sure to have to most fun possible. We spend quality time going out for meals, doing stuff like hiking or even just watching TV on the couch. It brings us back together and makes us feel like we’ve never been apart.
  8. Try and be patient. I know our lives won’t always be like this, so I try to be patient. I know my fiance is doing what he wants and needs to do right now, and I try my hardest to not let the frustrations and loneliness that can come along with being with an army guy overwhelm me. It’s not always easy, but we’re making it work.
Bolde Voices represents writers from around the world who want to share their stories anonymously. While everything you read is based on personal experience, it's the ability to tell their truths without being identified that allows those behind the pieces you read to be so brutally honest.