Military spouses aren't that pathetic, right?

Military spouses aren't that pathetic, right?


+Military Spouse magazine ran an article a little while back titled My husband cheated, and our marriage is better than ever! I'm not sure what the service member/subject of this article "does" but I can assure you that as often as he deploys he doesn't seem to have enough to do; also known as "too much time on his hands". I know that MY deployments were 14-16 hour work-days that I had to fit sleep, PT, and eating into the remaining 8-10 hours. Not enough time to find four separate opportunities to cheat on my spouse!

The article starts out with a statement about the anonymous author being "...very brave to share this story and believes it can help others." As much as I wish these things didn't happen, they do, to a nearly un-reportable rate. I say "un-reportable" because not enough people would admit to such an act reliably enough to make it "fact", anonymously or otherwise. That being said, let's just talk about the act and not the author or why things like this happen.

One thing that keeps our family "Fireproof" during deployments is adequate scheduling. Some people thrive on them and others don't know that they need one. Once I arrive in country, I sleep as soon as possible and set my alarm for the schedule I'm given. I go from there... 6-7 hours of sleep, at least an hour for gym, 30 minutes to shower and change for my job, grab food on the way to my post, done! I contact my wife as soon as feasibly possible and we set up a schedule that works to chat, video or otherwise. Let's be honest, technology is so advanced that you can at least email often enough to keep your interest.

In the case of the anonymous author there was more going on than just infidelity. There are indicators, triggers, identifiers that should have been spotted long before the first act of indiscretion! It is never okay to "cheat" on your spouse, period. The fact that this spouse tolerated it and still accepts the behavior is astronomical! The husband doesn't love you! It's clear to everyone but you! If he says "I love you" and punches you in the face, how does that demonstrate love? "I made a mistake, I'm sorry", and you forgive him. He does it again, pulls back and cold-cocks you right in the face, BOOM! But he still loves you, right? Your reaction is to start finding reasons to excuse his behavior because you love him but it's not being reciprocated. According to the article this "punch in the face" happens two more times and the marriage is "better than ever"??!?

I use getting punched in the face as an example because it is a willful act. It involves the person cognitively triggering the motor-neurons to ball their hand into a fist and project it at an accelerated rate towards the other person's body... As intentional as infidelity. Sure, kids run around the back yard and play-fight and hurt one-another but we're talking about adults making clear choices based on "feelings"; bad ones at that. Let me repeatedly punch you in the face and after the first one see if you still stand there and take the next one so willingly just because "I'm sorry"; much less the next three.

I hope that this couple has sought counseling and this is an old story. Otherwise, it is my professional opinion that you take your family, your dignity, and whatever's left of your pride and leave. I can tell you from experience, not mine but co-workers, that more often than not it is the spouse at home, male OR female, that finds time to cheat. I recently saw a Google+ post about someone ranting that military marriages were no different from civilian ones. I countered that they absolutely were because they require a commitment on both parties to the military member's duty to Country. A spouse that says "I do" is saying that they will stand beside and support them in the worst possible scenarios. Infidelity, however, is very different from losing limbs to an IED attack. It can be counseled but should never be accepted, much less tolerated.

Deployments are hot-beds of opportunity for infidelity. As a fledgling (that means I don't have my Ph.D. yet) Psychologist and Marriage & Family Counselor, as well as an often deployed enlisted-military member, I believe I can speak some truth to this issue. First of all, deployments are a part of life in the military. I'm not talking about going out of town for a few days or a weekend; this is leaving the country to perform your war-time duty in another country entirely. This takes preparation across four "pillars": emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual and are the responsibility of both parties.

  • Emotional preparation means being as prepared as possible to endure the hardships of mental and physical separation caused by the deployment. The military, in general, has made spectacular efforts in re-vamping and implementing programs to include dependent care, specifically for deployed spouses and those left at home.
  • Being ready physically means sufficiently preparing yourself for the absence of the other. For example, if you have four children, like my family does, maybe you shouldn't schedule a knee surgery a week after the deployment. With no-one to help you carry groceries and children up stairs, this would be a perfect example of poor decision making. It also means that if you're not used to carrying two babies on your hip, perhaps you should hit the gym?
  • Mental preparation is the hardest because it takes a belief in a system that is not tangible. It is the belief that you ARE prepared emotionally and this deployment is like the rest: uneventful and stress-free. When that perceived reality breaks down because of injuries or learning of an infidelity while deployed, on either person's behalf, then the dominoes start to fall. Mental health dictates emotional health which is stabilized by physical health.
  • Finally, spiritual health requires a belief in something. Whether Christian or not, it requires a belief in something greater than yourself that you can either turn to or blame. Mark Twain once said that religion is the greatest pacifier of society. The spiritual pillar is the strongest one and usually the last one left standing after the emotional, physical, and mental pillars fall.
If you adequately prepare, and it is completely possible to do so (my family's done it several times), then your house should be firmly standing on the four pillars after a deployment. It may be shaken a little by things but standing nonetheless. That being said, let's look at some data.

Among military members, in fiscal year (FY) 2005, 52.9% of our military force is married. As of the Pentagon's 2013 release, 3.5% of military members divorced in 2012. Civilian marriage rates per thousand are 6.8% and divorce is 3.6%. Again, these numbers are per 1,000, and only 44 states tracking/reporting data. We can say that the military's divorce rate is comparable to their civilian counterparts. It's arguably agreeable then that with these number being so close, the cause for dissolution among military members isn't necessarily influenced solely by deployments or service commitments. Now that we've eliminated military commitments what about civilian factors like "plain old infidelity"? Or just dissolution, a.k.a. "I don't love you anymore"? Well, that's for another time...

As far as this article is concerned, I've heard better ideas from Lieutenants fresh out of school than to tolerate such unacceptable behavior in a marriage. There are so many positive things that could have come from this article; how she developed personally or spiritually from the events, how she overcame her insecurity that fueled his infidelity, the paths she took to convince him to seek counseling, or how becoming a single-mother isn't a dredge on society. Instead the magazine went with this article, disappointing to be sure.

#milspouse #militaryspouse #cheating #infidelity #militarymarriage
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