I can handle all of this, but the infidelity stings. The fact that he generally crowd-sources emotional support and looks everywhere but home for companionship stings. I read all of those “cheaters” forums that basically encourage snooping to keep the relationship honest, and I gave it a whirl. It wasn’t pretty and I want to change my behavior, but when I do get a spark of hope that things could be better, the reality of it all comes back into focus when another string of late nights or training cycles occur and I get proof-positive that his behavior hasn’t changed. I want to stop the snooping and I want to stop caring so much. I don’t want it to hurt in my heart of hearts, but I don’t know what to do either. Any advice? — Lonely Military Spouse
You have a lot on your plate and it sounds like you’ve been dealing with it all on your own for a long time. While your husband is crowd-sourcing emotional support, where are you turning to get yours? Because you do need it, you know. Because you aren’t a machine. You’re human. And, of course, you’re sick and tired of all the sacrifices you’ve made as a military spouse when the sacrifices go unappreciated and ignored and the rewards seem pitiful in comparison. To see your husband so rarely and to feel so disconnected from him when you are together? Yeah, I can understand why you’d be putting up walls and shutting down emotionally.
But, look, that’s not going to get you anywhere. In fact, you need to do the opposite if you’re to have any hope of saving your marriage, and most importantly, saving your sanity. You need to open up and make yourself emotionally vulnerable. You need to turn to the person who has hurt you the most — your husband — and express your pain. You need to share your disappointments and fears and frustrations, and the two of you need to make a plan to get your relationship back on track.
As a military spouse, you have a lot of resources to help you. You can reach out to other military spouses who share many of your experiences and a lot of your feelings. You can join or start a mother’s group to give and share parenting support when your husband isn’t around to share the load. You can visit your local military family support center and look into counseling services as well as other resources available to you (for free!). A quick Google search of “military spouse support” yielded several results, including Military Spouse Help, which includes a link to career networks for spouses, as well as links to other helpful websites and forums where you can connect with others dealing with similar challenges.
Your husband is asking a lot of you, I know, but most of what you describe is a life you signed on for when you married a military man. The long deployments, the frequent moves, the full-time single parenting are all just part of the deal. And if, after having experienced the reality of military life, you’ve realized it’s not for you, it’s time to have some serious discussions with your husband. Together, you need to decide what the best move forward is for your family. Maybe it’s a trial separation. Maybe it’s a career change. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting more emotional support and gratitude for the sacrifices you make.
But the one thing you’ve mentioned that isn’t something a military spouse signs on for when she says, “I do” is the infidelity. That’s a gross abuse of your marriage vows and one you need to address. Infidelity is not “unavoidable.” But if someone is cheating, and your marriage is cracking under the strain of military life and emotional disconnectedness, you have to be proactive in making a change. Both of you. It will not get better if you keep shutting down, and it won’t get better if you assume all the responsibility of behavior change. Your husband certainly has some behavior traits he needs to own and change himself.
Get some marriage counseling. Let a professional who is well-seasoned at helping military families give you the tools you need to save your marriage if it’s salvageable. And if it’s not, get the support you need to start a new life for yourself and your kids, making peace with the fact that sometimes you just don’t know what you’re getting into until you get into it, and it’s not a failure to get out once you realize it’s not for you.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.