This post is not to diminish any of the experiences our nations warfighters have had while downrange. It is to highlight that when we go to fight a war, a separate war is being waged at home, against our loved ones.
I was fortunate to be raised a military brat. My father served in the army for 21 years and spent several of them away from home while I was young. I watched as my mother picked up the inevitable slack that was created simply from him being away. I remember my old man telling me that it is much easier being the one who leaves than it is being the one who stays home. I didn’t fully understand what that meant, then my brother joined the military and said the same thing when he deployed. Still, until you are the one leaving you don’t get it.
I joined the military at 17 years old. My parents had to sign my contract because I was not legally able to enter a contract with the United States Gov’t. I met a woman once I got to Albuquerque, NM and by this time I was 19. Things got serious quickly and I felt guilty. You see, she wasn’t from a military family. She had no clue what to expect from this relationship. I decided that it was time to have a hard conversation with her and I thank God that we had this talk.
It opens like any difficult conversation…
Attention step: “we need to talk”
It lets the other person know that the next words out of your mouth are important enough to weigh on your mind. The next words out of my mouth were…
“I need you to know, that if you stay with me and we have a family, you will be a single mother. I will not be home all the time and a large majority of parenting decisions will be left up to you. I will deploy, and there is always the risk of me not coming back.”
At this point, you need to let the other person think. Do not muddy the waters by offering promises you may not be able to keep. Don’t cloud their judgment with emotional pleas of “I love you” or “please stay” … Regardless of what you are feeling or hoping for, this conversation is not for you it is for her, him or whatever your into.
This is not designed to be a test for your relationship. If you need to test your relationship for any reason, then you need to relearn what it truly means to trust someone. This conversation is designed for full transparency. It is intended to offer the person on the receiving end a way out. As I have said before, these career fields are not for everyone and if you think it is hard to do what we do… try being married to us. Our significant others deserve full transparency, and they deserve a chance to walk away.
If more people had conversations like this prior to becoming operational maybe our divorce rate wouldn’t be as ridiculous as it is. Look it up… “divorce rate of special operators” don’t just take my word for it. I do have to say, though, a lot of times it is not the operators fault... Some spouses are just batsh*t crazy. Some of us are batsh*t crazy as well... It takes full commitment on both sides to keep a marriage going.
I am fortunate enough to be able to say that she stuck with me and in case you are wondering, it is a hell of a lot easier being the one who deploys.
Prep the battle space