Sign up for the Spouse & Family Newsletter

Most Popular Careers Articles

Military Life 101

  • job fair
    Military Spouse Employment 101
    While the military will always throw a monkey wrench in any best-laid plans, your career doesn't have to be one of them.
  • (Photo: U.S. Department of Education)
    Military Spouse Education Help 101
    Good news for you: Being a military spouse can actually make some parts of going back to school easier.
  • (Photo: U.S. Navy)
    Military Life 101
    Military life has a lot of nuts and bolts. You know, the little things that make up just an ordinary day.
  • stack of one dollar bills
    Military Spouse and Family Benefits 101
    Don't know exactly how to get your military spouse and family benefits or want to know more about what they are? Read on.
  • Movers at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, load up a truck with household goods. Jose Ramirez/Air Force
    Military Spouse and Family Moves 101
    Whether you're an old pro or new to the military moving game, there's stuff to learn about PCSing. Here's our easy PCS 101 guide.
  • (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Sullivan Laramie)
    Military Family Deployment 101
    Preparing for deployment can seem like an uphill battle. But we've been there. Here's what you need to know.
  • Military family
    Military Family Life 101
    Military life is not easy, but we've got your back. From marriage to kids and parenting, we have the resources you need.

Jacey Eckhart: Should I Marry Him?

Wedding rings

I got an email this week from a college student studying neurobiology who is engaged to a Navy guy. After researching possible locations where they might be stationed, the student said she was really struggling. Her question for me was whether she should change her major in order to accommodate their upcoming moves.

I keep thinking that her question ought to have been: Should I marry him at all?

That is a shocker for me to think, much less to say. I am all about the ability of military families to adapt and overcome. Yet I cannot say with conviction that love can permanently overcome the drive for meaningful work. I cannot say that because someone loves you that they will leave the military when you want them to and that they will be happy about it. I cannot say that because you love someone in uniform that you can make a job as a neurobiologist magically appear in Kuwait or Guam or Pensacola.

I wish I could. But that would not be true. If the first lady’s recent focus on spouse employment has shown anything, it has crystalized the fact that finding work when you move every 2.5 years is no not easy. Military spouses, who tend to be better educated than the average U.S. population, have a 26 percent employment rate. Husbands of servicemembers earn about 70 percent of their matched civilian counterparts. Military wives earn about 50 percent of what matched civilian wives earn.

Those figures are depressing and discouraging -- especially when you are in love. Both military finances and military members alike need to look at those numbers hard. Love is not a rational decision. Marriage is. So I wish this student and her fiance  would consider these ideas from our Spouse Summit 2012 audience:

One person cannot provide another person’s complete happiness
According to neurobiologists, the cocaine-like brain response of true love lasts from 3 months to four years. So even if we assume that your particular love addiction will keep you going for the full four years, it will eventually stop. It is not right to ask anyone -- including that fabulous young military member -- to be the sole source of your happiness.  

Admit your true level of career commitment. Expect it to change.
Servicemembers are notoriously unable to predict/admit whether they will stay in for the full 20. Twenty years is a really, really long time. A lot can happen. Bosses that spit at you. Sexual harassment can wear away at you. You have children. Your particular rate or MOS can become obsolete. If you think there is as much as a 50/50 chance you will make the military your career,  or if you are a spouse who knows that your career demands that you stay in the same location, that MUST be factored into the decision to marry because the military is not a job you can easily quit.

The educational attainment of a spouse is a mixed blessing.
The research shows that spouses who have completed their bachelor’s degree are more likely to be employed -- whether that is because they have student loans to pay or that they are more employable is not clear -- but they are more likely to find employment. Yet, the research also shows that the higher the spouse’s level of education, the more likely he or she is to perceive a negative impact from moving.

You will move and your moves will be unpredictable.
Unless the entire military is BRAC’ed down to a single base, unpredictable moves at every level of a career are the norm.

Military marriage is a choice.
When I married my Navy guy, my future career was not anywhere near as important as being with him every possible minute. It is now. Over the years, my husband and I have made a lot of compromises to get meaningful work for us both. We choose the military every day. We choose each other. And that is a powerful place to be.

Jacey Eckhart is a military life consultant in Washington, DC.  Her newest CD “I Married a Spartan:  The Care and Feeding of Your Military Marriage” is available on iTunes and Amazon Reach Jacey on, on Facebook or through her website at


Military News App by

Download the new News App for Android on Google Play or for Apple devices on iTunes!


Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs at and a military sociologist.  Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan??

Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times.  Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom.  

Featured VA Loan Articles