How Spouses Can Survive Boot Camp

Hug for service member returning home

Boot camp is more than just basic training for the service member. For most couples, it’s also their first introduction to the military lifestyle. While there’s no denying that boot camp will be a difficult, life-changing experience for you both, it’s also a great opportunity to grow stronger, and closer, together. >

Flying Solo

One of the hardest parts about military relationships is handling separation. Before boot camp, most couples haven’t been apart for more than a few days, much less a few months.  Suddenly, not only is their recruit gone, they’re totally out of contact. With no phone calls, emails—not even a text—the transition can be devastating.   “It’s okay to grieve,” says Rachel, whose boyfriend is currently completing boot camp in the Army. “We went from spending all day, everyday, together, to very limited contact. The first few days were the worst.”

Keeping busy helps pass the time and meeting other women, who are going through the same thing, can be a great source of strength and support.  As hard as it is, try to see your newfound free time as an opportunity instead of a drawback. Use the time to accomplish some of your own projects and goals, so that both of you are moving forward in your own lives, together. Unfortunately, separations are a big part of most military couples’ lives, and learning how to deal with them successfully, early on in his career, will strengthen your relationship and pave an easier road for you both, the next time he has to leave.

Get With the Program

In order to survive boot camp, as a couple, you’ve got to be in it together. Regardless of how lonely you are or how much you miss him, keeping a positive attitude while he’s gone will help both of you in the long run.

“Be patient and support them,” says Macie Mulvaney, whose husband went through Officer Candidate School in 2002. “They’re learning a new life, not just a new job.”

Embrace this opportunity to learn as much as you can about the military. Study the rank structure within his branch or challenge yourself to learn one new word of military jargon everyday. By the time he’s back you’ll be fluent in military-ese! Basically, do whatever you can to get informed and excited about his choice and support his decision to serve our country.

Dust off Those Pom Poms

In the military, they call it Moto -- short for motivation -- and you can bet your sweetie will be brimming with it when he comes home. But for now, he needs you to be his tireless, personal cheerleader.

“Be as supportive as possible,” recommends Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Timothy Grier. “And don’t expect to hear much from your recruit. He’ll be too tired, physically and mentally, to write much, even when he’s allowed to.” 

Boot camp is not the time to whine about his mother or cry about how much you miss him. Stay positive and upbeat. Brush up on his branch’s history and traditions, and impress him by showing off your new trivia—like how boot camp dates back to the Spanish-American war and was coined for the sailors’ leggings, called “boots”. This is the time to shine as your sweetie’s biggest fan and let him know how proud of him you really are.

Get to Know Your Mailman

It may sound old-fashioned, but break out the pen and paper.

“Send supportive letters, current events articles, motivational stories or poems,” recommends Mulvaney. With no phone calls or emails, letters are often the recruits’ only connection to the outside world.

“But keep in mind that anything you send might be opened in front of everyone else, so I recommend sending sensible pictures,” warned Mulvaney,

Don’t worry about what you write, just let him know you’re thinking about him and missing him. “Start writing the day he leaves,” says Kristie K. Walls, whose husband completed boot camp in 2001. “Write about anything and everything, even if it seems insignificant.”

Stay Busy

Time flies when you’re having fun. So instead of wasting three months, counting down the days, use boot camp as a time to accomplish your own goals. Take a class at your local community college, join a book club or a bowling league, finally run that 5k you’re always talking about. Walls used the time to plan her wedding.

“It was great,” she says, “he couldn’t disagree, and I could do it the way I wanted to.”

Make New Friends

It might sound obvious, but don’t go it alone. No matter how good your civilian friends are, no one understands the unique challenges and rewards of military living better than other women going through it. Find your nearest family readiness office, meet the volunteer coordinator, and try to connect with other local women. And whether or not you live near a base, get online.

“It’s extremely hard, but never give up on each other,” says Walls. “In the end, it’s all worth it.”

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Family and Spouse