Is Military Marriage Blowing Your 20s At Work?


Meg Jay, author of The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter And How To Make The Most Of Them Now, says that in our 20s, we are meant to get two things in order: work and love. (Read more about military spouses and their love choices here.)

By marrying a military member in our 20s, we spouses often find that the work part of the happy life equation is suddenly much harder. We all know risks military spouses take in the career world. Can’t we just skip work and focus on lovelovelove?

We could. That is, we could if our 30s and 40s and 50s were never ever going to show up. Clinical psychologist Meg Jay, who specializes in adult development, points out that if there were a quiz over whether or not you had wasted your 20s, the quiz might have three questions:

  1. Do you have the career that you want?
  2. Do you have the relationship you want?
  3. Do you have time to have all the kids that you want?

Although happiness comes from many factors, work and relationships are the biggest factors that contribute to life satisfaction. We lay down the groundwork for these things in our all-important 20s.

So what happens if you marry a military member and get the love and kid part of the equation settled. (Yay you.) Then what do you do about the work factor?

Jay suggests that many people in this country are self-employed or work part-time or hustle their networks like nobody’s business. That extra effort to make work actually work might just be part of your life equation—it might be the cost of getting the love you want. If you think of it like that, that extra effort might and not that big of a deal when it comes to life satisfaction.

“Just start with one thing that seems meaningful and interesting,” Jay advises those who are trying to get their work life in order. “Don’t compare yourself to other people. Comparisons always make you feel bad. It is especially unfair to compare yourself to women or men who devote all their time to building their career. You might have something on the relationship front that they wish they had.”

In military life, our 20s are a developmental sweet spot that only comes once. These are the years in which it is easiest to start the lives that we want. We want love and marriage and sometimes the baby carriage—but starting some kind of movement toward a profession also seems to be part of what happy military lives are made of.

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