Why Marriage Should be Like Enlistment


It shouldn't take much of an opening paragraph to get most in agreement that divorce rates are absurdly high (in both the military world and civilian world). There are conflicting statistics as to what divorce rates actually are, but for the most part we know that these days divorces are more common than they ever have been before.

The reasons for that are debatable and the reasons are not what this blog is about.

Instead I want us to imagine for a moment that the signing of a marriage agreement was taken as seriously as the agreement an individual makes when they decide to enlist in the military. Because there are few agreements in life that carry as much weight as when an individual signs on the dotted line to join the military.

Let's start from the top. The courting period of a relationship is much like conversations with a recruiter. Everything is butterflies and rainbows. During the courtship we tend to overlook the flaws that may be right in front of us. We don't focus on the obstacles and challenges that will come our way, instead we dream of all that is good. We fantasize about the blissful romance that will never end. Believing that the length of our marriage will reflect what we have conjured up in our mind while we date our mate.

Think about the conversation with the recruiter. He/she doesn't emphasize the possibility of deployments, TDY's, mandatory formations at odd hours, etc. Instead the recruiters tend to tell us all the great things that are in front of us. Great things like job security, the chance to see the world, retirement benefits, etc.

I believe most people would agree, marriage is a wonderful thing. I also believe most would agree that being part of the military is a wonderful thing. The difference is if someone wants out of the military, they can't just get out. But in a marriage it doesn't take much to end the agreement.

So what if we took our marriage agreements as serious as an enlistment contract? What if each day we did a form of PT (Physical Training) with our marriages? That could mean waking in the morning and making sure we put a smile on our spouse's face. That could be delivering breakfast in bed. That could be any number of things. The point is we would need to be "mission ready" within our marriages and put in the extra effort to be prepared. Besides, wouldn't it be great if our spouse wore something like a PT belt when they woke on the wrong side of the bed warning us we may need to be cautious?

No servicemember likes the mundane and repetitive trainings, briefs and FTX's (Field Training Exercise's), but they are invaluable to our service members safety. Likewise, regular training and FTX's (but make these "date nights") could be used to strengthen our relationships. It's not always fun sitting down and discussing some of the hard subjects, but the more we practice it the better off our marriages would be. Think about it, what servicemember really looks forward to going through that week's end safety brief? So what if we did something similar in our marriages? Instead of sharing for the thousandth time the dangers of risky behavior, our marriage safety brief each Friday afternoon would include things like "Honor and respect your spouse this weekend. Disappearing to hang out with 'the guys' all weekend could be detrimental to your marriage. Ignoring your 'honey do list' and your family could have serious consequences. Putting yourself in questionable situations could be risky. Make sure you make time to take time."

Now let's assume that someone just wants to get out of the marriage. If it was like trying to get out of the military before your contract expired it would be nearly impossible to do. Of course there are reasons that you could get out of the military but those reasons would have to be huge, if not extreme. You can't just get out because it's harder than you thought. You can't just end your agreement because what you conjured up in your mind isn't exactly what is playing out. No ... you can only get out if something serious happens. Otherwise you have to keep working on it to make things right.

So what do we do with those people who do "get out?" We label them just like we label our servicemembers when they get out. The label could be "other than honorable" for those who just don't want to work on the marriage. It could be "dishonorable" for those who have abused their spouse or cheated on them. Or it could be "honorable" for all those who lived up to their part of the marriage agreement yet their spouse did not.

Could you imagine if when dating someone you were able to see their "discharge" papers from their previous marriage(s)? You would know right away what you were getting in to.

Here at Fort Riley our service members are ingrained with "Duty First. Service Always." Imagine if we adopted that thought process to our marriages.

**For the record, if I was giving myself a counseling on how I do with my marriage, I would be put on "profile"." Hopefully I can avoid being "flagged".**


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