Men are like waffles. As a Marine for 24 years, and now a husband for 36 years, I wish someone had told me that, like waffles, men compartmentalize relationships.
We military men seem to separate marriage from work. Then we are further separated by extended training and deployments, and often experience deeper separation from our children. Often I have seen Marines and sailors move through these separations in silence and seclusion from the ones we promised to share our life with.
No wonder women get frustrated. When a military wife recently asked me what the one thing I thought she should know about military marriage would be, I instantly thought:
There is a season for everything, and everything in order, for our God is a God of process. And as frustrating as it feels, there is little a spouse can do to hurry her servicemember from one season or one stage to the next.
I think Author John Eldridge in his book Wild at Heart described it best. He said that there are six stages of life through which men pass in their masculine life’s journey: boyhood, cowboy, warrior, lover, king and sage.
Among the Marines and sailors I have known, they seem to be passing through the cowboy stage at first. According to Eldridge, this is the stage where a man goes out exploring on his own and begins learning the things of the masculine world such as how to fix things, working with power tools, a heightened sense of adventure. The main part of this stage is his learning the answer to the question: Do I have what it takes and can I handle this?
The warrior stage is when the man is beginning his search for meaning and his mission in life which may include beginning a career, for our purposes a military career. This is the stage in which he is finding his cause to fight for and the things that are important to him and what he will work towards during his life.
The lover stage sometimes crosses over with the warrior stage. This is when the man is learning to appreciate beauty and how to love. It is not necessarily when he pursues a woman, but often does. This stage can and often includes things in life such as nature, art, and music. Full development in this stage will include learning to love and be loved by God in an intimate way.
Something Eldridge said which makes sense is that it is best for the man to have established himself as a warrior before entering the lover stage. And this is key to answering our original question.
This stage or collision of the three, especially the Warrior/Lover stages will for many wives cause enormous frustration, stress and even anger when the men they marry don't seem to have a sense of purpose to their lives. Especially true if that purpose does not align with hers. So many women feel left out, even abandoned. Forced to compete for time, space and the intimacy they so desire and need often seems unattainable. The joy once found in and through your knight in shining armor gradually goes away.
So why do I bring these stages to your thinking? Because understanding that there is a season, a time for everything, makes all the difference in the world. And if you are married to a warrior/lover, he is most likely engaged in establishing his career, with the hope of advancement, better money, honor and respect and thus the ability to provide for his spouse and family as any good hunter gather does.
Dealing with this can be hard – yes! Painful –absolutely! Tiring and frustrating - for sure! But achievable. How do I know this? Because after many years existing in a relatively flat line marriage with a few highs and many lows, I discovered my season of growth and understanding and came into a time of intentional relationship resulting in being the husband, lover and friend, my wife always hoped, prayed and knew I would eventually become.
We now share in the oneness of relationship that is absolutely beautiful… I am thankful for her understanding and patience in knowing that “There is a season for everything, and everything in order, for our God is a God of process.”
Thomas Rollandini served 24 years in the Marine Corps. He and his wife of 36 years are now settled in the Capitol region.