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Phone Sex: Conduct Unbecoming a Military Spouse?

It takes two to have phone sex. So why is does all the blame fall on the military officer and not the civilian partner?

We got a letter this week from a military spouse asking if we knew of any thing that defined “conduct unbecoming of a military spouse.”

“I can't find any information anywhere about this subject. My spouse made a very poor judgment and (had) phone sex with another officer’s spouse.

The other officer is threatening to contact my spouse’s command and bring up charges against him.

What can I do to bring attention to the fact there were two people involved? Can I contact his command and bring charges against his wife? My husband and I are working through this issue and want to get it past us.

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Conduct unbecoming a military spouse

In our book, if there were any such thing as ‘conduct unbecoming a military spouse,' having phone sex with someone else’s husband/wife/partner would definitely qualify.

However, ‘conduct unbecoming a military spouse’ does not exist. Spouses do not work for the military, don’t get paid by the military, and they are definitely not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This is usually a good thing for us.

Yet it means that next to nothing can be done to the offending spouse. If the spouse was calling everyone in the command for phone sex and making a nuisance of themselves, they could possibly be barred from the post or base or housing. That is about it.

We do sympathize with your sense of injustice about this. We talked to a JAG (a Judge Advocate —the military term for a lawyer) informally about this kind of situation. You will want to talk to an attorney of your own. Here are a few things you might keep in mind:

1. Phone sex isn’t officially adultery.

This probably won’t make you feel any better, but phone sex does not qualify as adultery under the UCMJ. That doesn’t make it OK in any way. It is a terrible transgression against the marriage, but your husband can’t be prosecuted for adultery because he was talking dirty on the phone.

2. Conduct Unbecoming an Officer IS a thing

There is such a thing as conduct unbecoming an officer that is punishable under Article 133 of the UCMJ. Phone sex with another officer’s wife probably does qualify for that. A Court Martial is unlikely, but if an investigation reveals unbecoming conduct, that can limit or end a military career. That is why your husband should consult an attorney now.

3. Has this behavior damaged the command?

If this situation is brought to the attention of the command, they have to decide whether they will take official notice of this, launch an investigation and/or punish the service member. They must take into consideration how much this behavior damaged the command.

4. Is it complicated?

If this situation has received a lot of publicity, or the officers are in the same chain of command, or someone must be reassigned, or there was coercion involved (heaven forbid) this probably will not end well.  In short, if it affects the good order and discipline of the command, that increases the severity of the case.

5. Least said, soonest mended.

Since publicity within the command or on the local level is the last thing you want, telling everyone you know is not a good idea. Neither is confronting the other spouse or contacting her husband’s command about her part in this event.

6. Address the problems in your marriage.

You mentioned that you and your husband want to work through this situation and get passed it. That is commendable. But make sure you actually do the work and don’t just sweep this under the rug.

While it is not a good idea to talk about this situation publicly, you must talk about it with your spouse. Every military marriage goes through some rocky places. This is one of yours. Find a good counselor. Not any counselor. A good one. Start with Military OneSource and don’t give up too soon.  Also, some chaplains are well-versed in this kind of situation.  Depending on what your local chaplain is like, you might consult him or her.

This is a tough situation for anyone to experience.  Sexual behavior that damages a career is one thing. Sexual behavior that damages a family is quite another.

Readers:  Is there anything else you think this couple needs to know?

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