SpouseBuzz

How Military Couples Marry Young and Stay Together

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Holly Pernell, a combat mass communicator with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa, embraces her husband during a homecoming at Camp Lejeune, N.C. (U.S. Marine Corps/Larisa Chavez)
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Holly Pernell, a combat mass communicator with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa, embraces her husband during a homecoming at Camp Lejeune, N.C. (U.S. Marine Corps/Larisa Chavez)

Thanks to this study, we know why military couples marry younger on average than civilian couples. A part of it is due to the increase in pay, sure. More of that why is explained by the fact that the military community does a lot of things to support marriage that civilian employers just don't do.

More why is explained by how people in love want to live together, not apart.

Even more why is about the nature of being the #1 person for someone in a time of war. As Amy Bushatz explains it so well here, "It was about getting to be that first phone called or door visited if something, God forbid, was to happen to him or her during training or at war."

So we know why. But do we know how they stay together?

We asked our Military.com's SpouseBuzz readers who had married young to give us some tips about how military couples marry young and stay together. Here is what they say:

1. Ignore people who say it can't be done.

Andi Edwards and her husband married at age 19 and they have been married 13 years. "Our biggest tips have always been: Ignore the people who say it can't be done (because it CAN!!!). Focus on being your best selves and treating each other as you want to be treated. Faith is our family's focus and that has carried us through tough times, too."

2. Love is a choice, not a feeling.

Marine Corps spouse Milinda Rau and her husband married 28 years ago. She was 20. He was 22. They had a baby just 18 months later. "Yes, I remember everyone telling us it would be too hard and we were too young," says Milinda. But someone in their lives gave them some good advice. They said, "Love is a choice, not a feeling. There will be lots of times when you are not "in love" with your spouse. That's when you choose to love your spouse."

That first time you make yourself "love" you spouse when you just ain't feelin' it makes all the difference in the world. Make that a habit.

3. Know you will change, so change together.

When you marry young, most of your personality traits are present, but according to the research, your brain isn't all the way cooked until you are about 25. So you know you will change. That's a given.

Military Spouse Magazine writer Joy Draper married her Air Force husband when she was 19 and he was 21. "The most important thing I've learned is to accept the fact that we both still had a lot of changing to do as we matured. Accepting that and enjoying the chance to grow up and change together has been enormously helpful!"

4. Learn how to fight. No, seriously. Learn how.

Amber married her service member when she was just 18. In 14 years of marriage, she has learned that, "If you want to get married like an adult than act like one and deal with your issues."

This can't be stated strongly enough. "You can't just give up the first time you don't agree on something," says Amber. "I have known so many young couples divorce because, 1) They had an argument. And, 2) They never learned compromise. "

She is also a big fan of keeping your marriage private and not airing your dirty laundry on social media.

If you and your spouse are struggling with how to fight, hook up with a free counseling with a Military Family Life Consultant through Military OneSource. This is actually a skill you can learn and a wise outsider can help a lot.

5. Commit financial fidelity.

As we are always saying on SpouseBuzz, money in a military family is never just money. Money is a symbol for power and respect and appreciation. So if you marry young, you gotta deal with your money issues.

Navy wife Nancy Tarwater married when she and her husband were 19. They have been married 29 years now. Nancy says that when you marry young you have to remember to be respectful and honest to each other.

"Live within your means and pay yourself first," says Nancy. " By that I mean savings of some sort. There is no 50/50 but there is 100/100. "

6. Eat one meal together every day.

‪Andrea Pixley was 19 and her husband was 18 when they married 23 years ago. She credits their happiness to the everyday stuff of life.

"Never take for granted the time you have together," says Andrea. "Be honest, and always try to eat at least one meal a day together."

Whether you get up at oh-dark-thirty to eat breakfast together or you hold dessert so that everyone can sit down and talk for a few minutes at the end of the day, that kind of connection really works.

7. Be stubbornly together.

Our SpouseBuzz readers advise taking "the D word" (divorce) out of play completely in a military marriage. Tim Pessink and his wife married at 19 and have been together 19 years.

"The key is talking and understand that it is a partnership, but (there is) also a stubbornness--I will never leave and you can't make me!" says Tim. "And also sex. Lots of sex."

Lots of things contribute to a lasting military marriage. If you and your service member married young and stayed together, tell us about some of the things you had to learn together.

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