Marriage Is Not a Contract to Stay the Same


Lawton, Oklahoma, is where you wanted to spend your first anniversary, right? Me too.

I had traveled to visit my husband who had just completed Basic Training and was at Ft. Sill for Advanced Individual Training. I spent our first anniversary in a motel in Lawton, unpacking my suitcase and making sure the frozen top of our wedding cake could squeeze into the mini-fridge.

The brief sadness of being alone that night was gone when I pulled up to the barracks to pick up my soldier the next day for his earned weekend pass. Almost anything can be romantic when you’ve been away from each other long enough, and so it really was romantic to have a day late anniversary dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. Not even the 400 blaring TV screens could distract us from catching up and being together.

It was a crazy road leading up to Lawton, OK, and it started the year before, a few months after getting married. He got a call from a recruiter in November. We had lived four months in marital bliss a dimly lit, basement apartment in Northern Utah for $430 a month and were both trying to finish college. I was working for an AfterSchool Program and my husband was working at a cabinet shop as a CNA. We were poor college students.

That call that day changed our lives.

In the fall of 2006, my husband began working with a young, quiet recruiter who did not seem to love his job but was trying his best to sell the Army Reserve. While they were trying to recruit him, we worked with SGT Quiet and another who was quite the opposite, I’ll call him SGT Loud.

I had been very noncommittal and reluctant about my husband joining the military, and one day at the recruitment office, SGT Loud got in my face and said, “WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?!”

Very clearly I thought, I don’t want my husband to go to war and die.

I felt like this was a valid concern, but with a crusty, middle-aged man shouting in my face, suddenly I froze and mumbled something like, “I don’t know.”  

I wish I could give me from 11 years ago some courage to speak up.

I remember feeling the stress during those late winter and early spring months as we sat in our basement apartment and talked about why the Army would/wouldn’t be a good fit. We were trying to adjust to being married while making a giant life decision. As we talked with the recruiters, money for school was promised along with a recruitment bonus.

Financially, it made great sense for some poor, thrifty newlyweds.

Plus, “one weekend a month and two weeks a year” to go do cool “Hooah” things sounded exciting to one of us.

Eventually, as we looked closer, we decided that we would give the Army a try. My husband found a better fitting MOS through the National Guard and completed 4 years in 2 states on that side before switching to the Army Reserves. 

I didn’t know who gave his name to the recruiter to be contacted. But I did know that I was mad at that unknown person for disrupting my 21-year-old world and bringing something I had never considered into my life and marriage.

My husband and I dated a short year before getting married, and I never knew his interest in the military. It never came up. I had a worksheet from a Marriage Preparation course I attended with a church group, but among all the things it suggested to talk about with your future spouse, inquiring about desires for military service was not listed.

I had a few uncles who served in the Army, Air Force, and Marines, but no one I was close to was connected with the military and it was nowhere close in my worldview. No wonder I was surprised!

A few years ago, I asked my husband who he thought gave his name to the recruiter. He had a guess, and this time I wasn’t mad.

I’m not angry anymore when I think about the “disruption” in my life because I have come to realize that nothing stands still.

I have come to realize that we’re not the same people we were when we got married. Thank goodness!

We’re supposed to change and hopefully for the better. To say I was comfortable with the choice to join the military 11 years ago just isn’t true, but I’ve learned that I’m not always comfortable making big decisions and am always working on communicating better.

Marriage is not a contract to stay exactly as you are forever. I am still growing into my military life and marriage and learning new things every day. My younger self couldn’t imagine the opportunities, challenges and growing experiences that we have had as a couple and as a family, many of them through military service.