Monday, February 22, 2010

@DateAMarine (an explanation)

This is just a short blog about what it means to me to date a service member.  I hope to listen to others' stories to find out what exactly it means to join the unofficial ranks.

If you're reading this, you're either a Military spouse, a Military girlfriend or are curious about the life that we have chosen... if you're the latter, thanks for your curiosity. If you're a girlfriend, welcome and good luck, we all have lots to learn.

Summer 07, I knew NOTHING about the military.  I could name some of the branches; I knew "we" were at war, but nothing in my life changed (except for yellow ribbons popping up around town).  I didn't know much at all; military wasn't part of my upbringing either.  ROTC recruiters didn't come on to my high school campus.  My best friend in school was dating a Marine based in Camp Pendelton but I learned nothing about USMC from her.  I thought that the "Semper Fi" sticker on a friend's car was just some band or something I wasn't interested in... I knew guys in camouflage were pretty attractive though... How life has changed since then!
When I created my twitter name @dateamarine, it wasn't because I wanted to start a dating service for Marines.  It was my hope, that one day, I would have a network of incredible women (and men) and with those individuals with rich experiences, I would be able to start a service that would help people who were in the dating stages of their relationships with a service member.

I get it. There is something attractive about a guy in uniform.  If you look one layer farther though, the realities of dating military make the fantasies about the uniform fade quickly... To say that dating a service member is the same as dating any other man (or woman) is simply not true.  I won't get hoity toity on you but it's been a HUGE eye opener to join this crowd of people who choose to learn and endure for love.

There lots of services available to family members (think Military OneSource) and especially spouses of military members but there aren't many resources to warn potential future spouses of military service members of the complexities of dating and marrying one.  I wanted to learn enough to become that resource some day.  I'm only one of MANY MANY women who have dated active duty and reserve service members. We each have a lot to learn once we earn the title of military girlfriend...  Watching "Dear John" doesn't make you proficient at understanding the challenges of this lifestyle. 

Here are my top 5 things I think one should be aware of when dating military:
1) Duty comes first: This is a hard one to come to terms with.  Duty isn't a job.  It is a lifestyle.  The mission that needs to be accomplished always comes first.  This could mean that he has to go to work at 3:00 am every day.  It could mean that he doesn't get weekends.  It could mean that he will volunteer himself so that he may get jetted off to Afghanistan. If you're pregnant with you're first child and you want your husband to come home from a deployment, sorry... you both will have to wait until the time's up.  You might feel second.  But you'll also feel proud; these are the sacrifices that all of our service members live through to protect our country.
2) Be Flexible: Even if you have plans for valentine's day, they might get messed up because a last minute field training comes up.  You might have had plans to go out of town... unless his leave was approved, he'll probably have to stay for something like last minute duty. FUN!
3) Shhh it's a secret: There's a lot that your boyfriend might not be able to tell you.  It really depends on his job but even in jobs where there aren't super secret info floating around, there is still sensitive information.  He might not be able to tell you everything about work.
4) Don't talk to his superiors like they are your friends: I think this is pretty straight forward but some people don't get it... I attended my fiancee's unit's USMC Birthday Ball this year.  There were a lot of younger Marines who had brought dates.  I overheard a girl literally say to a higher ranking Marine "could you let (my Marine) have some time off so we can go celebrate our 5 month anniversary??" Wow.  Also don't talk to anybody higher ranking in general without professional courtesy.  Even if you're at a mandatory fun event, you are representing your service member.  If you make a fool of yourself, that reflects on him... seem easy enough right?
5) Learn about the service and its protocols as much as you can: If you know the monster, it's easier to fight it.  Not that the USMC is the enemy for me, but it's easier to understand my challenges if I have a clear picture about what I am getting myself into.  If my partner is planning on being in for longer than the 4 years (enslisted), what does that mean? Where might he go next after this duty station? Could he get deployed? Show curiosity and learn proactively so you can familiarize yourself with what could come next.

There is lots more to share and I still have much to learn.  If you're a seasoned spouse and want to share tips for somebody who is thinking about dating military or is currently dating military, please leave me a comment! I LOVE comments!!


  1. Reina-

    This is SO true! It can be very disorienting to date somone in the Military. The better questions you can ask about your situation the better answers you'll get.

    Being in a military family can be rough but I believe it's well worth it!!!

  2. Well well written, you know I think you are a very good example of a young women that knows enough about herself to approach this subject. The only thing I would change is that I wouldn't call it a "warning" ie "aren't many resources to warn potential future spouses of military service members about potentially dating a Marine" . I think maybe a resource to educate yourself would be better. All military members are different, so maybe learning about the man first and then the fact that he is in the service. Yes this life is can be tough but life in general can be tough if you pick the wrong person, no matter what he does.
    I think you summed up everything really well, yes, Duty comes first, not because you aren't as important or even more so important but the mission has to be first. Flexible is always good..and knowing home is where the military sends you. I have seen so many young marriages break up because the spouse couldn't be away from home. Well home is where your husband is. The secret thing too..try not to pick him for information, if its secret or not they will share when they are ready. You must remember home is where your troop is trying to be "normal" and away from mission. Unless you are fearful he is suffering some type of PTSD let them tell you things when they are ready. If you think your troop has PTSD note the behaviors and go to the pre and post deployment briefs so you know where to turn for help. Girlfriends are always welcomed at these events, at least all the ones I ever attended. Again, great job!

  3. Love ya girl! I think it's super important to use blogs and other social media outlets to get the "word" out on this subject. I too think there needs to be some sort of orientation, group, or event(s) for "newbies." I think sometimes it's hard for the seasoned military wives to remember what it was like when they knew nothing. As a girlfriend, you feel out of place. Not "special" enough to attend on post events, even though most the time I'm sure you're welcome. I absolutely agree there needs to be something for the "in betweens."

  4. Shooting machine guns all morning is fun! But it's so much less fun when you get forced to do it on a Saturday that's supposed to be a 96-hour liberty weekend (4 day weekend), and it happens to be Valentine's Day and your girlfriend is sitting in your barracks room starving to death because she hasn't eaten since you left at 4am and you don't get home till 6pm after you finish cleaning the guns.

    But you know what? You end up saying 'screw it' and eating V-day dinner at Golden Corral and it becomes a really funny story that you get to remember every year. And the shared misery brings you closer together. It's got it's up and it's downs but overall it's not so bad.

  5. Babbs- thanks! Your input is always helpful!
    USMCWife- your knowledge and perspective is always welcome. Thanks for taking the time to read it!
    Shan- I love you too! Thanks for your comments. I totally agree about the "new girls'" perspective. I'll have to pick your brain. You're a new transitionee :). I feel you about not feeling "welcome" to events. I'll have to write about my first trip onto base.
    David- you are the silliest, most lovie Fiancee ever. Your comments are invaluable as my blog reflects what I have learned from being with you. This is an "us" experience and I am happy we are on this road together.

  6. What a well written post! Id like to print out your list and duct tape it to the door of our ball next year! Although then it wouldn't be as interesting....

  7. Great post Reina!!! See, you didn't even need my input, silly... you've got it! Well written and oh-so true. I've been writing the story of hubby and I and my induction into the military world in a 3 part series on my blog. It's kinda interesting to think back and remember what it was like to be the "newbie"... although sometimes I still feel like I know nothing!

  8. TheMrs.- Haha Thank you!! Do the girls at your ball need a bit of instructing??
    Hellcatbetty- NO I definitely do! This is going to be a series type of event and the first one was about my crazies. I want to pick your brain soon enough :)

  9. I agree it shouldn't be a "warning" rather a "reality check." I also feel you on the Ball thing... no offense to the girlfriend's but they are the worst in those types of functions simply because they do not always understand the ranks and the unlimited amount of alcohol doesn't always help, haha. Anyway, I was glad to find your blog! =)


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