Wednesday, September 14, 2005

So, Ya Wanna Join the Silent Ranks?

It's Seven Inches of Service day again! Yay!! Anyway, this week's topic is "5 Pieces of Advice for a New Military Girlfriend". Mine is posted below, as always. The rest are up at Miss Joan's place. Go read...all the posts are especially fabulous this week.
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There are a few traits you will need to be an army girlfriend and retain at least some of your sanity. The last few days have put quite a bit of strain on my sanity, even with these things, so if I sound more cynical than usual, take it with a grain of salt.

  1. Patience and flexibility. I know that personally, patience is something I don’t have in large supply; though I have infinitely more now than I did three years ago when I first fell for Clark. Anyway, if a deployment is involved, there will be a lot of waiting in your future. If you're a hurry-up-and-get-my-life-settled kind of girl, I don't suggest a military relationship, because your life will no longer be your own. Then there's flexibility, which dovetails off of patience. We're not talking normal "oops, there's traffic, dinner will be an hour late" flexibility...I'm talking about, "honey, you know that trip we planned a year ago, that we're supposed to go on in two days, well, we're going to have to reschedule or you're going have to go alone because I won't be home." Big, life-changing flexibility is what being an army girlfriend is all about. Clark told me, right after he deployed, that the only thing certain about the Army is that nothing will ever be certain.

  2. You also have to be independent and confident. Even if you aren't, you better learn to fake it. Being needy and insecure will not get you anywhere. Your soldier might be the sweetest, most considerate man; but when he is half a world away, he can't stroke your ego and fix your bad days. You have to be strong enough to withstand the creeps (sometimes otherwise nice guys) who will hit on you and attempt to convince you that you really want to be with them not a man who only calls once every other week. I think these guys have a homing beacon or something. You also have to be independent enought to attend parties, weddings, family gatherings and the like, alone. After a while, you'll learn to put on a brave face when constantly questioned about wasting your life on a man who isn't around.

  3. Communicate with your deployed soldier as often as you can, by whatever means are available. Write letters, send emails, utilize the phones whenever possible. Write down everything you think, everything you do, all of the mundane details of life. It keeps your soldier going, and in turn it will help you feel connected too. Work on open communication, don't pick fights even if you're in a bad mood. Work through whatever issues may arise, right then and never know when the next chance will be. Make sure that you verbalize the love you makes it more real to hear it when the one you love is so far away. Clark and I never once got off the phone without saying "I love you." It's not like we thought the other person had changed their mind if those words weren't said. It was more like saying, "I love you" helped get us through the time between calls.

  4. Be committed to the relationship. But be honest with yourself, if you aren't looking for a long-term relationship, don't pretend that you do. It doesn't help either of you to be anything less then forthright with the other. It broke my heart everytime I talked to one of Clark's army buddies who had his heart broken by receiving a "Dear John" letter or finding out that his girlfriend was seeing other people because she wanted something more casual than he did. Most girls don't run around on their guys, but the few who do have given us a bad name, don't take it personally, just don't add to the perception. Go into a military relationship with your eyes as open as possible.

  5. Don't take it personally when your soldier puts on his "war face". They all have one, and when they put it on in front of you for the first time, it can be scary. I was very taken aback the first time I saw Clark put his on. He went from joking and laughing to serious, focused "Army Clark" in the space of a heartbeat. They have to have the war face to survive deployments, but it can be difficult to process and understand to see the man you love change so rapidly. Your soldier will withdraw at some point...he may apear cold and calculating where he was once warm and protective. The man you love will return, but you have to bear with the "Army man" to get there. He's doing what he has to in order to survive and return to you. So rather than getting upset and hurt, love him through it and remember that once he's gone, you'll be wearing your own "war face" to stay sane on this end

As intense as all this is, it's not all bad. The concessions are more than worth the rewards. None of us would be here if that weren't the case. Intense experiences bring about intense emotions and reactions...that's where this list comes from. I've said before that I wouldn't trade my relationship with Clark for anything in this world...that remains to be true; and I would be willing to bet the other girls feel the same.

In case ya'll wondered, the preceding list is the third try for first try can be found in the literature regarding PETAG.