Ask Molly: Should I Move with My Soldier?

Hi Molly,

My husband hasn’t signed any papers yet but will be enlisting in the Army very soon. I am trying to be the supportive wife because I know this is something he’s always wanted to do, but I am scared for him and myself. Here is the problem: I am not going to be following him to wherever he gets stationed. I would love to be able to lean on the sisterhood of army wives for support and follow him because that would make it soooo much easier, but my career is in a great place and I don’t want to leave my other family members. He is okay with this and says we can make it work. I know we can make it work but I am worried about being alone all the time, especially because we just moved to a new area 2 hours away from our hometowns where our families are and we don’t have too many friends in our new city. So when he goes away, my family will be a 2 hr drive away plus I don’t have many friends nearby to lean on either. Is it common for the wives not to follow their husbands? What advice do you have for us? Thanks so much!! I really need it because neither of us comes from anything close to military families so they don’t know what to tell us.

Thanks!

Dear Reader,

This is a very tough response to write, because I really want to tell you and your husband that you can have everything.

And maybe, possibly, you can and this could work.

You sound from your letter as if you are a very grounded and rational person and from what little I have heard from you, it seems as if you and your husband have very open and honest communication and a solid foundation in your marriage.

But I also have to be honest and tell you that you are in for an uphill battle if he plans a full military career and you plan to stay put at your address indefinitely.

Now, if he only wants to “do his duty” and serve for two years, then it may make sense for you to stay where you are if you are happy in your career.  He will be training for several months and then may be deployed for a year.  In which case, there is no sense in uprooting your household and disrupting your life for the sake of a little more than half a year of cohabitation.

However, if he plans to stay in the military, I urge you to move at some point to join him.

I know some married couples (outside of the military) who lived in separate cities for a year or two–but this was a temporary solution and both couples made well over six figures, giving them the ability to fly back and forth several times a month.  This sort of weekend commuting does not seem like a possibility for you and your husband.

In my personal, anecdotal experience, the vast majority of spouses move with the servicemember eventually.  They may temporarily stay where they are to finish up classes as a teacher or student but they have plans to move in the near future.

There are also dual military families that find themselves stationed apart or with deployments that do not overlap.  Maybe some of these families could chime in and let us know about how they make it work.

During World War II, servicemembers sometimes deployed for several years.  However, there was a larger base of patriotic community support for the spouses who kept those homefires burning and the partners persevered because there was no other choice but to stay the course during the deployment.

If he is garrisoned stateside and you are hundreds or thousands of miles away, that will have a very different feeling because you are separated by choice, rather than by deployment.

You also bring up the issue of the “sisterhood” of military spouses and your lack of a support system at your current location.

During the year my husband was training, I remained at my job as a classroom teacher.  I was living about a half an hour from my parents and about the same distance from New York City, where many of my friends lived.  For support from other military spouses, I turned to a military spouse discussion board.

There are definitely ways to find support, especially with today’s technology, away from post. You may want to check out this post (and the comments) about staying near post or moving back home during a deployment, which touches on some of these issues.

Sit down with your husband, draw up a list of pros and cons and consider your personal and career goals and ask him about his own. Consider your own personal relationship styles.  Do you need to be geographically and physically close to the person you love?  Or does conducting a relationship mostly via e-mail and telephone sound romantic to you?  Do the two of you do most things together or do you already keep your lives fairly separate?

If you do decide to stay where you live, the military spouse community will be able to provide lots of advice and support on keeping long distance relationships going.

Personally, it would be very hard for me to be voluntarily separated from my husband for any substantial length of time but perhaps you and your husband would be able to happily make this work.

And I may be totally off-base here.  If so, I’m sure my other readers will be the voice of reason in the comments section!

Please keep us updated on what you decide and best of luck to you both!

“Ask Molly” represents only my opinion and the comments of readers represent their opinions. I draw upon my training as a Family Readiness Group leader, my own experience and that of those I know, and any research I found on the Internet. I am not a trained counselor.

Photo Credit: Take Off by realSMILEY

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19 comments

  1. Susanna says:

    Military families have a special burden to carry: the frequent relocations and/or separations. The decisions involved with each relocation or separation are important and usually difficult. Molly laid out the options really well. I especially like the suggestion to sit and write down all the pros and cons. That might bring some clarity into the confusion. Good Luck.

  2. Michy says:

    I very much agree with Molly on this. It would be very hard on the relationship, unless you can afford frequent visits. Good luck!

  3. Katie says:

    Hi,

    My name is Katie and although I am not married my boyfriend Sidney and myself are very close to the engagement stage. He has decided to go full time army and I’m in the same boat as you are. I am attending school here for PTA and don’t want to give that up to go with him. I’m scared as you are that I’m going to get lonely and seek companionship somewhere else. Maybe since you are a little older than I am you could give me some advice as to what to do. When we first started dating he was in Baghdad for the first 5 months. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be but again I had some moments where I thought is this really worth the heartache of not being able to hold, kiss or go do things with. I missed him alot and now that I have him back I don’t know if I can go through that for years. I guess I’m thinking furture wise that I don’t want my kids growing up wondering why we have to move so much. Want them to be able to know who their grandparents are. But I guess what I’m trying to say is since I have had a partner be overseas I can give you advice and you could give me advice as in whether I need to move on or see this through.

  4. Kerri says:

    Thanks for the advice. I really do think everyone’s input has helped, and I will let you know what our final decision is. To give a little more info about our situation: I am a teacher in a great district, and my husband plans on becoming a teacher after his years of service, so I guess he doesn’t plan on making a “career” out of the military. He’d just like to serve his country. To help us out, we have scheduled an appt with a counselor just to talk it out in an unbias, safe place. We’ll see what that might turn up and then we will be making up our minds. keep you posted!

  5. Candace says:

    @Kerri – I’m glad you are finding some of the input helpful I think going to a counselor to discuss the decision in a neutral, structured environment is a good idea…keep in mind that the counselor may or may not have an idea of the military lifestyle.

    Another point–I don’t know if your husband plans on enlisting or being an officer. Officers have a slightly longer minimum active duty requirement and, once they leave active duty, they can still get called up from IRR.

    Either way, he can also get “stop-lossed” and find himself in longer than he expected.

    I saw that you were teaching in your e-mail, which is one of the reasons that I mentioned my own career in education… but I wasn’t sure how many identifying details you would want me to include ;)

    @Katie – How far along are you in your education? My advice is to finish that. Your school may also allow you to finish some work online if you are almost done (I had a friend who completed her nursing degree that way) or transfer credits. There are some programs that help spouses keep continuity in this.

    Knowing your loved one is deployed is a different feeling than knowing that he is stateside but you can’t see him.

    Army or no, I definitely urge anyone considering marriage to complete her current educational program and go into the commitment eyes wide open–that goes quintuple if you love a soldier.

  6. Tammy says:

    Hi there – I just wanted to comment in on this because I thought it related to my situation. I moved out east from our duty station out west because my husband was deployed for a year. I did live at our duty station for a few years ( but the place we lived was horrible , living standards, safety, etc ) But now he’s about to enter into a school for his new MOS and family isnt allowed there. So we agreed on settling out east where i have family and that , buy a house, etc. because he is due out of service in 2012. He is about to head to Korea for a year directly after he finishes this school in July 2010. We elected to not go to Korea because i am in the middle of college and continuing to get my masters (mortgage obligation, poor market etc). We are not financially stable to fly back and forth all the time but we make it work. It is definitely hard to be seperated voluntarily no doubt im not going to lie and it strains us, and we are a very strong couple. However my spouse and i have been doing long term relationship since we were dating. So i think were kind of used to it i guess- the nature of seperation. ( however doesnt make it easy either ).

    Hes looking to get stationed near where we live now (house wise ) and are looking for more of a settling point. I think every situation varies per person and overall what works for you.

    Good luck :)

  7. Candace says:

    @Tammy – THANK YOU for adding your perspective! It will definitely help a lot of spouses. Don’t suppose you’d be willing to write a guest post on how you “make it work”? Consider it (MilSpouse) community service!

  8. evelyn says:

    The internet is an amazing thing. As an Army wife of 26/24 years (26 years 24 of them active duty)these types of sites would have been great.

    I’ve had two different experiences with this situation. One time I couldn’t go & another I chose not to.

    My husband did an unaccompanied tour to Korea & I chose to move to the next duty station. He knew where he would come back to before he left. I chose to move so our oldest could do 4 years of High School in one place. A rare thing for an Army brat. It was difficult but not impossible & the option of going with our soldier was not there. We did see him mid-tour & he was able to come one other time TDY.

    Fast forward 8 years & he was PCSing to a duty station 5 hours from where we were living. Our youngest was now entering High School & I had an awesome job. Over the summer we went to see the new duty station & I opted not to go. This proved to be more difficult that I anticipated.

    We ended up with 2 households to support & lots of time on the road driving back & forth. While I had friends where I was I didn’t belong to a unit on post & so I was somewhat cutoff from that. Honestly it was one of the hardest times in our marriage. 3 years living 5 hours apart was a HUGE strain, financially, emotionally & physicially.

    Because of the distance it was hard for my husband to participate in many of the activities associated with our son’s senior year. He missed lots of milestones & to be perfectly honest I’ve always regretted not going with him.

    Now the kids are grown & gone & I’ll be following him anywhere the Army sends us.

  9. Michy says:

    @Candace – My husband said that stop-loss had been done away with by Obama… Just thought I’d point that out, though I could be wrong.

  10. Candace says:

    @Michy – You are right that they have announced plans to phase it out and thank you for bringing that up.

    However, it is still in practice through this year (2010) and I will believe the phase-out when I see it. Regardless of whether the practice is phased-out or not, military members still contractually agree to involuntary extension of service…which means the practice can be resumed whenever the military deems it necessary.

  11. Amanda says:

    I am somewhat going through the same thing. My husband is actually taking the ASVAB tomorrow at 1pm. He has not signed papers yet but it is going to happen. I am going to be staying here in our home town to finish up with my schooling as I am a recipient of a full scholarship to finish my degree. It will be about another year and a half or two years until I am done.

    My husband is planning on making the Army a career and I will hopefully be joining him after I graduate. I have found this site is very informative and a source of strength when I am down.

    I pray for the best for you and your husband, God Bless.

    - Amanda
    Future Army Wife

  12. Karen says:

    Hi,

    Thank you for asking this question because I have been trying to figure out the same thing. My husband just left for basic training and I recently got accepted into graduate school. My school is NYC and we have no idea where he is going to be stationed. He is not sure if he wants to make the military a career but I know that I want to go to graduate school for the next two years, but I have a difficult time being apart from him. Molly your reply and these comments have truly aided me in my decision making.

  13. Lisa says:

    My boyfriend is going into the army after we get married. He is going to work on army vehicles and is only planning on being gone for a few years. I would like to stay and find a place for us here so we will have our own home when he returns. I understand what is going to be happening with him, but is there anything i am expected to do? I found plenty of info for spouses that are planning on moving to their post, but very little for someone in my position. Any information would be great, and a list of what i should do would be amazing =)

  14. Whatever you do I wish you the best of luck.

    You have to think of every situation. For instance, my husband said that he was going to be a “lifer”. We got to our first base and he does not like it here which has changed his mind about being a lifer and he has set different goals for us. Since he doesn’t like it (it’s a very important base and so everyone is very strict) he comes home in a bad mood. He is a whole new person than he was before he joined the military. I wouldn’t be able to handle this change if I was far away and not experiencing it with him.
    Maybe he should just join the reserves or guard?! That way he is still serving his country and he can still be with his family.
    I pray whatever you decide works great!
    Stephanie

  15. Ashlee says:

    This has been mostly helpful for my situation. I was relieved to see that other wives have similar questions, but my specific question has yet to be asked, so here goes…

    My husband is going to be enlisting very soon and we have both agreed that it is best if I stay here at home. We bought a house back in September that we don’t want to leave behind and my career has just taken off in our hometown. My biggest concern is BAH. If I am willingly choosing to stay with our home, will we still get a housing allowance? He pays for the mortgage and I pay the bills. Also, I am a hairstylist working for myself and the slow weeks occasionally pop up. I will need the added cushion to his income in order to keep up with the mortgage payments. How does this work? Any advice is welcome…and all advice I’ve read so far has been pretty helpful. Thank you!!

  16. Anna says:

    Kerri,

    My husband enlisted 2 years ago. I stayed behind as I have a great job and we needed the money. He did basic, then AIT and then deployed. We are still living apart, and he is about to deploy again. Once he completes his 2nd deployment his contract is up and he will not re-opt. This IS doable, but you need to have a relationship that is so strong, trusting, honest and on top of that you both need to have superb communication skills. It is very different to have the hubby live on a post away from you that have him deployed to theatre. Both present their own challenges. We happen to be doing great, although we miss each other like crazy.
    Good luck to you!

  17. Anna says:

    Ashlee,

    BAH will be paid “in money” to you / your husband only while he’s in basic training and AIT, or if he deploys. While he lives on post (after his training is completed), you don’t see the money. If your husband chooses to live off post, he will get the BAH that is determined for that particular area. So let’s say the BAH is $800 / month, he may choose to rent something for $500 / month and that way you can pocket $300.

    Our case: I live in a big expensive city (decided not to accompany him to where he got stationed), while my husband is stationed in a rural area deep south. He lives on post, as there are no rentals off post. We have to scramble to make our mortgage payment. But, while he was in basic and AIT, they paid us BAH based on where I live, as spouses are not allowed to accompany soldiers to the training, and then the BAH was more than what our mortgage payment is! It’s a bit silly, but it is what it is.

    I hope this helps.

  18. amberr says:

    hi ,

    its a hard situation me myself is facing the same problem in away i want to move with him , but could i move somewhere iv never been knowing no one??

    do what is best for you & kids ( if any ).
    remember its you that has to live that life x

    iv decided to do it purely just to be as close to him as possible and so my daughter can see her daddy as much as she can .

    i hope this has helped

    good luck!!! x

  19. This question of course breaks my heart, especially knowing how important a career can be! I made the decision myself many, many years ago to quit my career and follow my Army husband. Initially, I was panicked and sick over it….later, I made peace with it.

    I realize that some careers are portable (even with expensive re-licensing at new locations)….if I had to do it over, I might’ve thought of going that route….teacher, nurse…even lawyer. Others, not so much (so if you are looking at careers, keep this in mind!).

    Being apart worked for a short time, but it is not a long-term solution.

    One note I’ll leave you with….with all the moves and experiences I have now under my belt, I am much more wordly, experienced, confident and outgoing than I would’ve been had I stayed stateside…and not moved with my husband. My life is richer and more vibrant, and I have a support system of close friends all over the world….you just can’t beat that:-) AND, you CAN work, sometimes in an offshoot of your chosen career…doing things you would not normally be exposed to…that’s what happened to me…you can make it happen if you really, really want to!

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