It’s officially official and I can now start sharing with the whole world that my little sister is engaged!! She and her (now) fiance got engaged on her birthday (June 13th) and it’s looking like they’ll be getting married in mid-August. Does the short turn around time sound familiar to anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Well, if it does sound familiar it’s likely because you had a short turn around too. And that short turn around might have meant that you were also getting married to a service member. That’s right, my sister is marrying a Marine. Though, unlike me and my husband (Army), they’ve known each other since they were kids. They graduated high school together. He was even her first real boyfriend in like middle school. After graduation, he joined the Corps and they kinda lost touch. Last year, while she was working the renaissance faire circuit with Inner Beast Leather they worked the Southern California Faire and they reconnected while she was there. For over a year they’ve been in a long distance relationship (he was in California for a portion of it as well as being deployed to the Middle East while shutting down bases) and now they’re getting married. Yay!!
Personally, I’m super excited for her. I know she is as well, but I’m like over the moon excited for her. Mostly because I know what her love life has been like her entire life and she deserves this. Her boyfriend is beyond good to her and gets the big sister stamp of approval.
When a normal engagement happens, the girl generally has no idea it’s going to happen. For military engagements though, a lot of the time the woman either knows when it’s going to happen or knows it’s going to happen soon just not when. So she’s always on the edge of her seat wondering “is he gonna do it now?”. The latter was my sister and I. With our boyfriends being so far away from us (admittedly, hers was further) we knew it had to be during one of those rare windows when we were together. We had an idea, just not a certain time. So in the days leading up to her boyfriend arriving back home for his summer block leave (he came back to Kentucky since it’s his home state as well), she was growing more and more nervous. Of course, she came to me for advice and I gave it to her the best I could.
And now that it’s all come to a head and there’s no more need for her to be nervous, I find myself wondering if those moments of “oh God, is this the right move?” is something a majority of mil-spouses go through. Whether it is or not, I felt compelled to write this blog. These are the things I told myself (since I didn’t really have someone to discuss it all with like my sister did) and things I told my sister — which also includes some things I wish someone had told me.
Despite What People May Say, Marriage Isn’t That Big A Deal
Or at least it doesn’t have to be. Nothing has to be a big deal in life unless you want it to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t think hard about the decision to get married before doing it, I’m just saying that making the decision to do it doesn’t have to cause you agony. In fact, if it does, that should be tip number one that you shouldn’t do it. I’ve lived with almost every boyfriend I’ve ever had in my life except Daniel. I can tell you that living with him now is a lot like living with all those boyfriends I’ve ever had. Yes there are differences, but those differences (for the most part) are the things you don’t constantly have on the fore front of your mind. For me, the biggest difference is that I’ve only had insurance through one boyfriend before (because we were technically common law married). My insurance is through Daniel (except dental, that’s mine) whereas I’ve always had insurance through my parents or myself (minus that one time previously mentioned).
You Can Keep Your Lives Separate
Do you have to take his last name? No. Do you have to get joint bank accounts? No. Do you have to completely erase your identity and become “Mrs. So-and-So”? Most definitely not. I took Daniel’s last name because I wanted to, but he had absolutely no issues with me keeping my own name. We have a joint account but our paychecks go into our personal accounts so we can pay our separate bills (phones, car insurance and car payments) and the rest goes into joint so we can pay other bills (cable, groceries, etc). But you don’t even have to do that. No where does it state that you have to share money when you’re married. It makes sense and it’s easier to run a household that way, but you don’t have to do it.
Your Friends =/= His Friends
While it makes sense that you’ll have friends in common, it also makes sense that you won’t have them. There will be people you’re close with that he isn’t and vice versa. And that’s okay. While you get along fine with each other, your spouse might not get along with all your friends and you might not get along with all of theirs. That’s human nature and by no means should you feel bad because of it. Now, when he wants to be friends with all of your friends or doesn’t want to know your friends at all… that’s when you have a problem and should probably consider not getting married. While you are thought of as a whole by the government when you sign your marriage license, you are still two very separate people and should live your lives as such. This kind ties into the previous point, but you can and should keep your lives separate.
Forget Whatever Norm or Standard You Think There Is For Marriage
Everyone is different and because of this you can’t create a “norm” for how a marriage should work. So long as you’re both happy, who has the right to judge your relationship? No one, that’s who. So whatever you think a “normal” marriage is, throw it out the window. Do what works for you and your spouse. I recently altered my schedule at work so that I work all day three days a week and have two days during the week off. This allows me to be home to do the crafty projects I want as well as teach horse back riding lessons (oh yeah I started teaching those!) AND spend time with my husband since he’s home from work due to a medical profile. So that’s two days during the week and both days on weekends where I’m with him pretty much all day (minus the few hours I’m at the barn). While I love my husband and love spending time with him, I do like doing my own thing in my spare time. So the norm for us on my “days off” is making breakfast together and then him playing his video games while I work on crafts in the backyard or the other room. We’ll go hours without talking to one another. Strange, maybe, but it makes us happy. We’re not happy to be apart, but we’re happy that the other respects the things we do in our alone time and that the other allows us the time to do those things. Really, it all comes down to respecting the fact that your husband or wife might not want to spend every minute of free time with you. Or respecting that they do and accommodating to the fact that you might not want to.
Communication Is Your Best Friend
I’ve known this even prior to getting engaged, but talking about things that bug you is the most important thing you can do in any relationship. If Daniel is spending too much time with his video games, all I have to do is tell him that I want to watch a movie with him and he puts the controller down. It’s so much easier than sitting on the couch with my arms crossed and staring at him or the TV screen in silent hatred. There have even been times I didn’t care if he was playing or not but he could tell I was bored and he put the controller down anyway. Even if you’ve been with your fiancee for years before taking the step towards marriage, open lines of communication are the only thing that’s going to keep your relationship healthy and happy.
Your Big Day May Not Be What You Imagined, But That’s Okay
I know a lot of girls dream of the day they get married. They have thoughts of this big, beautiful party with all the trimmings. Well, when you get married to a service member, you might not always have the time to plan something like that. Daniel wanted the big wedding. I did not. So we agreed to instead do something small in the beginning and plan something bigger for a vow renewal. I don’t know what my sister’s plans are, but obviously she won’t be planning the party of the year either. I’m sure it’ll be small and just for family and close friends, but whether or not she does something later I have no idea. My point is, you likely won’t get the wedding you imagined, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have it later. Honestly, getting married is all about the legal part of it. You don’t have to have a ceremony and reception to get married. All you have to have is a piece of paper and an ordained minister (or the magistrate in your county seat can do it). The requirements vary by county so be sure to check the details before you get everything set. EITHER WAY… it doesn’t have to be a big deal. Honestly, if I could have met with the woman that married Daniel and I at a coffee shop and just signed the papers I would have… but our parents wanted a “ceremony” of sorts.
You’re Going To Have Your Best Friend In Your Corner. Breath.
I know I’ve been promoting the fact that you can still be separate and be married at the same time, but the biggest thing you cannot forget in this journey is that, no matter how scary it may be, you’re not alone. Chances are, if you’re taking the necessary steps to getting married, the person you’re with truly loves and cares for you and doesn’t want to see you fail. Ever. If that’s the case, they’re going to be there for you no matter what. I’ve never been the best at this thing called “adulting” and at 27 years old, I often look back on my life and wonder what the hell I did wrong. Why am I not better at this? I beat myself up a lot over it. A lot. Daniel kinda knew that before going into this, but he didn’t know that there were days I was beating myself up over it so bad that I literally wouldn’t want to get out of bed. Now, those days are very few and far between, but one of them happened to come up soon after moving down here with to be with him. Any other time I’ve had these kind of days, I’ve had to deal with them by myself. Even if I was dating someone, I didn’t want to bring them down with me. But Daniel literally wouldn’t let me shut him out. He pulled me up (again literally because I didn’t want to get out of bed) and forced me to go out and do something I enjoyed. He picked me up, dusted me off and gave me the “you don’t have to do this alone anymore” speech and it was in that moment that I realized it was okay to let someone else help me. It was okay to lean on him. He was my husband after all. It’s not that he was doing it because it’s expected of him. He was doing it because he hated seeing me like that. When you marry your significant other, you’re marrying your best friend and like a best friend, they never want to see you cry. They’re not going to let you fail.
A lot of these points tie into one another, but really that’s how all advice should be if you think about it. This huge problem you think you’re having often isn’t really that big and thusly can be answered in one go. But it is always nice to hear lots of things to back your decision, even if it would take less oxygen just to name one thing.
What things did you figure out after getting married that you wish someone would have told you before hand?