10:30am- “Hey!! That restaurant said they have an opening at 6!!!”
10:42am- “Babe I don’t know when I’m getting off work.”
10:43am- “It’s okay, just let me know <3 ”
5:58pm- “We just got released. I’m sorry.”
Anyone who’s worn the uniform has experienced a conversation similar to this. Military life is notoriously stressful. As a result, the divorce rate among troops is higher compared to the civilian population. In fact, some reports have shown it can be nearly twice as high in some cases.
Although it has been slowly declining over the last decade, military divorce is still a huge detriment to our nation’s combat readiness.
Everyone who has served has known at least one person who has been divorced, (if not been divorced themselves)
This means missing out on time with your unit to attend legal meetings, and court appointments. Even when the servicemember is present, they’re understandably distracted and that also has a negative impact.
Staying “left of the boom”
Finances: One of the most common reasons cited for divorce is financial hardship. When you first join the military, it is nearly impossible to support a family of 4 solely on the pay of an E-1 or E-2. To make matters worse, divorce, alimony, and child support can also be incredibly expensive. Before things get too bad, it is highly advisable for troops to sit down with one of the free financial advisors most bases have available, or one of the free advisors many institutions have online.
Communication: “Don’t treat your spouse like a mushroom. That means to keep them in the dark and feed them bull shit.” Lack of communication is another top reason cited for divorce. Many troops do not want to get into long discussions when they have spent all day giving, or receiving, orders. Fortunately, this can be communicated prior to getting home so you can respect each other’s needs and boundaries. I knew one couple that would only discuss plans, and semi-important matters during wait screens in between rounds of Call of Duty. When the round would start, the conversation would pause and the headphones would go on. As soon as the final kill cam would start, the headphones came off, and the conversation resumed. This utilized their time to satisfy both partners' needs. Get creative!
Infidelity: Everyone knows someone who ‘s been Jodied. Yes, I just used Jodie as a verb. The UCMJ has a clear policy on the matter, but beyond that it may not be as simple as the “You are the father” moment you see on TV. Emotional cheating is also frequently referenced in divorce proceedings. Having a clear understanding of what your partner expects, and will not tolerate, may save lots of heartache in the future.
Mental health: Troops struggling with depression, or other mental health crises, will have a harder time dealing with relationship stress. All manner of tools, from meditative breathing to regular therapy, can be used to increase stress resiliency. This might be the key to avoiding the “heat” or “tone” in a conversation that leads to an argument that eventually leads to a divorce.
Many people look back at arguments in regret. Finding the best practices to deal with anger, and stress, may help avoid a sentence you wish you could take back. When you spend all day yelling at incompetent E2s, it may be easy to slip into that mindset when you become angry at a spouse, and they do not deserve that.
Divorce is a painful matter, especially when kids are involved. This has tragically escalated to the point of no return for some grieving troops who felt there was no hope in sight, and decided to end their own life. These decisions are heartbreaking and do irreparable damage to a unit, cohesion and morale.
Check out American Grit’s Mental Health section for more discussions about the importance of staying strong mentally, and using that to enjoy life to the fullest.