Conventional marriage advice tells couples that a person should always place the marriage above all other concerns. In the military, this is usually not the case. Duty comes first, and everything else comes second. Along with this startling reality comes the inescapable fact that the logistics of married life also can cause other difficulties and complications.
For example, military couples often can’t plan anything in advance – not vacations, not anniversaries, not even their children’s birthday parties. Based on the nature of their assignments, married service members often can’t share details of their work, which can frustrate both parties. And, if these frustrations weren’t enough, there is the always-present but rarely-discussed specter of the very real possibility that the military spouse could die while performing their duty.
Perhaps it is this last realization that can account for the “young marriage complex” that exists for many younger service members. According to an article in the Leaf-Chronicle, a Department of Defense Demographics Report reveals that nearly 43% of all active duty military members are 25 years of age or younger, and another 23% are between the ages of 26 and 30 years old.
Over 56% of active-duty members are married. Among the different service branches, the Army has the highest incidence of married soldiers, at approximately 60%.
Dr. E.C. Hurley, who spent 33 years as an Army chaplain and now heads the Soldier Center in Clarksville, had this to say, “There’s this need for belonging – this attachment issue. It’s in human nature, but more so for the military. They want people who love them to remember them. They want children to carry on the legacy, because there’s this uncertainty of coming back.”
Besides the motivation of romantic love, being young and married in the military also has additional perks. Married military members receive more pay than their single peers, and they’re allowed to move out of the barracks and into their own homes, either on or off-base/post. Most military units require newly-enlisted members who are single to live in the barracks.
The hardest thing for most younger couples to adjust to the balancing of their own expectations and ideas about marriage with the requirements and realities of military service. Spouses often have a difficult time understanding and adapting to the military’s demands on the service member’s time. The challenges of maintaining a long-distance relationship due to deployments is something that every military family has to deal with.
“Sometimes the needs of the military come first. Soldiers are taught that this mission is the most important thing. (They) have the ballots the reality of the mission with the priority of marriage,” Hurley went on to say.