Is Stubbornness Key to a Strong Military Marriage? One Spouse Says YES!

A military spouse must always be flexible.

This seems to be an unwritten law in every branch of service, doesn’t it? If you’ve been a military spouse for any length of time…say 15 minutes or so after the ceremony ends…you know this. The Marines have even coined the term “Semper Gumby” (always flexible) as an unofficial spouse motto.

The military is a demanding mistreess, no matter which uniform she shows up in! Plans have to change because a part came in, something’s misplaced, the commander has a bone to pick with everyone, orders change, etc. Any “good” military spouse knows to roll with it. For most, rolling with the punches is one of the many secrets to a lasting military marriage.

But what if there’s another characteristic to having a lasting military marriage?

Over the years I’ve noticed something about long term military marriages: stubbornness. Yep, you heard me right. Stubbornness is something we don’t often hear about in a positive way. It’s associated with pride, inflexibility, and unreasonableness. All of which can sound a death knell in any marriage, especially a military one.

Look beyond the common definition of ‘stubbornness,’ and synonyms like perseverance, grit, steadfastness, resoluteness, and hardiness appear. Qualities considered essential in American history and that sound like many military spouses I know! Ask most couples who’ve survived longer than a few years and chances are there’s an element of grit just under the surface. My Solider Boy and I were asked recently how we’d managed to stay married so long–our answer was “sheer stubbornness!”

It comes down to choices. You chose your spouse. Remember? Most likely, you vowed “until death do us part,” or something similar, during your wedding ceremony. Most of us didn’t include vows like, “until there’s more month than money,” “Uncle Sam says move again,” “your spouse is sent on a remote tour,” “deployment orders come through AGAIN,” “chronic illness strikes,” “we move 4000 miles from family to the  middle of nowhere” (rver hear of Kwajalein Atoll?), “PTSD happens,” or [fill in the blank].

Will you be strong enough to flex when needed and stubborn enough to stay when it’d be easier to go? To say “we are going to make this work no matter what?” What will you do when you don’t like each other, but you know you love each other? Dreams of fleeing to a cabin in the woods or tropical beach alone aside, what will you do when life doesn’t look like you thought it would or should?

In those moments, I know how very tempting it can be to throw in that towel. When everything just seems too much.

I KNOW. I feel your struggle. Sometimes being stubborn means getting help.

Fact is, this life is hard. It’s not for the faint of heart. Just as your spouse has to reach deep down and draw on internal strength to be a successful service member, so do you as a spouse. This is where being stubborn comes in–you have to choose whether to give up or get on with it. Hard things are usually the ones that are worth the effort.

I am often encouraged by reading about military wives of the past. Listening to the voices of their stories makes ours pale in comparison. Their ability to pull on reserves of ‘intestinal fortitude’ while following spouses to a remote post that included the very real threat of physical harm, loneliness, and deprivation, remind me that it could always be worse! It reminds me to be grateful and keep on, even when I want quit.

And lest you think the stressors we milspouses face are unique to our American military, check out this article by a Canadian milspouse sister.

Were it not for the abundant grace of God and our own unwillingness to give in, my own marriage wouldn’t have lasted 2 years, much less 28. Grit is what enables you to withstand the storms of military life. So go ahead, refuse to give in or give up. Do hard things. Dig in those heels. Your marriage is worth a little stubborn love.

What do you think makes a military marriage strong? Share it with us in the comments!

Posted by Holly Massie, Army spouse and author at Household Six


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  1. 1
    Leanne Wakeling

    So very true. Love the perspective of stubbornness. The choice to stay forward thinking even in the face of adversity. The determination to be flexible, no matter what. Accepting that there is very little in our control, and therefore being stubbornly adaptable. “Soldiering On”. Even as a navy spouse for over 20 years, through young children and melded family. Through short notice postings and extended absences. Single parenting when that was never part of the youthful vision. Stubbornness to know I can handle whatever comes my way, accepting it would not always be easy and confident that even if I had one of “those” moments, that there was always some kind of support available, friends, another spouse, ship’s company. We are 7 years on from our military journey and almost 31 years married. The stubbornness to keep our commitment to our marriage vows, which has meant a fairly happy and healthy married life with three of our own children added to the one I brought with me. We are more fortunate than most to belong to a community that is stubborn in it’s support of each other. Thank you for this perspective of stubborn.

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