The Choice That Almost Ended my Military Marriage


I chose my career over my military husband.

I’ve always been motivated to achieve. So has my husband. This joint go-get-‘em attitude is part of what attracted us to each other. As a soldier, his ambition manifested as always going to training, doing the next step for promotion, and being good at what he does. He wants to make it to E-8, and he’s doing all the steps to make that happen.

My drive manifested in training, too–going for my Bachelor’s, then Master’s, then a PhD. I wanted to be a tenured professor, and wasn’t going to let military life get in my way. We always found ways to merge our two ambitions, so we could both pursue our goals at the same time. As a military spouse, sometimes that meant working on a dissertation at 4 am because he was deployed and the kids would be up by 6. But we always found a way to make it work.

Until it didn’t work anymore.

Our ambitions collided. I found THE job. It was perfect for me and I was a perfect fit. It was going to be our retirement job, and I was well on my way to promotion, moving on up in a competitive world. We would “homestead” at the base, and just move from one position to another at the same base until retirement. Then he got orders overseas. It was a great opportunity for him to build his career. It was a great opportunity for us; I’d always wanted to go OCONUS, to explore the world with my other half and share it with our kids. But there was no way to merge THE job, my career progression, with going overseas; the two were incompatible.

We tried to compromise–he would go unaccompanied so it would only be a couple years, the kids and I would join him for visits whenever we could. It would be like just another deployment, we said. We’ve done deployments before; they’re tough, but doable.

This one was different. The choosing to be apart, the choosing to prioritize my career nearly ended us. Two years of raising little kids alone (for me), two years of coming home to an empty house and missing birthdays, holidays, milestones (for him), was too much.

We made it through, barely. It was a lot of tears, pain, and sacrifice. I left THE job when he got orders to another new duty station. My career may or may not recover, it’s too soon to tell. I tell myself it’s still there, it just will take a different shape now. My milspouse mother-in-law’s advice is to ‘grow where I’m planted.’ The jobs will always be there, and the military life will not, so I can wait. Military spouses are no stranger to sacrifice, and that career is just another on the list.

The struggle brought us closer, as struggle tends to do, and crystalized our priorities. Deferred is not denied, and I will still reach my career goals some day. But for now, the military life requires that sacrifice, and I’ve made my choice.

Are you a career-driven military spouse? How did you handle the balance of work and military life?

Posted by Jessica Strong, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

4 Comments

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  1. 1
    Sarah

    We experienced the exact same struggles. I chose to finish my Bachelor’s and our first 2 years of marriage were spent apart. It broke us. After graduating, our entire relationship had to be rebuilt as we had never fully experienced married life. When my husband received orders overseas there was no question that I had to leave a guaranteed career in the states and move where my only option to continue working was through government contracting. One year in and six attempts at a contract with the on base dental clinics have been unsuccessful. It was a tough choice to potentially have a 3 year gap on my resume with nothing related to my career field. I remind myself every day as a military spouse, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

  2. 2
    Nicole

    Always powerful and reassuring to read personal accounts like this as I’m also a military spouse who had to choose my marriage over my career with an OCONUS move. Marriage is and will always require hard work and I’m sad to be putting my career on pause, but I know it’s the right decision for me and my husband.

  3. 4
    Jamie Corcoran Smith

    This is ridiculous. Why does the military career ALWAYS win out? Her spouse also made a choice to put his career before their marriage but I bet he isn’t saying his choice almost ruined his marriage. I’m sick and tired of bowing to these dated expectations- ones that articles like this perpetuate. That my career will never work out, that his career is always more important, that it’s just a matter of time before I bow out of the workforce to stay home with the kids. Also, get it together with these dumb clickbait titles.

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