Military Marriage Day will be celebrated for the first time August 14th! In preparation of the holiday, I looked for a word to sum up military marriage. I knew my limited perspective couldn't possibly take on the task alone, so I reached out to a vibrant military spouse group on Facebook to find my answer. Surely I'd see a pattern of responses that would lead to that one magic word I was looking for. Maybe it would be a short word like fun or more interesting words like amorous or idyllic. I posted my prompt asking, "How would you describe your military marriage in one word? Bonus if you add a gif." Once it posted I closed my phone and finished making dinner for my littles.
Hopeful to get some great feedback, I opened my phone to see 600 comments and many more rolling in. Success! This is just what I needed. Surely there will be a clear outcome with a few outliers of course. I started scrolling fully expecting gifs of hugging teddy bears or Fez from That '70s Show drawing a heart with his figures while mouthing "I Love You," you know the ones. That was until I read the comments that busted the bubble of a one-sided reality filled with hot air and laughing gas, which clearly had me in this delusional state. My rose colored glasses cracked and all I could say was, DANG!
For perspective, the spouses who responded are roughly between 20 and 46 years old. Some have been married for over a decade while others are still in their honeymoon of under a year of marital bliss. This beautiful array of perspective was the reality check I needed. The truth is that there was no one word to describe military marriage. Although the majority of military spouses are women married to men, the military is not a monolith. We have male military spouses that are married to women as well as a growing LGBTQIA population meaning that everyone brings a different word to the conversation. On top of that, each branch, rank, career field, and current event experienced within a couple's marriage will determine the challenges faced or encounters they'll walk through. That one single word became more and more impossible to reach as I scrolled.
I did see some themes, which I believe gives a good array of what military marriage really is. Nearly everyone responded using a gif. Below is a breakdown of the groupings of words the milspouses shared.
10% – Confused/Mixed Emotion
I love this population that posted the confused gifs. I'm leading with them as not only because they were the smallest percentage, but mostly because they were the most honest. The perplexed faces of Ice Cube, Bill Cosby and other celebrities were popular in this group along with bipolar expressions like Anne Hathaway using a fan to transition her facial expression from happy to sad. This group alone shows that there is not one word for our relationships.
15% – On the Down Side
Lonely, sad, patiently or impatiently waiting. These are the gifs that showed the reality of the down side of military marriage. A popular gif was the character Oleg of Compare the Meerkat's. Oleg's sweet yet sad face outstretched hands had a caption of "Come Back." A sucker punch to the gut of emotion I felt as a young spouse counting down yet another deployment. Others used SpongeBob or Pikachu to relay their feelings of grief due to separation.
17% – Illusion or Adventure
Rollercoaster rides, circus acts, and oblivious characters sitting calmly amongst chaos was a common description for military marriage. Although most are referring to military life in general, it definitely tells the story of how military marriages endure. The crowd favorite was a cartoon gif of a room on fire while the dog calmly sips coffee from a mug with a captain that says, "That is fine." The clip comes from a 2013 webcomic called On Fire, but is a humorous depiction of the fires that surround military marriages as we try to maintain an illusion of an unbothered attitude.
28% – Letting Off Steam
From actress New York of Flavor of Love rubbing her temples to Stitch of the Disney movie Lilo & Stich scratching his eyes out, this majority was not afraid to show some frustration. Gifs depicting chaos through dumpster fires, disasters and screaming let loose the realities of the stress that military couples deal with. Marriage takes work and is definitely not a simple cake walk. It takes intentionality and overcoming obstacles thrown at you from different directions. The emotion shared in these posts were real.
30% – Positive Vibes
I was relieved to see that the highest percentage of responses were in a range of positivity. Everything from a simple "okay," thumbs up or Finding Nemo's Dory singing "Just Keep Swimming" to dynamic duo gifs like Batman flapping Superman's cape as if he were flying, hand holding and romantic gifs for grownups eyes only.
In the end, love wins!
A gif is worth a thousand words and the fact that I was looking for just one made it an impossible task. Many responses were sent in humor, yet there is a lot of truth in those pictures of sadness, anger, and lack of desire to acknowledge troubling realities. Military marriage is complex and filled with highs and lows. Those who expressed love and excitement where not the overwhelming majority, which tells me that there is some work to do in our relationships. I may have been searching for one word to describe military marriage for Military Marriage Day, yet what I discovered is all the more reason why our couples need a reason to celebrate.
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