Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Navy Girlfriend Report: How I Made the Decision to NOT Get Married for Deployment

I am very excited to introduce another new guest poster, Mindi Clark. I know we are racking them up and it's awesome! This gal is a bonafide Navy Girlfriend! It's a first for Unhinged & Empowered Navy Wives & Girlfriends, which makes it that much more exciting. She is experiencing her first deployment with her boyfriend and is going to share all her first time experiences and lessons here in her Navy Girlfriend Reports. Make sure to give her a warm welcome and enjoy! 

Furth, Seymour, 1906, Sheet Music Collection
(University of Illinois at Chicago)
via Flickr cc
Navy Girlfriend Report:
How I Made the Decision to NOT Get Married for Deployment

By Mindi Clark

 (A Bonafide Navy Girlfriend)

Getting to know someone and going through the usual chaos of a new relationship is hard enough without mixing the military into it! When your Sailor mentions to you that he has orders to go far away within the next few months it feels like everything that happens between you is suddenly much more significant than it would have been under “normal” circumstances.

photo credit: e r j k p r u n c z y k via photopin cc
When we started dating, he preferred to not talk about work or Navy details, for confidentiality reasons, and I preferred to be kept in the dark. We joked about how I pictured his day-to-day life on the ship, which included him sitting in a crow’s nest with a telescope or being involved in an over-the-top, well-choreographed tap dance routine on the main deck with the other Sailors. If he was having a stressful week, I would make a comment about how difficult it is to build model ships in little bottles, and we would laugh at that and move on to a different topic.

We had barely been together two months when he told me that he got orders to Japan. I was stunned and found myself sitting there staring blankly at him with a dopey smile on my face while I repeated “Well shit. Ok. Ok. Yeah. Shit. Ok. All right. Well. Great.”

After that day, I was surprisingly quick to decide that I wanted to do this with him. I would rather “get through Japan” than try to find another person who I clicked with as much as he and I did. It was kind of amazing how the threat of a deployment can speed up the willingness to commit to someone.

However, he was less certain. He had seen too many relationships “fall apart at sea,” and he didn’t know if he was willing or able to handle putting himself in a situation where that could happen to him. In his eyes, every relationship he’d seen “try” to last through a deployment had fallen apart, and there was no way we would be any different. He would leave, my life would go on, I would find someone else, and the next thing he’d know, there’d be a “Dear John letter” coming his way.

Note: It is apparently not funny to respond to this particular concern with “well… I would at LEAST use your name.”

This is a vulnerable time and a HUGE commitment. I spent more than one lengthy phone call with multiple friends discussing that, “If I dedicate myself to this, I am pretty much dedicating myself to marry him. I’m not going to spend eighteen months waiting for someone without planning to marry him some day.”

While I had this thought from day one of hearing about Japan, I did not share it with him for a while. It wasn’t until a few weeks before he left, and he was starting to open up more emotionally that I brought it up and he agreed.

If we are SO sure about this working, why didn’t we just hop over to the courthouse? It’s not a frowned upon thing in the military world. It’s kind of in vogue. But, honestly, we neither of us even suggested to get married BEFORE the deployment. Sure, the benefits would be great: Easily being guaranteed information if something happens, extra pay, free medical care, being able to relocate with a dependent visa if I wanted to—amazing! But, it just didn’t make sense to us.

If we truly are committed to one another, then we should be able to survive this whether or not we’ve signed some papers. A paper is not going to change how long we’ve been dating, how much I am educated in the military, or how many intimate conversations and experiences we haven’t had yet. Things can go awry with a deployed relationship with a marriage license just as easily as they can without. I do understand why so many Navy Girlfriends go to the courthouse. It would make things easier, but for us, it just wasn’t right.

Wakingphotolife via Flickr cc

As far as I’m concerned, the verbal and emotional agreements that we’ve made to each other behind closed doors are just as valid and important as any license. This route is almost more testing of the trust and faith we have in each other because there isn’t that legal binding. Either one of us could walk away, but imagine the strength we will have when we don’t.

It’s a lot to put my trust into. There will be times when I won’t hear from him, and I will think about how they won’t call me if something happens to him. There will be times when I am lonely and feel like all I do is wait for him. There will be times when I could use his help, or the help of a Navy support program for spouses, but neither he or a program will be easily accessible for me.

Note from Veteran Navy Wife Stephanie Carroll:
Family Readiness Programs (FRG) do allow Navy Girlfriends to attend, but your Sailor has to put you in contact with them and if they meet on base, they will have to be willing to sign you on. Different FRGs respond differently to Navy Girlfriend situations but it’s wise to try to get connected. They keep everyone up to date on what is happening to the boat via email and help spouses when they are struggling during deployment.

But, I think it is important to remember that he has as much, if not more, at stake in trusting the situation. When they are at sea, the letters, packages, and contact with you is what gets them through the difficult days. If you were to take that away from him, he’s not just losing a girlfriend, he’s losing a lifeline, his support network and stability.

So, bottom line is that you both have a lot at stake. If you’re both truly committed, both truly capable of handling this type of relationship, you won’t risk losing all that is at stake. There’s every reason to continue supporting, loving, and trusting each other.
I hope this has been helpful to any Navy Girlfriends out there who are struggling with this phase of the relationship, and I hope that it gives you confidence in whatever way you as a couple decide to proceed.

About Mindi
jaipatoulunivu via flickr cc
I am a 24-year-old Navy Girlfriend who lives in Washington, DC. My background is heavily ingrained in the arts. I have a Bachelor's in Theatre Arts with a focus in technical theatre and management. I perform burlesque as a hobby and have recently started playing with stand-up comedy and figure modeling.
I met my Navy Boyfriend last May 2013. In July, he told me that he got orders to Japan starting in late November 2013. In September 2013, we decided to try and "make Japan work." There's a lot of hope in this girl, while also trying to stay grounded in reality. I've got a lot of spunk and have a tendency to be optimistic and honest to a fault.

I will be writing and sharing my entire journey as a Navy Girlfriend experiencing her first deployment here with you on Unhinged & Empowered Navy Wives & Navy Girlfriends! 

       Cheers & Glitter!



  1. Mindi, My SO and I went through the same situation, only we had been together for four years. We decided to take the plunge and get married though right before he deployed this past November. Ironic thing is he is in Japan as well for 20 months, perhaps our men are on the same base or even ship. I wish you luck, its s tough road but if you have the right mind set you can do it. I look forward to reading more about your story.

    1. Mindi here!
      Courtney, that's a crazy similarity! Congrats on your marriage! Thank you for your support, it isn't the easiest thing but we'll make it through! I hope that my entries continue to be useful and relate-able for you. It'll be interesting to see if there are similarities and parallels between us as every thing unfolds. :)

  2. I just want to say I love that I found this blog it has given me so much information that I needed to learn about! I've known my navy guy for about a year now and I still don't know if I want to have a relationship like this and fully commit to it. I guess I am just looking for some type of reassurance that everything will be okay. While reading this blog and reading the part about the separation...I never have a problem with that because I am very busy myself and have my own independent life. Just hate knowing that we will never have that "normal" relationship.


I love, love your comments and questions! Just remember to not mention any security info about your Sailor! Thank you!

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