Posted by: rcieri | February 24, 2010

Distance and Duties: The lives of military girlfriends

Feb. 24, 2010

By Rachel Cieri

The following was originally published on and exclusively owned bywww.HerCampus.com, an online magazine for college women. View the article on HerCampus.com by clicking here.

Lifetime’s “Army Wives” might be a little melodramatic (not to mention filled with bad acting), but the show’s emotion-filled episodes aren’t always far off base.

Her Campus talked with two experienced military girlfriends to find out what it’s like to have a camo-clad boyfriend.

Meagan’s story

For University of Maryland sophomore Meagan Keller, long-term separations and deployment decisions are a daily reality.

“It definitely has its ups and downs, but I know he’s eventually going to come home,” Keller said of Eric Goldenthal, her boyfriend of 11 months.

Goldenthal, a U.S. Army combat engineer, has been stationed in Heidelberg, Germany since July 2009, and Keller’s still waiting for the day he gets orders to a war zone.

“We haven’t gotten to deployment yet, but he could possibly see combat,” she said. “I don’t like having to worry if he’s coming home.”

The typical college girl might pine for her man while they’re separated for winter break, but Keller has endured six long months without so much as a hug from her boyfriend, a feat even veteran long-distance couples would admire.

So how has she done it?

In the beginning, “rough” wouldn’t come close to describing the effect on their relationship.

“We were feeling the stretch,” she said. “We wouldn’t talk every day because it was expensive and there was such a time difference. I didn’t see anything of him for months, just the pictures his friends posted, and that wasn’t even very often. We had to make the decision to take the extra effort and talk every day or it wouldn’t work.”

Then they discovered the joys of modern technology. If you ask Keller, she wouldn’t say she hasn’t “seen” her boyfriend in six months because she sees his face on a daily basis – on her computer screen.

Catherine’s story

Even with the distance, a virtual requirement for a relationship with a military man, girlfriends attest that there’s something about a man in uniform they just can’t resist.

Before Elon University senior Catherine Melendez even met her boyfriend, she watched him from afar at church, joking with her sisters every time she saw him. “Look, there’s Navy Guy!” they’d giggle. There weren’t many young people in their congregation to begin with, so Melendez jumped at her first opportunity to strike up a conversation when Matt Ramsey held the door for her one day.

Five months later, the two take turns driving the six hours between North Carolina and Maryland, where Ramsey is stationed and working as a civil engineer for the U.S. Navy.

Because Melendez’s parents are both in the Army, she knew what she was getting into.

“I talked to my mom about it – the sacrifices you have to make and the fact that you have to be a strong-willed person,” she said.

So when she wanted to take Ramsey to Puerto Rico with her family, she knew to tell him three months in advance so he could take leave (ask for vacation time), even though she wishes it could have been a surprise.

And because of her family history with the army, Melendez and Ramsey share a friendly Army-Navy rivalry. When the two went to the Navy Ball and the other officers found out about Melendez’s Army connection, they teased, “We won’t hold it against you.”

“Matt bought me a Navy hat to try and speed up the transition,” Melendez joked. “My dad wasn’t too happy about that. But most of the time they’ll say that we’re all in the same military, fighting for the same cause.”

The Perks

There’s no doubt that dating someone in the military can be as tough as an organic chemistry class, but it’s got its perks, too.

“I like that he has an established career, he knows what he wants, and he’s very patriotic about it,” Melendez says. “He has the same mentality my dad grew up with.”

And Keller says her man’s military mentality makes him all the more attractive.

“He’s independent and doesn’t need someone else to provide his food and clothing,” she said. “He doesn’t show fear, which I guess can be a plus and minus, but he’s stable through hard times.

The Military Girlfriend’s Handbook

Thinking about starting a romance with a man in uniform? Melendez and Keller give Her Campus their two cents on building a successful relationship when the military is involved.

Consider the Consequences

Keller says she has seen too many military girlfriends hang around for the wrong reasons, clinging to a fantasy before realizing their relationships aren’t likely to be as glamorous as Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried’s. Men in uniform are real people, not romantic movie characters.

“Consider the long-term effects,” Keller says. “Make sure this is something you want to do and that you want to be there to support him.”

Like all relationships, military relationships aren’t always easy. Any member of the military is likely to deploy or relocate at some point in his career, leaving a relationship in imminent danger of becoming long-distance.

Learn the Language

Melendez admits that on her first date with Ramsey, she embarrassed herself by pronouncing his rank incorrectly. “Apparently, everyone in the English-speaking world knows [how to pronounce it] but me,” she said.

It’s funny now, but no military man will be impressed when you inadvertently insult him by throwing around terms you don’t understand. Take an interest in the military jargon he uses so you can understand and contribute to conversations about his work.

Be Flexible

Melendez puts it bluntly: “The military owns you.”

According to her, building a successful relationship means accepting that fact.

“It’s a matter of knowing that what they’re doing is important,” she says. “You have to be more selfless. In a normal relationship, you’re used to having things your way. Sometimes you have to take the back seat and support the person you care about.”

Sources:

Meagan Keller, sophomore at University of Maryland

Catherine Melendez, senior at Elon University

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: