The culture of relationships while in the military
By Lindsey Ahern
Being in a relationship is difficult. It’s even harder when your significant other is based in another state or, even worse, another country. Many couples go months at a time when either one or both of them are a part of the military.
For many, the time apart is rough, especially without being able to communicate on a regular basis. They receive little time to communicate with each other by letters, Facebook, Skype, etc., but it is required for the Army to provide a way to communicate back home; letters are sent for free and, as a result of recent changes, they can either share Internet for free or purchase their own private Internet connection. Even so, when they do have the time to communicate, it sometimes doesn’t work out because of time differences or conflicting schedules.
Pfc. Jordan Ashlee and his girlfriend, Katelyn Causey, have had this struggle for about six months and will face it for at least six more. Both hail from New Jersey, and Jordan is currently stationed in Karbala, Iraq. Katelyn studies at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. With their busy schedules, they find it difficult to communicate regularly.
“[Our communication] depends on what I’m doing,” Ashlee said. “Once a month, I go out for a week to be on quick reaction force, so for that week we don’t really talk. When I’m back we usually just communicate through messages [on Facebook] or phone calls late at night for me and early mornings for her.”
Many soldiers look forward to receiving any communication with their loved ones.
“Talking to her is what gets me through this whole experience,” he said. “It makes the time go by faster, and I know it won’t be too long until we are reunited again.”
Some couples are not as lucky as Ashlee and Causey. For Pfc. Ryan Steel, his experience is that relationships while overseas are tough. Steel entered the military with his girlfriend of two years, Maria.
“When I left, things were really hard, but we knew it was going to be,” Steel said. “I just didn’t think she’d make it this hard for us.”
Steel said Maria couldn’t handle the lack of communication between the two of them. She was used to being able to call or text him at any given moment. While he was stationed in Iraq, however, Steel was lucky if he got to communicate with his girlfriend on a daily basis in any form.
“When I did get to talk to Maria, she would complain about not being able to talk more instead of enjoying the time we did have to talk to each other,” Steel said. “It wasn’t making my situation any easier knowing she was so unhappy with our relationship.”
After about three months of being overseas, Maria decided she couldn’t deal with the distance and the struggle anymore and broke it off with Steel. He was heartbroken, but he understood it was for the best. He knew she wasn’t supportive, and that only made his time overseas more difficult.
Being away from someone for a long time is hard, and being involved in a long distance relationship is even harder. But for many couples, absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.
“I can’t wait to come home just so I can see Katelyn again,” Ashlee said. “This experience has made me appreciate her so much more. I’m really the luckiest guy in the world.”
Lindsey Ahern is a sophomore journalism major who likes a man in uniform. Email her at email@example.com.