On Loving Someone Who Deploys

My boyfriend’s job requires that he leaves me, much like a deployment within the military would. He is former military and has been hardwired for the excitement that this lifestyle and type of work brings to the table. The work he does now is very similar to the work he did in the military and includes all of the same risks. People who work within his field are in danger. The job requires years of experience and specialized training—only a small niche of men meet these requirements. It is who he is, it is where he is most comfortable and it is a component of his life that he cannot live without. It is a component of his life that my own life will never live without.

I did not sign up for this life, but I am adapting. I never wanted to be in a relationship with traits similar to that of a military spouse, mainly because I didn’t feel I was strong enough to endure a life where my partner had to be absent. When I met my boyfriend, he was an instructor teaching skills needed overseas. He went to work every day like I did and I was pretty smitten with the fact that my boyfriend was former military (because I bleed red, white and blue) but that now he was out, and there were no more deployments in our future.

I was wrong, obviously. Something inside of him was unfulfilled and about six months into our relationship he told me he was leaving for a deployment overseas. I had no idea what he meant; this was supposed to be out of his system. I did not sign up for teary goodbyes, followed by months of emails and solitude.

The first time was hard for me. I loved him so much that I physically ached when he wasn’t around. I went to events alone and told our friends he was doing well despite the struggles that distance and limited communication put on a relationship. He was only able to email me at very specific times and when the scheduled time would pass with no email I would work myself into a frenzy of worry and panic, sometimes lasting hours, until I heard from him. I would get angry at him, upset that our relationship revolved around his needs and wants. I would call him selfish and wonder how I could be with someone who had a job like this, whose life is always on the line while I sit at home and imagine every awful possible scenario in my mind. I assume if you are in a relationship like mine, you’ve had all of these feelings as well.

There are positives to this lifestyle as well; don’t get me wrong. I had time to focus on myself and enjoy my day exactly how I wanted. Distance does make the heart grow fonder, and during our time apart our love grew tenfold. There were surprise homecomings (he hid behind my door so when I opened it I literally thought I was about to be murdered… romantic) and hidden notes and gifts. Mainly though, there was understanding. I understood this need in him, to do work like this. He needs to carry a gun, to get out in the sun, to protect something or someone. He will never work behind a desk or have a mindless job and I admire that about him and I don’t want to change him. I don’t want to keep him from being the man he is because it requires me to be independent and strong for our relationship.

My boyfriend misses holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. He spends Thanksgiving, most years, on the other side of the world. He flies to dangerous places in the world during the most dangerous times and all I can do is support him. The things inside him that drive him to this type of work are also the things that drive my favorite characteristics within him. His ability to stand tall and confident when others would run and hide. His passion for good over evil and his desire to go out into it, not just sit back and watch. His loyalty to his fellow “brothers” and the camaraderie that he can only share with men like him.

My job is not to just sit back and wait for him to come home, I have a role in all of this as well. I am the constant email, there every morning when he wakes up. I am the one sending him so many pictures and updates that he almost feels that he is with me. I am the one emailing the other guys he is with and telling them it’s his birthday (because I know he wouldn’t) and having him surprised with a cake and a cold beer from his girl (from the other side of the world = best girlfriend ever, amiright?). I am the one sending care packages and playing down my weekends so he doesn’t feel like he is missing out. I am the one who runs our home so when he comes back, the transition is smooth and easy.

It took me a while to understand, but without my component, he cannot enjoy his work—and that is what this is all about for him. He has something that most people don’t: a love for his trade, a passion for it. He loves his job so much that when he is in-between trips he looks forward to his next trip and I can’t stand in the way of that. I would never want to stand in the way. So while at times it is hard, and while this Thanksgiving I will be praying for him instead of with him beside me, we are a team and we always come out stronger after each trip. And that is what matters.

View Comments (4)
  • This is beautiful. My boyfriend and I are currently half way through deployment number 1. I know it won’t be the last, as we’ve already spoken about plans for the future and his career; he lives for what he loves – being a United States Marine and everything that entails. Thank you for writing this.

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