When my partner and I got together in November 2017, in the whirlwind of the first month I couldn’t have imagined what their future plans were. In the fun and romance of a new relationship, it was a shock to find out they’d applied to be in the army. It was really weird, we had been friends for a few years before getting together so I knew it was something that they wanted to do in the future, but all of a sudden it was all happening now.
I wish I had reacted better. I didn’t really like the idea much. Why did they want to do that? Why didn’t they want to finish school? Why would they want to do a job that takes them away from me? I remember us having conversations about it and I know the last thing I was, was supportive. I think that this is something that those who got with their partner before they joined the military can relate to. We didn’t count on this happening when we first fell in love.
I can see why I wasn’t entirely supportive. Just turned 17, my first relationship, and I was falling for someone who just wanted to leave. After some time though, I remember the idea starting to make more sense. We talked about it every day. What roles they wanted, why they wanted them, what they loved about the army, and in all honesty, the depth of the research I was doing outside of these conversations was insane. By the time they started basic training, I memorized the phonetic alphabet but then forgot it before I had a chance to impress them.
For me, it took time to be ok with it all. And I had time – the process from initially applying to start basic training was over a year. I had over a year to learn. I know a lot of people don’t get that, so here are some other tips on how to be ok when your partner tells you they want to join the forces:
Do not let your mind go straight to ‘they’re going to be on the front line and get killed’. There are so many different roles in the forces and some are more dangerous than others but there are plenty that are all right. The army doesn’t just need infantry, they need people in communications, driving, fixing the boilers. Just stay calm and then do point two.
Ask questions and look things up. Ask them about what they want to do. Why do they want to do it? What are they hoping for? Learn about what they want to do, and what it’s like. Chances are they are asking lots of questions and learning as much as possible too. There are also so many opportunities available for them in sports or education. Learning will help you be more understanding and support them through it.
This is such a massive life decision. For my partner, it was a whole process of leaving school and moving out of their family home and becoming a grown-up. Be there for them. My partner and I went through quite a lot before they finally started basic, and I tried to be there through as much as possible. So much is about to change. Be their constant.
You aren’t the first person to go through this, and you won’t be the last. There’s a lot you can do, and you’re stronger than you think.
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