Often times disclaimers are put in small print at the bottom of whatever is written. That is not the case here. This is my disclaimer that the views and opinions expressed in this article are that of myself (Wayne Perry-the author) and not of any group or organization. Keep in mind the opinions you are about to read are just that, opinions. I am not a Dr or counselor and hold no accreditation. In fact I am not very educated at all except for from the school of hard knocks. Take what you are about to read and determine for yourself if the generalities I share seem fitting.
Before I state what the problem IS, let me first say what the problem IS NOT. The problem with what causes the military to have such a high divorce rate for males married to female service members, namely the Army since those are the statistics provided to me, the problem is not that of the Army or any government/military organization. The role of the government in my eyes is not to meet all of our specific needs, but to meet our most basic needs. Such as paved roads, schools(which is debatable), possibly some healthcare, public works, first responders like ambulance services as well as police and fire fighters, and lastly our military which protects our government and our people of this AWESOME nation. Thankfully there are programs offered by countless groups to meet the needs of service members and their families. There is a plethora of programs offered by military organizations such as Army Community Services (ACS) and Moral Welfare and Recreation (MWR). I have heard from many men that organizations such as those two just mentioned should “do more” for us guys. I agree with that, but I more so strongly disagree. It is not their problem. Although assistance will be welcomed, and I know it’s coming, it is left to individuals to see a need and meet the need. Our reliance on our government has turned into what I would consider a dependency issue.
Just like the problem is not that of our government/military, it is also not the problem of our Family Readiness Group’s (FRG’s). Correct me if I am wrong but an FRG’s primary responsibility is to inform families of the happenings of their spouse who is deployed. Through these groups MANY great relationships are formed for a great number of people. The relationships are built through social interaction outside of the conventional FRG setting. Many men have said they don’t feel comfortable going to FRG meetings. Can you blame them? I went to my first one last week and out of our brigade, approximately 75-100 people showed up. Was it intimidating? Yes, a bit. Was it overwhelming? You can say that? Did I see anyone who I could possibly connect with? Not one, unless you consider the men in uniform who were from command leading the meeting. Out of respect for my wife and the husbands of the wife’s who were in attendance, I could not consciously create a friendship with anyone in that building who was not wearing the Army Combat Uniform(ACU’s), since all those in uniform were men.
I have been told the FRG’s need to consider doing more “male friendly” events so it does not seem as intimidating for us guys. WRONG! How can I ask those other 99 women to cater to me? I can’t. When I searched our company’s FRG Facebook page, all events listed were listed as girl’s night out or wife’s BBQ or similar things. Being part of our company FRG will not mean I cannot attend these group outings, it simply means that there will be an overwhelmingly large amount of women who are “doing life together”. Women who are meeting their spiritual, emotional and social needs. Women who will warmly welcome me, or any man, into their group. But for obvious reasons that is easier said than done.
I do not expect or believe an FRG should change a thing regarding this topic. What they are doing is something that they have been doing and has worked and continues to work. So why change a good thing?
Now that was all what the problem IS NOT. This next portion will be some things I have learned from being a man and from men. These are opinions, some are more about me personally, and some are more from personal experiences lived through others.
The first problem, which is the biggest, is a society wide problem. Our marriages have become as disposable as our income. These days’ people marry for comfort and convenience more often than I would assume they did in the past. Some marriages are forged out of obligation when the woman becomes pregnant. Yet the number of people willing to stand the tests of marital life is dwindling. Marriage isn’t easy folks. We ALL know that. I would be very interested to see the numbers broken down even further than what I provided in part one of this series. Thirty six percent of all divorces in the Army come from female soldiers. How many of those marriages were from couples who were dual military? Many marriages come about through relationships created while serving together. So to see this statistic would certainly shed some light on this subject.
Outside of our society wide problem concerning marriage, men are men no matter the environment they are married in. Most men do not open up and express themselves well. We tend to hold back our emotions, often times leading us to use the emotion of anger to express ourselves. Men tend to say things they don’t really mean just because it is our only way of uncorking what we have bottled up. We are also very reactive. We react to situations without thought. Often times there are consequences for our reactions. A common consequence can be summed up in an old saying, “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”. And since us guys react and don’t tend to know how to talk through things, when mama ain’t happy, we certainly are not. We then react to that and a cycle ensues. Often times leaving us men to retreat and seek separation or divorce. Unfortunately often times the women are forced to retreat themselves as the relationship has become an unsafe environment.
For the men who do not have problem opening up, one of the struggles that plagues all of us military spouse’s (MILspouse’s) is conflict resolution. However, men tend to want instant gratification. When we get in an argument/disagreement with our spouse who is deployed, we want to be able to resolve it rather than let it fester. Deployment does not allow that for anyone, but unlike our male counterparts who are serving, we are left with little to keep us busy here on the home front and tend to focus on our last conversation. Which going on that side of things, we often react to our thoughts of how the next conversation will go. Often times then going on the attack when we do get a chance to speak to our spouse again. When compared to our female counterparts left behind here at home, women have an easier time moving on from things and are more forgiving(which is quite the mind boggler because women also hold grudges longer-different topic). A woman who gets in an argument with her deployed spouse would more than likely wonder “how could I”, where us guys would tend to say “how dare she”.
There is also the trust factor. As men it’s not that we don’t trust our spouse, we tend to not trust the men they are serving with. This is not a slap in the face to our service members who are male, but it’s a male trait. I would guess any man who was told his wife was going to eat, live, sleep, share and everything else a deployed soldier does, just about every man you told that his wife would do this with a ratio of 17 men per his wife, that any man would be a bit apprehensive. At first thought it may not be too overwhelming, but day after day, this wears on a fella. That’s a whole lot of men sharing life with our wife’s.
Going along the trust line of thought, men do not like sharing. We are after all just grown boys. We don’t like lending our tools out, we don’t like letting people borrow our movies, fishing poles, guns, money, etc. So of course we don’t like sharing our wife with another. Our patriotic side, the side of us that thinks WITH reason, understands the greater purpose, but after awhile we want back what we lent out. For the female readers think of the last time your husband lent something to someone that he didn’t COMPLETELY trust, did he make a big deal about it, wondering when he was going to get it back and how it was going to be returned to him? Often time’s men will keep what they are thinking it from the lender only to share their frustration with their spouse or with others. Also men may be upset about something like this and not say anything only to share their relief or displeasure upon the return of their item.
So here we are, men who are manning the home front, with our most prized tool lent out to someone we know and love, but not sure how much I can trust them with that irreplaceable and valuable asset of ours. Only thing is we really don’t have anyone we can share our frustration with of our loaned out most prized tool.
When speaking of the struggles of the male MILspouse you must also consider what we are doing as parents. Men do not have the innate qualities the typical woman has regarding raising children. We have to work hard at being compassionate and willing to meet the needs of our children. We understand the basic needs, but tend to miss some of the deeper things women have a knack for touching on. Think of it this way, if a child falls on the ground a woman’s first response is that of comfort and compassion, asking “are you alright, are you ok?”. For the average spill a child takes, we guys will tend to say “you are alright, you are ok.” That is a very distinct difference I think we can all agree on. Think also of how the “typical” man reacts to a newborn. We are scared to touch what we sometimes call “it”. We might break “it”. But when you become a male MILspouse you have no choice but to do both roles. I know the same can be said for the ladies, but remember it is not in our nature to take on this role of the loving nurturing parent. Not for most of us anyway. Patience is also a virtue women naturally tend to have regarding raising children; we men work hard at being patient with our kids. Some men never learn this; most of us struggle with it even if we did learn it.
Another area that though the same for all is a bit different for us guys is sex. Yes, all of us MILspouse’s are “sexually deprived for America’s freedom”, as well as all of our soldiers are. But we guys who are left manning the home front are a bit more sexually wired than our female counterparts. I like to think both men and women suffer from some sort of PMS. A woman’s cycle comes around about every 30 days and lasts for 10 days. A man’s cycle comes about every 3 days, 10 times per month (for those a little slow with math, it equals out to the same amount of frustration). Now you can say our male soldiers should be suffering just the same. They are, to a point, but those of us left behind are left with countless reminders of our brides by the empty space in our beds as well as everything else that normal daily living causes us to think of them by seeing/doing. We are also left with FAR more time on our hands to “think” than our male soldiers are. They are kept busy, we have to keep busy. They say “an idle mind is the devils playground”, we can all understand that saying. I can only hope you can see how I can apply it to this topic.
The list can go on and on and on as to what makes this divorce rate so high for us male MILspouse’s. I will probably regret not mentioning something the second I post this article. I can only hope through my ramblings you may begin to understand where I am coming from. In the next portion of this series I will explain where we are going. Or at least hope we are going as I think I can begin to help solve the problem. As I explain where we are going I will touch base more on what the problem is, but I didn’t want to come across like I was pointing fingers. Because ultimately it’s like they say, “For every finger you point, there are 3 fingers pointing back at you”. Never is this truer than in a marriage when talking about divorce like we are. Don’t I know?