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Boyfriend Serving Our Country, Should I Wait?

Updated on February 15, 2010

Dear Veronica,

I saw all your advice on marriage talk and wanted your perspective on my situation. My bf and I have been together for 2 years I am 23 and a preschool teacher set in my career, he is 24 and been in te military for 5 years. He re enlisted right before he met and we started a relationship. The first year he visited me every weekend then in 2009 he went to Virginia then out of the country where he is currently. I have no issue waiting the next 2 1/2 years for him to be done however I want to know that I not waiting for nothing. I want in a couple years to get married and have a family. I have always wanted that and am ready to prepare for my future. I am old fashioned and want marriage before children. Now though he is saying that he doesn't know what the future will be as far as marriage. He days he loves me but can't promise me marriage right now. Last year in Jan he gave me a promise ring before he left and I thought that was a step towards building a future and now I am confused. I have not seen him for 6 months and still won't see him for another 6 months and I can do that but now that he is not wanting to plan a future I am wondering if I am wasting my life waiting for something that will never happen. I love him more than anything and want him to be my husband and father to our children. I don't want anyone else but I also don't want to be exactly where I am now 10 years from now. What is your advice?


Dear Pam,

When a wife or husband waits for their spouse in the military to return home, there are long months of patience, prayers and worry. It's a hard life, many people couldn't do it. But at least they know where they stand with their partner.

Your point is a good one. As the girlfriend, you have all the difficulties of the military wife, plus the added nervousness of what he'll want when he returns home. Will the wait be worth it. Will he marry you, or will he want something different.

You're both very strong people.


The first thing that comes to my mind though when I read your email is the added pressure this puts on him. The man is serving his country. Every day, every decision he makes could mean life or death. I have no idea what branch of the service he's in, or where he is, but I have to think that in the state of the world today, where ever he is and whatever he's doing, it's riddled with pressure. He's got to be thinking clearly to do the job he's doing. And he's got to be thinking about the next assignment which could be even harder or riskier.

I have to think he's looking forward to coming home and enjoying a break from the intense responsibility. He's 24. He's just a baby in so many ways. I don't mean that in a condescending way. I mean that in a- he's young enough to be my son and I care about him - kind of way. He's at the age where he could be extremely irresponsible. He could be home, partying his ass off, going out every night with the guys, living like a bachelor without a care in the world. Part of his brain is only now just finished developing: the frontal lobes which discern long term consequence and commitment. Physiologically he's only just become a man. And instead of going into that kicking and screaming like many men do, he's doing one of the most noble things he can possibly be doing. He's more of a man than many who are twice his age.  His decision to serve shows his loyalty, his ability to commit, and to want to do something great with his life and great for the lives of others.

I don't think he needs the added pressure of having to take on more responsibility, and making a lifelong commitment, while he's under so much pressure with his job and handling so much responsibility with his every day work.

On The Other Hand

You have a great point as well. Waiting for 2 1/2 years as you're saying, not dating others, here in the world in your career and your life, and denying yourself the normal things any 23 year old young woman should be doing. Dating, getting to know different men, seeing what there is out there and what makes you happy Experiencing life, meeting people and going out. And you're willing to give that up at an extremely young age to make a lifelong commitment and wait years before it even really gets started. But why should you put yourself in this almost unnatural state without some kind of guarantee.

I know at your age I couldn't have done it. But I also know that my husband of 13 years now is the love of my life and I would have done anything for our relationship including waiting years for him had that been the case. It's quite the dilemma you've presented.

Breaking This Down

My best advice to all couples in all stages of all relationships, is to communicate honestly.

You of course need to let him know that you want to marry him, that you're waiting it out here and it's hard, but you're willing to do this because you love him that much and he's worth the wait. I have the feeling you have done more than just let him know.

Now think about what he's communicated to you. And don't forget actions speak louder than words. He gave you a promise ring. That says alot. He's said he can't promise you marriage "right now." Clearly, he's communicated that he wants to marry you, but not on the tight restricting time frame of just a couple years that you've put out there. He is looking forward to a break. As well he should be. It's deserved, and probably an anchor of sanity. He's also probably looking forward to a moment in time where he isn't told every minute of the day what to do. Being told the timeline where he has to decide to marry and commit the rest of his life falls under that category.

I don't want to upset you but I think it needs to be pointed out, he may be saying he doesn't know when he'll marry you because he's afraid of not returning to you. It may be his way of just dealing with his life one day at a time which may not only be the smart thing for his job, but also the most protective thing for the one he loves. He may need to distance himself a little bit in order to be able to get through his days.

My advice is, if you really want to get married in a couple years, move on. Stop adding pressure to this soldier,

But if you really love him and want to marry him regardless of your timeline, I think you can have him. I really do. But I think you need to give him the time and space he needs and deserves. He's already proved the kind of responsible man he is by serving his country. He's already communicated clearly that you're the one. He just needs to take things one major life-altering total-responsibility decision at a time.

Being that he is the man he is, I have the feeling that once he gets home and enjoys some freedom and irresponsibility for a little while, he'll be anxious to marry. It won't be as long as you're thinking. Once it's his decision again and he's free to make it without threat or pressure, I bet he'll make it quickly. Translation: If he's saying 6 years, it will be more like 3 or 4.Or, he'll most likely propose when he feels free to do so.

One thing you can do for your own peace of mind is talk to his family. Does he have a mother or sister or even a good friend here in the states that he talks to? Or the wife of a soldier he's serving with? You could ask them what they think. If you explain that you want to be patient and supportive, you don't want to be a nag or pressure him needlessly because that will surely ruin everything, but you'd like any insight into what he's indicated he sees in his future, I'm sure they'd let you know what he's said to them.

I honestly think based on what you've given me, the only thing you have to worry about is you. You said you want to get married in a couple years, and that you don't want to be where you are 10 years from now. Unless there's something you're not telling me, I think if you can relax and find a compromise between 2 and 10 years, something fair to both of you, that you'll marry in plenty of time to spend 50 or 60 years together as husband and wife with lots of children and grandchildren.

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