Does the Military Condone Cheating Spouses?
I recently read an opinion article about a woman’s experience in a military marriage and how it fell apart. The one thing that stuck with me more than anything else was the woman had insinuated that the military creates an environment of indifference toward infidelity and makes it very easy to cheat.
I take issue with this because I have been an Army spouse for quite a few years now and have never cheated on my husband and I believe that he has never cheated on me. I’m not saying there weren’t opportunities with the extended separation that comes with deployments, field exercises, long work hours, and schools in other states. In my opinion, saying that the military lifestyle leads to broken marriages is a lot like saying being a bartender will make you an alcoholic because you are working with booze.
The year long deployments to another hemisphere are very hard for any relationship. It is easy to see how either side might be tempted. When you are lonely and craving affection, it is a very slippery slope in to a marriage ending mistake. Both the soldiers and there spouses have plenty of opportunity to cheat in these circumstances. But is it the military that pushes them to the actual act?
When you get married, you make a promise to be faithful. Studies have shown that upwards of fifty percent of marriages are ending in divorce, and the rate is higher among military couples than their civilian counterparts. But not all of the military divorces can be boiled down to someone cheated. Military life will take its toll with the instability, the insecurity, the time apart, and for the spouse the difficulty in starting a lasting career with any one business. Then there are the personality conflicts that arise over time. There are a lot of military marriages that end because these are kids, fresh out of high school, who still have a lot of growing up to do. At nineteen years old most people don’t really know what they want out of life or who they really are yet. We are constantly growing and our personalities changing as are those of our spouses. People grow apart and want to see what else life has to offer.
This is where people need to start taking responsibility for their actions. It is arguably harder to make the decision to remain faithful than the decision to cheat. Harder, yes, but not an impossible decision to make. Women will often say that it is the long separation and feeling neglected that leads them astray. The military life leads to both loneliness and feeling neglected because of the weird hours, schools and deployments that their soldier has to attend.
Men, I think, cheat for a more basic reason: lust. It has always been a matter of popular opinion that men tend to be more physically motivated than emotionally to cheat. It seems like they can go just so long before the lack of physical contact can start to interfere with how they think and act. This isn’t an excuse for cheating, but it makes it more of physiological and psychological issue rather than they are just being mean to their wives.
The motive for either party is never exactly the same, and never very good. Yet people have the amazing ability to rationalize the need for something that they know is wrong and they can find ways of dealing with the guilt, remorse, and other emotions that come with getting it. It is the decision of the individual to cheat, not that of the military.
This is where I take issue with the original article that inspired this posting. The gist of what bothered me was that in the military there is a lot of indifference to cheating, almost saying it is neither encouraged nor discouraged, but simply tolerated as part of life. To this I respond with: UCMJ. The Uniform Code of Military Justice is a set of rules above and beyond civilian rules that service members must abide by. While most of the UCMJ has to do with military actions, treason, desertion, and the like, it also has clearly defined punishments for infidelity in marriage.
To a certain degree, the military will hold themselves to a different standard. They want to be seen as role models for others to look up to which includes creating strong family bonds to support the service member so he can place the mission first. Nearly all, (if not all) service members understand that there could be jail time for cheating on their spouse. (However, the UCMJ does not apply to spouses and so if they cheat they don’t have to worry about incarceration.)
I can think of no other organization that will actually impose a punishment as severe as a prison sentence if infidelity is proven. So I wonder how having a known, severe punishment creates indifference. No, fear of jail time has not stopped very many people from the act of cheating, but it is there.
What do you think causes more strain on a relationship?
In the end
People must take responsibility for their actions and not blame their job for infidelity. The unit does not decide who will have an affair, the individual does. I have known several happily married military couples whose relationship survived years of military induced heartache. Generally speaking, we have become a society where our problems can always be someone else’s fault.
Not all marriages are meant to last forever. The only thing I can say is that if you know your relationship will end, have the self-respect to not act on those impulses to cheat until after the divorce is final. It will be one less regret later on, and you can start your new single life with a clear conscience.
Please be sure to leave your thoughts below.