This post contains opinions from a Christian perspective. I hope you stay and read it regardless if you are a Christian or not, but fair warning! Happy reading!
Three years ago I sat in my car, hugely pregnant, driving back to North Carolina. I had gone home to visit my family over Thanksgiving. My husband was out in San Diego at recruiting school. I had one responsibility while he was gone – don’t go into labor. I was two weeks away from him coming home and not in labor. It was a good day.
The ride home I drove in silence and thought about recruiting duty life. We had found out a few weeks prior that we were being sent to Wyoming. Far away from home. Far away from comfort. Far away from my reality. I had much to look forward to. The birth of our first born, the return of my husband which would be our first real Christmas together, and the excitement of a new adventure.
The next month and a half flew right by. He returned, my midwife scheduled my induction (the kid wasn’t coming before we had to move), and the movers arrived. I was 10 days postpartum with a breast pump attached to me as my entire world was packed up.
Grandparents, aunties, and friends were devastated that we were moving this sweet little newborn thousands of miles away. And despite a few tears on the journey, we were ready to face it head on.
We arrived in Denver on February 1, 2013 to check-in. I sat in the RS for 7 hours. There were delays with check-in, because it IS the Marine Corps afterall. Thank goodness for the comatose newborn phase. Eventually we were free to make the second leg of our journey up to the place we would call home for the next 3 years – Wyoming.
Because I was hugely pregnant there were no trips made out to Wyoming to try and secure housing. Everything was done online and I severely underestimated what 1,100 sq feet looked like. We walked into our tiny, shoebox townhome. I wept for a good long while and three days later my husband left for work while I slipped deeper into my postpartum blues.
My idea of recruiting duty was shattered only two weeks into it. On Valentine’s Day I had made a lovely dinner and dessert for us. The baby was asleep. I sat and watched Downton Abbey while texting my husband every hour or two wondering if he was still alive. Crickets. Nothing. I received a text message from my husband’s SNCO’s wife wondering if I had heard from James. I hadn’t. Neither had they. Panic mode. About an hour later he finally calls me back to tell me he wasn’t dead, but was in his first appointment and turned off his phone. The walls came off people.
For the first time in a long time I went straight crazy wife on him. I can’t remember what exactly I said, but let’s just say if he died in a horrific accident on the way home I would have regretted every single word for the remainder of my life.
That was the moment … The moment I realized that my 9-5 idea of recruiting duty was far off from it’s reality.
We all have that moment, don’t we?
A few months later I wrote a blog post about the military and a wife emailed me to scold me for not capitalizing the “m” in Marine. She was older, her husband retiring recently, and she could have shed wisdom and light. Instead she reprimanded me and told me that her husband was on recruiting duty years ago and I’ll survive this. She could have reached out to a younger wife, she didn’t. Of course I emailed her back and gave her a few shakes, but in that moment I realized just how on my own I truly was. Not even some salty wife would come alongside of me and tell me, lovingly, that it will get better. That life will go on. That this is as temporary as it is necessary.
My husband and I refer to the Wyoming days as The Dark Months. By the grace of God, and a very amazing CO and SgtMaj, we were moved down to Colorado. They didn’t have to. They could have sent him back to the fleet. They could have let his career burn and dissipate. They didn’t. And on September 20, 2014 I teared up a little as we crossed over the Colorado state line. In the rearview mirror were some of the darkest months of my life and my marriage. In front of us lay hope.
I wish I could say it got easier. I wish I could say that he made so many contacts and appointments that he was writing 5 contracts a month and we were going on leave after leave. That we were rolling so deep in those contracts that he only worked 5 hours a day and our life became what I thought it was going to be all along. I WISH I could tell you that the remaining year and a half were the best of our lives and we love recruiting so much that we decided to give career recruiter a shot.
It never did.
And while we did consider a career of this for him, our hearts weren’t here. His heart isn’t here.
I remember sitting in a spouses meeting with the SgtMaj and CO and the SgtMaj saying, “Recruiting duty isn’t worth your marriage. The Marine Corps is not worth your marriage. If this is killing your marriage – leave. I want your Marine to come to me and tell me that it is ruining his marriage.” From that day on all I thought was, “This isn’t worth my marriage. This isn’t worth my marriage.”
Once or twice I stood in my bedroom packing a bag. Praying that God would give me the courage to stay. I put the clothes in. He sat on the bed and watched me, unsure what to say. He was like a hollow shell. Depleted. Unable to fight. All of his fight went into the cold calls, the hours spent traveling all over Wyoming and South Dakota trying to find that next contract, and the frequent butt-chewings from his command. He sat, he watched me pack, and he had tears in his eyes. He was as worn as I was. And in the midst of packing and praying I recalled it … “Recruiting isn’t worth your marriage.“
I stopped. I stayed.
I didn’t walk away from him that night. I laid down next to him and I joined in the fight.
This wasn’t taking my marriage. It wasn’t taking my best friend.
I wasn’t going to allow a temporary discomfort to steal my marriage.
My husband needed me to step up. He needed me to take care of everything he couldn’t. He needed me to be there. For years I needed him. He was the hero. He was the guy who stood on the wall and slayed the dragons.
We are often told that marriage is 50/50. We must each go halfway. I’ve found this to be untrue. That night my husband showed me that he needed me to go 90 as he barely struggled to get to 10. Did it mean he loved me less? No. He loved me more. Did it mean he was falling out of love with me? No. He just needed me to be the firm footing.
So for almost 2 years I’ve had to do a little bit more. I’ve had to give up a little bit more. I’ve had to learn to eat dinner before he comes home at 10PM. I’ve had to learn to juggle the kids and the cars and the house without his help. I’ve had to learn to leave him out of the equation for most things.
A few months ago I received the text we all want to receive … “We have orders.” I told my best friend and my sisters that I will probably bawl my eyes out eventually. I loaded the kids in the car and we headed to ChickFila. In the drive thru Matt Redman’s song “Never Once” came on. By the time I made it to the window to pay I was bawling my eyes out in complete and total euphoria.
….Standing on this mountaintop Looking just how far we’ve come Knowing that for every step You were with us…
….Scars and struggles on the way But with joy our hearts can say Yes, our hearts can say…
…Never once did we ever walk alone Never once did You leave us on our own You are faithful, God, You are faithful…
Tears mixing with snot and going into my mouth. The Chickfila girl is scared.
In 5 weeks movers show up to my house. We are on the other side. As he is leading his Marines and searching for those contracts in his final month, I’m smiling ear to ear. We did it.
To all of my younger wives who are new on this duty. To the ones who are struggling to stay. To you who are waiting for a text message letting you know that he is still alive. To you wondering if you’re even needed …
This isn’t worth your marriage.
This comes to an end. Commit to leaving hand in hand.
How poetic this journey. We started at only 3 feet above sea level in North Carolina. We finish in Colorado where the Rocky Mountains serve as the constant backdrop.
There are many things I am thankful for. There are many things I’ve learned on recruiting duty. Our marriage is stronger. My love for him is indescribable.
But … I’m so glad I stopped packing that bag.
I’m so glad I stayed.
The view is incredible from the mountaintop.