Being in a relationship with someone in the military is one of the hardest yet most rewarding things I have ever done. Yes, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome, and yes, there are a lot of times where I’m alone, but I’ve come to learn so much from being in this kind of relationship.

Armed Forces Day, May 21, 2016, gives me the chance to reflect on that. I have a front-row seat to all the hardships these men and women go through, so I have come to appreciate it a lot more. Even though I am not directly involved, the military has even taught me a thing or two about life and how to make a long-distance relationship work with someone in the armed forces.

Being a Navy girlfriend taught me to be patient.

Well, at least a little more patient. Anyone will tell you I am not the most patient person. At all. But the Navy has, in a way, forced me to learn a little more patience. There is a lot of waiting: waiting to see what state he is going to be in next, waiting to see if he can come home for a certain event, waiting for him to be done with school or watch, waiting for the mail, waiting for his next graduation or homecoming. I am always waiting for something.

At first, I was really impatient. I’d get anxiety over the mail. I’d freak out when my boyfriend didn’t know things about the future right when I wanted to know. But eventually, I learned that things fall into place. Everything works out. But for my own sake and sanity, I need to be patient. The United States military is a huge unit, and it takes time for things to happen. Worrying or getting mad because it wasn’t happening according to my schedule was not going to make things speed up. Patience really is a virtue.

Being a Navy girlfriend taught me how to love and appreciate the little things.

Because things in the military don’t happen overnight, you learn to appreciate the little things. All the waiting finally paid off when I got a letter in the mail or the times when his leave was approved. A simple letter or text would make my day. It’s the little things.

Going to see a movie or going out to eat with your boyfriend suddenly means the absolute world when it only happens every five months—if you’re lucky. The airport suddenly becomes one of the best places in the world. Seeing them smile or hearing them laugh is suddenly the most beautiful sound. And I feel like life should always be like that for everyone, military relationship or not. Being a Navy girlfriend taught me that life is so much more lovely when the little things are appreciated.

Being a Navy girlfriend taught me that home is who you love.

I used to think home was an address. I quickly learned I was wrong. Home is a person. It’s your mom, your brother, your girlfriend or your dad. Because my boyfriend is still going through school for his job in the Navy, he stays on base. This means that when I come to visit, we have to stay at a hotel. But it is weird because suddenly that hotel feels like home. That is where I can be with him. It does not matter the hotel or how nice it is as long as he will be there with me. That’s home for me.

Being a Navy girlfriend taught me how to be emotionally strong.

Military relationships are emotional roller coasters. The homecomings, the goodbyes, the accomplishments, the lonely nights and the sudden change of plans are all main staples to a military relationship. This creates a wide range of emotions that can change within a minute. So, naturally, one tries to learn to deal with it. A tolerance is built, and learning how to handle and deal with emotion becomes a necessity not only for you but also for the relationship and your family.

I’ve learned a lot of things from being a Navy girlfriend, and I am sure I have much more to learn. But this Armed Forces Day, I challenge you to thank a serviceman or servicewoman and reflect on what you have taken away from knowing them.

Written by Breanne Somach
Breanne has been writing and snapping photos ever since she can remember. She is studying at Columbia College in Chicago to be a journalist and photographer. Her boyfriend, Taylor, is in the U.S. Navy. She writes about their long-distance relationship on her website, hisfirstmate.com.

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