Dear Beautiful You:
I call you beautiful, sight unseen, because I know that you are. Not because of how you look, but because you are committing your life to a military man. And that, my dear friend, is no easy thing. While you may not have a full scope of understanding of all that will entail, you know enough to know it’s going to be hard. But you believe your relationship is worth it.
I’m coming up on my eighth anniversary to my military man this week. The first five years of our marriage were spent as a military couple. During that time, we went through two year-long deployments to Afghanistan and two cross country Army moves.
Along with us, I’ve dragged a big box containing my preserved wedding gown. I didn’t know what I would do with it – or when. I suppose there’s a part of me that was hoping I would have a daughter to wear it. I would impart to her all of my wisdom about marriage and probably cry as she walked down the aisle. But God saw fit to bless us with boys instead.
I thought about trying to sell it. But then I Googled “wedding dress donations” and happened upon the website Brides Across America. And that’s when I knew what I would do with my gown. I would give it to you.
I don’t know if you will ever receive this letter. But I hope that you do. If not, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to find this post and read it here on my blog.
I’m only eight years ahead of you on the marriage timeline. But, eight years is a lot. Perhaps I can offer you some advice as you approach your big day.
Marrying a military man is not for the faint of heart. It’s not nearly as romantic as the books and movies make it out to be. Don’t get me wrong, there’s just something about the sight of that man in uniform that will make your heart race. And there’s no thrill like your first hug and kiss after nine months apart from him – exploring him all over for the first time, new and exciting and yet so familiar and like coming home.
But war is hell and you both will live it. It doesn’t matter if he’s in for 4 years, 6, or 20 – the things you go through will stay with you forever.
Deployments suck. Plain and simple, they just do.
You’ll miss him so much it physically hurts. You’ll walk around sleep deprived for a year because you’ll stay up late or wake up early to talk to him online.
You will fight over the internet and girl, let me tell you, that’s never a good idea. But it’s a necessary evil. Through those fights, you will learn to communicate better, problem solve, and work together.
You will fight over the internet and get cut off in the middle – and have to go days or weeks without making up. You’ll be scared to death that forever will end like that. Those are the moments when you will remember what’s most important.
You will learn to lean hard on your military sisters. You will make friends with them simply because they are going through it with you and they are the only ones who get it.
You both will know loss and grief and pain. You will see friends left behind, fellow service members lost to war, and the loss of time together that you will never ever get back.
If you have children, they will carry weights too heavy for them to bear. And you will be strong for them and for him – sometimes you will be the strongest one of them all.
He will come home and want to change the way you’ve been running things, and that’s going to frustrate the heck out of you. Sometimes, you are going to wish he would leave you alone because it was easier doing things on your own.
It’s going to be so hard that you will watch the marriages of your friends fall apart and you will understand why.
I hope that when you want to give up on your marriage – and you will – that you don’t. Reach out to someone who can help you through.
That’s going to mean counseling and therapy for you both. The behavioral health offices exist on your military installation for good reason. They are free and you would be crazy NOT to utilize those resources. It takes a village to keep a military couple together – okay, maybe not a village, but a good marriage counselor at the very least.
Know about your resources. Follow military spouse bloggers who have made their marriages work. Read helpful books.
Somewhere down the road you will look at him and realize that he’s not the man you married. And you won’t be the woman he married either. This life will change you. Only you can decide if it will change you for the better or worse – if you will stay together through the better and the worse.
I just went down to my basement and pulled my wedding gown out of its preservation box for the first time in almost eight years. It is pristine…untouched, a stark contrast to my military marriage that knew its heartaches.
It was not the most expensive gown, really. But its value is unsurpassed in my eyes. It signifies the love I had for him and the commitment I made.
My love for him was naive and untested, but still pure and true in its naivety.
Today, my mother-in-law picked up our 5 year old and took him for the evening. We drove around house hunting – the next big step for our family. Tomorrow, we will try to sleep in – as much as we can with a 6 month old in the house. We will pick up eight custom-designed cupcakes bearing our initials, anniversary date, hearts, and roses. We will go to marriage counseling.
We won’t be going away for a night or spending a lot of money on each other, but we will celebrate eight years of love no longer untested. We will celebrate the times we were weak and the times we were strong. We will celebrate the better and the worse and all the times in between that God got us through. We will celebrate us.
I looked at him today in the eyes – this man who no longer is the man I married. The depth of love I have for him, and him for me, blew me away all over again.
I sincerely hope and pray that in eight years, this will be you. Perhaps battle-worn, weary, and scarred – but still so in love and so glad that eight years ago you donned a white dress and walked down the aisle, naive but committed to loving this military man.
I hope that you, too, can say, “It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it.”
If you do receive this letter and you are able to find me, I hope that you will. I will always be here for you. To celebrate your love and to support you through the hard times.
Your wedding day military sister,