Thursday, December 2, 2010

My thoughts on marriage and the junior Marine

Young Marines should not be married, either before they enlist or during their initial enlistment.

The simple fact is, the Marine Corps is just not conducive to healthy marriages in junior Marines.

One of the (many) topics I see brought up across the Internet by prospective recruits is that of marriage. Questions usually go something like this: “Should I get married before I ship to boot camp?” or “My girlfriend and I have been together for years, and we really love each other. Should we get married while I’m on boot leave?”

If they only knew what they were getting themselves into...

1. Marriage in the Marine Corps is hard work!
This should go without saying, which is why I feel the need to say it. Marriage in the civilian world is hard, and it’s even more difficult in the Marine Corps. Most junior Marines work nights and weekends, something young spouses rarely understand. My first year or so in my job was spent working close to 100 hours per week. I spent so much time at work I kept a sleeping bag rolled up under my desk because most of the time I could only grab a few hours sleep. Working hours like that left almost no time for a spouse.

2. Marriage in the Marine Corps is expensive!
Basic pay charts are available across the Internet. It’s easy to find out how much a junior Marine makes, and it’s even easier to see it’s not really that much. Money will be tight even when you add in the couple of extras you get being married, and that will be exacerbated by a general lack of financial discipline (I call it “gotta-have-it-itis”). When you don’t have much coming in AND you have a lot going out - THAT’S when you’re really going to see some marital difficulties. If the spouse works, that can certainly help alleviate some of the financial burden; on the other hand, it will also mean the spouse is often working while the Marine is not, further complicating their relationship.

3. Marriage in the Marine Corps is no place for kids!
It seems to me young adults are having more children more often nowadays than in decades past, and it’s no different in the Marine Corps. If you take the difficulties I touched on above and add the further complication of raising a child (i.e. can lead to even more difficulties between spouses and can be a financial drain), I think you can begin to see why so many of us who have been around the Marine Corps for a while STRONGLY advocate a Marine stays single at the very least through their first four-year enlistment or until they’ve earned the rank of corporal.

So young Marines don’t have a lot of time, and the time they do have is unpredictable and marked with deployments. They don’t have a lot of money, and the money they do get they often spend frivolously.

I’ve been through all of this. I’m on my third marriage (the best one yet I may add). Over the years, I’ve seen my fellow Marines rack up divorces like UFC fighters rack up KO’s, so I know my experiences are not unique. All of us could have avoided that if we had gotten and heeded this advice: JUNIOR MARINES SHOULD NOT BE MARRIED!

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