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Military Couples: When Both Spouses Are Service Members

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Dual-military couples have the benefit of a shared experience, a basis of strength for some military marriages. But these couples also can face some unique challenges as well when it comes to careers. With the right communications strategies and other techniques to balance work and family, dual-military marriages can thrive.

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Know what to expect in a dual-military marriage

Entering your military marriage with realistic expectations can help prepare you for what’s to come. Here are a few situations a dual- military couple can anticipate:

  • SeparationsDeployments or remote assignments, and the separation that comes with them, are a fact of life for many military families. However, if you are a dual-military couple, you may spend even more time apart because you’ll be juggling two assignments.
  • Complicated career decisions – Passing up a career-enhancing assignment or school to stay together, or accepting a less desirable job so the spouse can advance, are decisions almost every dual-career couple has had to face.
  • Extra help from family and friends – You may need to ask for extra help from your family and friends, especially if you’re a dual-military couple with children. Your family members may need to be caregivers to your children for periods of time if both you and your spouse are deployed or on assignment. Remember that all branches require an official family care plan to ensure the well-being of any children in the event of dual separations.

Understand the role rank, service branch and career path play

There are a few different ways your specific military path can play a unique role in dual-military marriages:

  • Differences in rank – When two service members of different rank marry, they may not have the common experiences or understanding of each other’s career expectations as couples that are closer in rank.
  • Career management – When two service members belong to different career-management fields or communities, it may not always be easy to assign them to the same location. Different specialties – or two of the same specialty – might not be needed in the same location, which could limit the likelihood of dual couples being assigned to the same duty station.
  • Service branch – When two service members from different service branches marry, the likelihood of being in the same duty station becomes even more complicated, because it depends on coordination across branches and assignment managers. Branches may have differing priorities and resources, which require separating dual-military couples so each may serve their respective branches’ greater missions.

How to develop positive coaching strategies in military marriages

Here are a few skills, habits and attitudes you can adopt as a dual-military couple to help manage your lifestyle:

  • Focus on communication – This is essential for all healthy relationships, but communicating becomes even more important when your family is balancing two demanding careers. Make an effort to work around demanding duty schedules and reserve time together to talk openly and honestly about your professional and personal needs.
  • Honor each other’s goals – Take your partner’s career as seriously as you take your own. This may eventually mean making future career choices based on your spouse’s career goals, and them doing the same for your career. Focus on making joint decisions and constantly re-aligning priorities to ensure mutual goals are achieved for both partners.
  • Be flexible – Your relationship will need to be flexible to accommodate both careers. Expect the balance of career responsibilities and family responsibilities such as child care, preparing meals or paying bills to shift over time.
  • Remember the positives – You understand each other’s experiences and can relate to the other’s career triumphs and challenges in ways nonmilitary spouses can’t. Take time to recognize that your experience with teamwork and shared sacrifice make your relationship even stronger.

How to be proactive toward achieving your goals as a dual-military couple

Here are a few steps you and your spouse can take to improve your chances of achieving personal and professional goals:

  • Look for joint assignments – Each service branch has a program for assigning married couples to the same duty location or within 100 miles of each other. Be proactive in your search for joint assignments by looking into programs such as the Air Force Joint Spouse Program and the Married Army Couples Program.
  • Have realistic contingency plans – By planning for different scenarios, you’ll know you’re both on the same page and can handle whatever comes your way.
  • Reach out for support when you need it – There are resources available to help you manage the demands of being a dual-military couple. Seek out confidential, free, non-medical counseling services through Military OneSource or your installation’s military and family life counselors. You can also reach out to your installation chaplain for confidential guidance and counseling services.
  • MilSpouse Toolkit. From education on military culture to navigating resources, this track is beneficial for new spouses who may be experiencing a disconnect from their family and need to identify a support system in their new community. This track focuses resources to assist new and current military spouses with adjustment to the military lifestyle, developing coping skills and resources for resiliency.

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