What you should know and how to go about dating in the military
Uniforms don’t camouflage feelings, but you shouldn’t have to hide them. If you want to be “the bomb,” you must be a smart one. Here is some expert advice on how to navigate the complexity of military relationships with precision.
- evaluate your sexual values and dating rules (and write them down)
- become a strong team member of the military sisterhood
- celebrate your femininity
- report sexual assault (if it happens to you or one of your battle sisters)
- date someone in your chain of command
- confuse legality with reality
- use a lover as a substitute for something else
- get discouraged
Do evaluate your sexual values and dating rules (and write them down)
This is a must for gals, but applies to guys too. Though it can be tempting to fall into bed with tall, dark and tattooed after the first date, it’s usually best to take it slow. Create a safety net by planning ahead, going out as a group, choosing a public place and setting your own curfew. Then, once you’ve established trust with a battle buddy (hopefully within a month of being assigned to your first unit), share your rules with him or her. Make a pact to keep each other accountable and support each other in sticking to your guns.
Do become a strong team member of the military sisterhood
This can be more difficult than it sounds because women service members don’t necessarily bond naturally just because of their gender. It’s a disparate group, small in number, geographically fragmented and fiercely competitive. But a successful network of battle sisters fosters professional development, safety and comradeship unmatched by even the best of men. If no sister network exists in your unit, build it. If it does, find your niche within it. Being a strong team member means leading by example, not taking control. The best way to garner support for when you need it is by being the first to step up and lend it first. Do so generously. It will not be forgotten.
Do celebrate your femininity
You may be shouting out cadence during a morning run, followed by a five-minute shower and shoveling down breakfast chow. You might spend all day in unflattering garb, your hair tied back tightly, your fingernails dirty and chipped after a training exercise. But at the end of the day, or whenever you have the chance, love being a woman. That could mean curling your hair or painting your nails; it could mean watching a light-hearted movie or calling your sister back home. Whatever it means to you, when the uniform comes off, allow yourself time and space to do what’s important to you. Maintaining your wholeness is healthy.
Do report sexual assault (if it happens to you or one of your battle sisters)
I know, it’s not that easy. You will lose friends, your career can be jeopardized and justice may never find the perpetrator. Do it anyway. It’s a matter of principle. Before you can hold your branch, your unit, your commander, your leadership in the highest esteem, you must honor yourself first. And the hope is always, that reporting a perpetrator will end his cycle of violence.
Do not date someone in your chain of command
If you cannot resist, request a transfer and take every necessary step to ensure that the relationship is legal. Honestly, it rarely works out so think carefully about whether or not it is worth risking either of your career advancement opportunities in order to be together. And don’t be surprised if after dating Mr. Wrong, where there is mutual blame, that the female’s perceived ability to lead, not the man’s, is downgraded. This societal prejudice is exacerbated in the military microcosm.
Do not confuse legality with reality
You met Mr. Right, and you took the right steps to make dating him legal, but your unit members are treating you like a leper. I’m sorry. It’s completely unfair, but it’s often the reality and one you can’t single-handedly change. If there is one thing your initial military training should have taught you, it was to develop thick skin. You’ll need it more often than when you’re in the front leaning rest. Don’t allow others’ opinions of you to misshapen your self-confidence. Stand tall.
Do not use a lover as a substitute for something else
Believe me, you won’t always know that’s what you’re doing, but sometimes the protection and validation of a man, not to mention the physical wow, can be just that. Combat the loneliness and stress by taking good care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. If you do, GI Joe is just the icing on the cake and that’s who he should be.
Do not get discouraged
Very few people find their best mate on the first date. Each one isn’t meant to progress from foxhole to the alter. View unsuccessful relationships as stepping stones in personal growth. Learn from each one something about yourself, your desires and needs and apply it to your next relationship. When you know it’s not right, don’t try to change him and definitely don’t attempt to change you. With Mr. Right, there should be relative ease in being together because you accept and celebrate who you each are and complement one another.
Ranks filled with young, buff and tough single guys might sound like a female recruit’s dream come true, but it can quickly become a nightmare if you don’t adhere to the standard operating dating procedures. You can’t lead from the rear, so lace up your boots and get ready for some no-nonsense training that puts you in command of your love life.