Somewhere Beyond the Sea: My Vocation to Military Marriage

Every marriage is different, and we often want to share about topics we either have limited or no experience with. So that’s when guest posts come in! We’re excited to share this post from Victoria. She writes beautifully about military marriage and how to keep your marriage a priority when you’re far apart from your spouse.

 

Swing-Dancing Navy Man

I’m such a sucker for the old crooners. Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Bing Crosby. I love sifting through records at the thrift store looking for members of the Rat Pack. The songs are so powerful and soulful, and the simple lyrics make for energetic sing-along sessions with my hairbrush as a microphone.

But I’m especially a sucker for dancing. I’m obsessed. Swing dancing in particular. Twisting and turning and flinging each other around – it’s a controlled manic chaos, and when you get it right, to just the right song, it’s magic.

My obsession is to the point that when I started dating a cadet at the military academy next door to my liberal arts college, I told him that if he wasn’t up for learning how to swing dance, we probably weren’t going to make it very far.

Needless to say, he was a quick study. That may be why, six years later, I’m married to a swing-dancing Navy man.

 

Somewhere Beyond the Sea

As I sat down to write this, I put my Bobby Darin vinyl on the record player. His “Beyond the Sea” is a favorite of mine; even before I married a Navy man I would study while it was playing through my ear buds.

Somewhere beyond the sea

Somewhere waitin’ for me

My lover stands on golden sands

And watches the ships that go sailin’

It’s beautiful to consider a man traveling around the world, and the lover sitting on the shore waiting for him to come home. The loyal wife standing on the sands, waiting and longing. And I’m here to tell you – there are things this song captures perfectly about a man who goes away “sailin’” (in our case it sounds less pleasant – deployment). I do wait for him to come home. My heart longs for him to be back with me. I stand firm in my loyalty to him, even when he’s away. But standing around doing nothing on golden sands? Let me tell you. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

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The Work of Marriage

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good beach day. A very human, very lazy part of me would love to just hang out on golden sands while my husband is underway. Watch the boats go sailing by…with a book in one hand and a margarita in the other…man, that sounds nice.

But my vocation to marriage doesn’t disappear when my husband’s gone. If anything, that’s when the work of the vocation gets really intense.

If you’ve found your way to this blog post, I probably don’t need to be the person who breaks the news to you that marriage is hard work. If you didn’t know, well, belated spoiler alert. Sorry. What I really want to emphasize is that, regardless of who you are or what your circumstances are, marriage is hard work. It’d be neat if it were all just swing dancing and beach days, but it’s not.

When we accept our vocation to marriage, we are accepting God’s call to sacrifice and commitment. The military life brings with it a unique set of sacrifices and challenges to that commitment (I’m looking at you, deployments and constant moving). It requires specific forms of intentionality and hard work. 

 

Tips for when Your Spouse is “Beyond the Sea”

Here are some things I’ve learned and picked up from our experience with the military. Some of these are from my direct experience, some of them are advice from others. We have been blessed in the sense that my husband has not yet done a long underway. He has done several periods of a few months away, along with many overnight and weekend long shifts, and that’s where my experience comes from. I also have lots of dear friends and family in the military who have shared their first-hand experience of deployments.

 

Your Vocation Comes First

This is something we say but is sometimes hard to live. The world tugs at us for our attention, but we need to let our vocation stand at the center. Since my husband is gone so often, I need to prioritize him in the time that he is available. 

This can mean dropping everything when he’s finally free for a phone call. It means canceling plans when he comes home a day early. For me specifically, it meant switching jobs so that my hours weren’t occupying that precious time when he was home from work.

 

Pray, Pray, Pray

Prayer is my strength!  When he’s gone, I lean on God so heavily through prayer. When I’m missing him or feeling lonely, I cry out for God’s grace. Deployments and underways are powerful reminders that the strength of my marriage comes from God and my relationship with Him through prayer.

Also, deployments are a reminder of how important prayer is to strengthen a vocation. Sometimes there’s absolutely nothing I can do for my spouse but to pray for him. I just want to love him, to serve him, to sacrifice for him, but there’s nothing I can do. In those moments, I pray.

 

Humility is Key

Marriage is tough. Deployments and underways are tough. I don’t always get it all right all of the time. My pride wants me to be able to be perfect all the time. Out of pride, I feel like I should be able to shoulder the burden of keeping things together at home while not falling apart because I miss him too much. But I just can’t keep that up all the time.

The Spirit teaches me in these moments the crucial importance of humility. I will fail, but that’s because I’m human (surprise surprise). I need God, and I long for my husband in my life. That’s how I was designed. In the moments when I’m less-than-perfect, I ask God for the gift of patience as I struggle through that time.

 

Plan Ahead

Intentionality and mindfulness is the key to a good period of separation. I’ve heard so many good ideas for this: writing letters to each other to be opened when you’re apart, leaving secret notes to be found, leaving gifts behind to be opened at certain dates, having plans for when things get overwhelming, creating a support network, praying together beforehand.

A wonderful spiritual mother of mine recommended that both spouses keep a loose schedule. For example: wake up, eat meals, and go to bed around a certain time. Say prayer at a specific time of day, like the Divine Mercy at three o’clock. If you do this, then even when you’re far apart, you can look at the clock and know what your spouse is doing. With prior planning, you can maintain connection and involvement in your spouse’s life even when you’re apart.

 

Be Patient When He/She Comes Back

This may be shocking, but sometimes the hardest part is when he comes back. Sure, when they’re first getting off the ship, there’s excitement and giddiness and joy. But when the initial happiness wears off, it can be really trying. When he was away, I established my own pace of life, living on my own. My own habits, my own routines, my own decisions.

However, with him back, I need to accommodate his life into my life all over again. Truly, it’s the bread and butter of marriage, learning how to love each other in those small, trying moments. It takes a little bit of time to adjust back to that mindset after he gets back from a few months away – and probably a whole lifetime to master.

 

“I know beyond a doubt”

As I’m re-listening to “Beyond the Sea,” I’m really struck by the following lines:

I know beyond a doubt

My heart will lead me there soon

We’ll meet beyond the shore

We’ll kiss just as before

I love the certainty expressed in these lines. Although deployments and underways are difficult, our marriage is rooted in faith and reliance on God’s grace. We know beyond a doubt that God calls us to live out this marriage. He gives us the grace to keep going in good times and bad. 

Our marriage is rooted in certainty and is the foundation of our joy. And that makes it all the sweeter when we “kiss just as before.”

 

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Victoria is a Navy wife who left her beloved Shenandoah Valley for wherever her husband’s chain of command might send him (currently beautiful, hot South Carolina!). Between the Navy and her newborn baby girl, this organized, plan-oriented girl is working to discover joy when the Holy Spirit throws her plans out the window. She’s an Ink Slinger for CatholicSistas, and also writes for the blog Housewife // Savagelife, which presents the eye-opening dialogue between herself and a prison inmate. You can read it here or on Facebook and Instagram: @housewifesavagelife.