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Fall 2013, Theresa Greene

Military wives in San Diego: balancing diapers, duty and diplomas

In any marriage, work, children, sometimes school and the looming fear of divorce makes it difficult to have a happy, lasting marriage. For military wives, there is the added factor of having to manage a family almost entirely on their own.

Instead of enjoying a typical honeymoon stage, Alicia and Travis Treman will only see each other a few times during his two year deployment. Photo courtesy of Alicia Treman.

Instead of enjoying a typical honeymoon stage, Alicia and Travis Treman will only see each other a few times during his two year deployment.
Photo courtesy of Alicia Treman.

For most newly married couples, the honeymoon stage of marriage is the easiest part of entering a life-long union that will most likely hit bumps further down the road.

For many military wives in San Diego, however, the days meant to be spent with their new husbands are instead spent alone and waiting for their return.

“It was hard in the beginning and we had to learn to communicate better via emails, texts and the occasional FaceTime,” said Alicia Treman, the newly married wife of Navy Chief Travis Treman. “And now it’s still hard, but feels routine,”

Alicia’s husband was stationed in Japan in May 2013 and has since been home for a week this past August when the two were married and took a mini honeymoon. Travis is currently on deployment until May 2015. During the next two years, his wife will see him for only a few weeks at a time around holiday seasons.

Despite the distance and the atypical nature of their new marriage, Alicia remains optimistic about her husband’s return.

“Absolutely I wish we could have the normal ‘honeymoon stage’ of being married,” Alicia said. “Not having it makes me miss him that much more, but we can do it all over again and have the real honeymoon and the real honeymoon stage when he comes home for good.”

In another category of military marriages, there are the wives that are not only waiting for their husbands to return, but also anticipating deployments of their own.
Jacey Eckhart, the director of spouse and family programs for the online military and veteran organization, Military.com, writes books and conducts military marriage support classes for young couples.

She said that according to a study done in 2013 by sociologists Sebastian and Brighita Negrusa and James Hosek, they found that every month of deployment that a couple spends apart in the first five years of marriage increases the likelihood of divorce.

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The study also found that as these couples get older and become more skilled at deployment, their risk of divorce decreases.

When asked what advice she gives to newly married couples dealing with deployment, she said, “Go spend some time at your commissary or exchange and look at all the couples around you. These people have done multiple deployments. They are not smarter than you. They are not stronger than you. They have just figured out what works for them as a couple.”

Divorce rates among military couples and coping with deployment

Divorce rates are complicated to measure, but the typical measurement for the national civilian rate is the number of divorces in a given year per 1,000 people. According to that measurement and the National Center for Health Statistics, an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national divorce rate was 3.4 in 2009.

Because civilian and military divorce rates are calculated differently, there is no way to accurately compare the two. The civilian rate is given in terms of actual divorces per population in a given year and the military rate is given in the percentage of divorces per military marriages in a given year.

However, the Pentagon released its annual military divorce rate statistics this year and found that in 2012, the divorce rate among military couples was 3.5 percent.

Eckhart said that although the numbers are confusing, the military divorce rate is about the same as the civilian divorce rate.

“I think the rates are about the same for male service members married to a civilian female as they are in the civilian population because the same things that affect the probability of divorce matter to all Americans,” Eckhart said.

She went on to list factors such as getting married too young and how the level of education a couple achieves can affect the probability of divorce.

Lisa Kieffer, a single mom of two children in San Diego, fell victim to those factors when her marriage of nearly four years to her Navy sailor husband ended.

Kieffer now works nights as a bartender at a local bar and spends her days with her 1-year-old son while her daughter is at school. Although the cost of hiring babysitters to watch her kids while she works does take a toll on her, she says she’s grateful to be able to spend days with her kids.

VIDEO: Lisa Kieffer and her Navy sailor husband married when they were only 21 years old. She talks about her divorce and life as a single mom in San Diego.

While he’s on deployment, she’s getting a degree

The notion of enrolling in a full load of college courses while maintaining a social life and a job is a daunting idea for most college students. Adding a military marriage and kids into the equation seems nearly unimaginable.

Rachel Griffith has 11 years of experience as a military wife and credits her strong marriage to a delicate balance that she has perfected in her life.Photo courtesy of Rachel Griffith.

Rachel Griffith has 11 years of experience as a military wife and credits her strong marriage to a delicate balance that she has perfected in her life.
Photo courtesy of Rachel Griffith.

Rachel Griffith does just that. Griffith is a mother of three children under the age of 7, a full time student at San Diego State University, owner of her own company, STYLED by Rachel Griffith, and wife to Antoine, a class E-6 Staff Sergeant in the Marines.

Not only has the couple been married for 11 years, but they’ve made it through multiple deployments and are now facing their move to Twenty Nine Palms this coming January.

After six years of balancing kids and her marriage and four years of adding school to the mix, Rachel said she’s found a way of balancing her hectic life.

“The best way I have found to keep some structure and sanity is to keep a schedule,” said Rachel. “It’s extremely easy to get overstressed and when I do, everything just snowballs and I feel like I lose control.”

“When I’m at school, I focus on school and when I’m home, I focus on home, the kids and the hubby when he’s around. It’s the only way to make things go smoothly.”

Rachel completes her undergraduate degree in liberal studies this December and still plans on applying to graduate school despite her upcoming move.

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