How Do Dual Military Marriages Work?: Benefits and Challenges

Feb 13, 2024 | marriage, Military Wedding

Picture yourself on base, where you carry out your military responsibilities day in and day out. You spend your days working, living, eating, and sleeping alongside the same individuals repeatedly. It’s hardly surprising that amidst this environment, connections form, leading to love and, eventually, marriage! Dual military marriages, where both partners serve in the armed forces and get married, present a unique set of both benefits and challenges. In this article, we discuss all things dual military marriage, from the pros and cons to tips for making one successful! Let’s dive in. 

 

What is a Dual Military Marriage?

Dual military marriages involve two individuals who are both actively serving in the military. This arrangement can occur in any branch of the armed forces and may involve varying ranks and career paths. These marriages come with their fair share of pros and cons and often result in a deep understanding of each other’s professional commitments.

 

Benefits of Dual Military Marriages 

Let’s start with the good things that can come from getting married to a fellow service member. 

Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) 

Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) serves to mitigate housing expenses for military personnel when government housing isn’t available. The amount of BAH you receive is determined by factors such as your location, pay grade, and whether you have dependents. BAH rates are established by assessing rental property costs in each geographical area. Consequently, BAH rates in areas with high living costs will be substantially higher than those in low-cost regions. 

Now, what does this have to do with dual-military couples? Well, according to Military.com, in dual-military marriages, when living in civilian housing together, both service members may receive their individual BAH rate. If they have dependents between them (a.k.a. a child), the service members may be able to decide which spouse will receive the with-dependent rate and which will receive the individual rate.

VA Loan Benefits

Dual-military couples possess flexibility when seeking VA mortgages. If they choose to apply jointly, each can utilize half of their loan entitlement. Alternatively, if one spouse meets the mortgage qualifications independently, then just the one partner can utilize their VA loan entitlement and allow the other partner to use their VA mortgage at a later date, provided they meet the financial criteria.

Joint-Spouse Assignments

According to Military OneSouce, when a dual-military couple receives a new permanent change of station orders, they may be able to request a joint-spouse assignment. These assignments enable the couple to relocate together to the new base. Each branch of the military has a program that facilitates the relocation of military spouses together or to different bases within 100 miles of each other. Although spouses in different branches of the military may not qualify for these programs, they may still be able to request reassignment to join their spouses.

Food Support: Basic Allowance for Subsistence

The Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) assists in alleviating grocery costs for service members. Nonetheless, it does not extend to covering meal expenses for family members. Both single and married service members are entitled to the same BAS rate. However, dual-military couples have the opportunity to optimize this benefit. Thus, in dual-military marriages, both partners can receive this allowance, essentially doubling its impact.

 

Understanding the Challenges of Dual Military Marriages

We talked about the benefits of being a dual-military couple, and now let’s talk about some of the downsides to this type of relationship. 

Being apart

According to the new America’s Mental Health Loneliness Survey, about 77% of military couples felt lonely. About half of the respondents said that the reason was not having friends and family nearby, and the other half said that their partner was gone on deployment or other military obligations. Let’s face it, deployments or remote assignments often mean separations, a reality encountered by nearly all military families. However, for dual-military couples, the duration of time spent apart may be further extended due to managing two separate assignments simultaneously. This may mean double the loneliness and double the struggle. 

Challenges in career decisions 

Navigating complex career decisions is another common issue among dual-military couples. Deciding to forgo certain opportunities or accepting less desirable job assignments to stay together are dilemmas that many dual-career couples inevitably confront. For instance, if one partner is pursuing a high-ranking position in military intelligence, it may require the other partner to relocate with them and thereby miss out on opportunities in their position, say, as a nurse.  

Balancing family life

One common problem for dual military couples is balancing the demands of their careers with family responsibilities. Both partners may have demanding schedules, frequent deployments, and unpredictable work hours, making it challenging to prioritize time for each other and children. Balancing family life can be tough, especially when exhausted from a hard day of military work. 

Frequent Relocations

Military life often entails frequent relocations due to assignments and deployments. Dual-military couples may find themselves moving frequently, which can disrupt their careers, social networks, and family life. Adjusting to new environments and establishing a sense of stability can be a significant challenge.

Rank challenges

Differences in rank can sometimes pose issues for married service members. When spouses hold different ranks, they may lack shared experiences or a mutual understanding of each other’s career aspirations compared to couples with similar ranks.

For example, Donna and David are a dual-military couple. Donna is a brand new servicemember, whereas David has been in the military for over 10 years and has a higher rank. Donna and David are in two completely different areas of their career, and it may be hard for David to relate and remember what it was like just 10 years prior. Plus, they may have completely different career trajectories (Donna is going the special forces route, and David is on the military intelligence). They may have a hard time relating and even meshing their lives together.

Being in different branches 

Another issue that may exist for dual-military marriages is being in different branches of the military. Being in a different branch can make joint assignments difficult to achieve, and it can also pose significant challenges due to more frequent relocations or contradicting protocols.

 

Strategies for Successful Dual Military Marriages

So, what can you do to ensure your dual-military marriage stays intact throughout all of the trials and tribulations of military life? From effective communication to flexibility, there are plenty of ways to support your unique marriage.

But first–we scoured Reddit to find stories of real dual-military marriages, so you didn’t have to. Here is one dual-military spouse’s advice on overcoming the challenges on Reddit. GMEbankrupt explained:

“Dual-military for ten years, married for 20+ years.

It may not work for others but this is what worked for us:

  1. Separate checking. Money gets in the way of a lot of things. Having separate accounts seemed to help a lot. I allot a percentage of my income to my spouse and don’t track any of her expenses.
  2. Spouse having understanding of Army [stuff] and knowing that there’s only so much we can do at times
  3. Spouse and kids being highly adaptable to frequent moves, leaving friends, etc
  4. Spouse being okay putting life/career on hold to do most of the household duties which includes most of the childcare, help with homework, etc.
  5. Military member giving dignity and respect at all times and helping out with tasks even if you are [very] tired after a full days work. You, the military member have to dig deep also.
  6. Maintenance. Be aware of when the kids and spouse need you. Don’t just go in your man cave and veg out. Ask how the day went. Do some cooking. Help with homework. Take the kids to appointments.
  7. Above all, don’t put the Army before your family. The Army will tell you mission first. Yeah, we’ll guess what. If you get injured, discharged, ETS, retire, etc the Army will drop you like a bad habit and all you are left with is cool-guy stories, politicians that don’t give a [bleep] about you, and civilians who don’t give a [bleep] about any war stories. All you will have left is family. If you didn’t maintain that relationship while you were in, well good luck having something healthy when the Army no longer needs you.

TLDR; It isn’t easy, but you have to prioritize what is important to you, be respectful, be helpful, and don’t put the mission before what you love and loves you. Also, don’t [mess] around on your spouse but that should go without saying.”

Effective Communication

Communication is key in any relationship, but it becomes even more critical in dual-military marriages. Open and honest communication about expectations, family goals, career goals, and challenges can help couples navigate the complexities of military life. Regular check-ins, active listening, and expressing appreciation for each other’s sacrifices are essential components of effective communication.

Setting Mutual Goals

Dual military couples can benefit from setting mutual goals that align with their individual aspirations and the needs of their relationship. Whether it’s career advancement, financial planning, or personal development, having shared objectives can foster unity and teamwork. 

For example, let’s say Donna and David and a dual-military married couple who are hoping to have a long, happy life together. One strategy they employ to work on their relationship is setting mutual goals. Every year, they set a new financial goal together and a lifestyle goal. This year, they agreed that their mutual financial goal would be to save $20,000. Their mutual lifestyle goal would be to run a collective 500 miles for the year. This covers both personal development and mutual financial development, and they feel closer than ever while working towards these goals and eventually accomplishing them.  

Flexibility and Adaptability

Flexibility is a hallmark of military life, and dual-military couples must learn to adapt to unexpected changes and challenges. Being flexible in roles, responsibilities, and decision-making can help couples navigate transitions more smoothly. Military life is ever-changing, and when BOTH spouses are part of that life, embracing change as an opportunity for growth and resilience is more important than ever. 

Prioritizing Quality Time Together

Guess what Americans find to be the most important thing in life? Quality time with family (Pew Research Center). Amidst busy schedules and deployments, it’s essential for dual-military couples to prioritize quality time together. Carving out moments for activities like date nights, family dinners, walks, and meaningful conversations can nurture intimacy and connection. Making the most of the time spent together, however limited, can help sustain the bond between partners during military life.

Sharing Responsibilities

According to Psychology Today, division of labor is one of the top reasons couples argue. In dual-military marriages, sharing responsibilities and household duties is crucial for maintaining balance and harmony. Both partners should contribute to household chores, childcare, and decision-making, ensuring that neither feels overwhelmed or burdened. Collaborative problem-solving and mutual support can strengthen the partnership and foster a sense of equality.

Resolving Conflicts Constructively

Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, but how it’s managed can make a significant difference. Dual-military couples should strive to resolve conflicts constructively, using active listening, empathy, and compromise. Addressing issues promptly and respectfully can prevent resentment from building and promote understanding and growth within the relationship.

The Bottom Line

Dual military marriages have their fair share of advantages and disadvantages. For example, having potentially double the BAS and BAH and having joint assignments are major upsides to a dual-military marriage. However, extra-long separations and differing career paths are some of the downsides. These unique relationships require patience, understanding, and resilience. By prioritizing effective communication, setting mutual goals, and leveraging support systems, couples can navigate the complexities of military life and build a strong and lasting partnership.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Dual-Military Marriages

Let’s talk about some of your lingering questions about dual-military marriages. 

Q: Can dual military couples serve together in the same unit?

A: While it’s possible for dual-military couples to serve together, assignments are ultimately determined by the branch’s protocols, the servicemember’s rank and duties, and other factors. 

 

Q: How do dual military couples handle childcare during deployments?

A: Dual-military couples may rely on a combination of military childcare services, family support, and community resources to arrange childcare during deployments.

 

Q: What are some common misconceptions about dual-military marriages?

A: One common misconception is that dual-military marriages are inherently unstable or unsustainable. In reality, it is very possible to successfully navigate the challenges of military life and thrive in their relationships.

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