Military Connection: Fighting to Stay Married


By Debbie Gregory.

Separations. Injuries. Mental health issues. All are added weights to the normal strains of marriage.

For women in the military, the reality is that their marriages are more likely to end in divorce as those of their male comrades. And military women get divorced at higher rates than their peers outside the military, while military men divorce at lower rates than their civilian peers.

About 220,000 women have served in Afghanistan and Iraq in a variety of roles. Why military women are more burdened by divorce is unclear, although societal pressure is likely a factor. One speculation is that while more traditional men join the military, women who are attracted to military life are less conventional — and perhaps less willing to stay in a bad marriage.

About half of all married women in the military are married to a fellow service member, compared with less than 10% of military men. While it can be comforting to be married to someone who understands military life, there are challenges to balancing two military careers.

When divorce does happen, it only adds to the stress faced by an already stressed-out population.

The good news is that these statistics seem to be on the decline. Each branch of the military services offers a variety of programs focused on strengthening or enriching marriage.

The Army offers a program called “Strong Bonds,” a unit-based, chaplain-led program which assists commanders in building individual resiliency by strengthening the Army Family. The core mission of the Strong Bonds program is to increase individual Soldier and Family member readiness through relationship education and skills training.

The Navy and Marine Corps use a program called CREDO, also known as Chaplains Religious Enrichment Program, to help sailors and marines adjust to life in the military. The program began almost four decades ago, near the close of the Vietnam War, and covers all phases of family life in the military. Retreats can focus on marriage enrichment for couples but also can help their children as well. Personal growth, spirituality and teen-age issues are also topics included in CREDO.

All Air Force chaplains are trained in marriage counseling to help improve a couple’s communication skills and have historically offered counseling as an option. The agency’s latest initiative, Marriage Care, consists of a team of chaplains who are trained as family therapists and have developed a weekend retreat for Air Force couples. In addition, counseling can be provided through a program called Family Readiness Flight, which offers marriage counseling from a secular perspective. And marriage counseling is also offered through the Air Force’s Mental Health Service.

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Military Connection: Fighting to Stay Married: By Debbie Gregory