Should we marry before or after his deployment?

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Should we marry before or after his deployment?

Sep 18, 2006 |Candice Watters
Question

I have been dating an amazing Christian man for about 10 months now. We both just graduated from college — he did ROTC and is now in the military and I have decided to continue in grad school. From the beginning, we have both been intentional about this relationship, fully hoping that marriage would be the end result. That is not to say that we have lived on cloud nine — I would like to think that we have been realistic about the possibility of marriage — and at the same time have made it a point to actively pursue marriage.

Things have been wonderful — and in fact, things are still wonderful, but the tides seem to be changing quickly. Lately I have seriously wondered exactly what God is trying to tell me through our circumstances. My boyfriend was stationed about five hours from where I am attending school (I have four years of school and then a two year commitment in a residency program) and he does not have the option of moving. The military spouse stereotype does not mesh well with my future career, leaving me feeling torn between a career I feel is "God's call" and the expectations of a person I will hopefully someday marry. Logistics are not perfect, and won't be, in fact, for the next six years.

Obviously, it is ridiculous to wait six years for marriage (and I don't think either of us could physically hold out that long); but I don't know if being married and separated by five hours' distance is better than waiting until timing is slightly better. We both moved thousands of miles away from our families and are finding ourselves without available adult mentors we know and trust to guide us along in our relationship. My parents are not supportive of my marriage to him before I am finished with my four years of school; and my mom is especially skeptical because of her history with divorce (this seems to be a big influence on me).

His parents are more than supportive of us marrying sooner than later (this is definitely a big influence on him ... in the opposite direction). His deployment to the Middle East is likely coming soon. He would be away for a year, which could change the timeline of engagement to a date that is sooner than I feel I am ready for or is later than ideal after his return.

In previous Boundless articles, it has been clearly stated that "logistics" should not get in the way of marriage because timing will never be perfect. My situation seems to be a testament to that statement ... but where do I draw the line between the reality of our situation (distance, support, career, balance) and the dream we have of being married? How do I deal with the lack of parental support? And what do I do while I am waiting for answers from God?

Answer

Wow. You've laid out quite a scenario. For starters, I think you're missing some obvious answers you already do have. This young man was ROTC when you started dating. To say you've been intentional from the start — with marriage as the goal — but that now you're worried about not fitting the stereotype of military wife, sounds like you're having a change of heart. Is it his imminent deployment that has you worried? If so, I certainly understand. But realize he hasn't changed anything — a military career was always part of the picture. If anyone's changed, it's you. What does that say about your character? That's something both you and he should be weighing heavily.

Also, I'm not sure what you mean by military wife stereotype. Living in a town with three bases and the Air Force Academy, I've met lots of military wives. And they are not all the same. In fact, the only discernable trait common among them is that they all have to follow their husbands' career moves. Moving frequently is part of being active duty.

Is that what you mean by the military-wife-type? Is moving a lot distasteful to you?

Or do you mean a supportive wife who puts her husband's career above her own? If that's the case, then your bigger challenge is to reassess your idea of what it means to be in a Christian marriage. Because Scripturally, preferring your husband's career before your own applies to more than just military couples.

When God made Eve, He did so in order to meet Adam's need for a helper. Women were designed to help. And men were designed to need help. When we follow the biblical model — our created design — we fit together in a complementary way.

You need to be able to fit in with him.

You say you're both in new cities "without available adult mentors we know and trust to guide us along in our relationship." Who was mentoring you before you moved? You could still involve them in the relationship via phone calls and e-mail. Some of the best input I received when Steve and I were dating came through e-mail discussions with my in-town mentor. It was fast and easy to get her thoughts on a situation this way, rather than waiting to schedule a meeting time that worked for our crazy schedules.

Distance is no reason to forgo wise counsel. Also, mentors can be found where you are. If you're needing mentors because your old ones are no longer available, or you didn't have any to begin with, the best place to look is in a biblical church. And getting plugged into solid local churches is critical for both of you at this stage of your lives. You both need the teaching, support and opportunities to serve that a Bible-believing church provides.

Ultimately, the question you need to ask yourself is, "Am I willing and ready to fit in with him; with his plan for his life?" Ideally you would have asked and answered this at the start of your courtship; but better late than never. And the longer you put it off, the more damage you do to your timeline and his.

How do you know if you're ready?

First, don't let your mom's past mistakes and painful experiences unduly influence your decisions. Where she speaks from biblical wisdom, you can receive her input. But where she doesn't, you must respectfully, diplomatically reject it. And the only way to know which is which is to be reading the Bible, studying God's revealed wisdom daily, and praying for discernment.

In the end, your decision comes down to your priorities. Either it's marriage to this man or grad school and the career that will follow. If you decide marriage, then you have to at least be willing to lay down your career aspirations if they conflict with his (and there's also the issue of any babies that might come along and how they would fit, or not fit, with the demands placed on someone in your field).

I realize that our culture sees nothing out of the ordinary when a couple weighs equally his and her career options with the goal being to balance both. But in a biblical marriage, God's design for a man to take responsibility for headship and provision makes his career primary. That doesn't mean she shouldn't get an education or even pursue a career track, but her career will, at some point, require flexibility that his doesn't.

If you decide your degree and career are the priority, then in fairness to this young man, I think you should end the relationship. It's not fair to him to say, "Wait six years." Nor, as you've already admitted, is it prudent.

But keep in mind if you walk away, another opportunity like this may not come along. There are no guarantees. As one Boundless reader recently wrote,

I've spent most of my 28 years of life setting and attaining goals, seemingly for the purpose of filling the black hole that was my ego. Now I find that the more I submit to the Lord, the greater are my desires for a husband and family.... I would gladly trade my six-figure salary and law degree for a home, a husband and children. I wonder if I've missed my chance.

I reminisce about the one significant relationship in my past. Back then, well-meaning friends and family told me that he wasn't "good enough" for me because he wasn't a CEO or some other kind of daddy-warbucks corporate giant. They said he didn't "deserve" me and that he was "intimidated" by my success. None of his detractors considered whether he would make a good husband and father (possibly because I never talked about wanting to be a good wife or mother), but the fact is that he would have.

So what does all this look like practically? I agree it's not wise for you to marry and then live apart. I can imagine, however, a scenario that could work, but it will require you to hold your plans loosely and think creatively. For example, you could defer your grad school enrollment for a year, get married in the next few months and live together with your new husband until he is deployed. Then, while he's gone, you could go back to school and have the benefit of something to keep you busy in his absence. You could also consider taking classes via long distance. Many schools now offer distance ed programs with most of the work being done by computer.

May God grant you the wisdom to move from "Faithfully Waiting" to "Faithfully Acting."

Sincerely,
CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2006 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

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