How to Talk About Your Long-Term Goals When You’re Married to a Service Member

When I married into the military, I had to reevaluate the direction of my long-term plans. If you asked me 10 years ago “where do you think you will be 10 years from now?”, I would have said a focused and single executive working on her career.

Life happens in such a welcomed and unexpected way sometimes. In an instance, my life decisions took a different and exciting route. Now it’s not just me planning for the long term, but another person is added into the equation. As much as I would LOVE to dictate some decisions that are made by the military, I WE need to incorporate the transient and unpredictable lifestyle in our life goals.

Despite popular belief, military couples can and should establish benchmark goals in life.

Military couples need to keep an open line of communication when it comes to goal setting. We have the challenge of answering to the big elephant in the room (Uncle Sam) in our goals. We need flexibility built into our long-term goals. But Uncle Sam shouldn’t stop us from reaching our life goals.

Married to the Military? A 3-Step Guide to Life Goals for Military Couples

  1. Know what YOU want without thinking about the military. Just like what the flight attendant tells you at the beginning of a flight, you must help yourself before helping others around you. It’s really difficult to think about ourselves because of the military. The military tells our spouse where to live, what to do and whatever else it feels like, BUT, it’s not telling YOU, the military spouse, what to do. Think about what makes you happy and jot it down.
  2. Know what your spouse wants too. Do you have a lifer on your hands? The military does offer a bit more structured approach. Our spouses sign on for a set amount of time or indefinite. Even with that, it can offer some surprises and unexpected changes. Ask your spouse the question, where do you see yourself in 10 or 20 years? If they are unsure, talk about different options and generalize their life goals. What makes them happy? It’s important to discuss what gives ourselves determination and drive.
  3. Combine, weave and compromise. This is the most important step and I learned this tip from my parents. Once you gathered the general answer(s) to what makes both of you happy, think about the long haul as a couple. Take both of your lists and put them side by side (combine) and intertwine the different aspects of your goals (weave) and finally, the critical point, compromise and find a common ground.

Personal and professional goals for military couples come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Whether you’re aiming to live somewhere for retirement or want to open a business to starting a family or traveling the world– or all of the above! Have separate lists for both professional and personal goals and talk about both lists with your partner. Remember to understand that our opinions may change and take all the changes that come your way with a grain of salt. They are only a small notch in the grand scheme of things.

My long-term goal hasn’t changed from when I initially set out in my adult life, just the path.

I strive for happiness and want to end up at a point and place that encompasses personal satisfaction. My husband strives to maintain a sense of fulfillment and thrives with structure.

Married to the Military? A 3-Step Guide to Life Goals for Military Couples

Having a broad grasp has helped us get through some hiccups. For example, our decision for me to stay behind when he went to Korea wasn’t taken lightly. That was, by far, the most difficult decision we made as a couple. The reasoning behind it was to fulfill both our long-term goals. A year hardship tour is only a small fraction of our whole lives together– and that’s what essentially sealed the deal. Despite it being very trying for our emotional sanity, it allowed me to continue on my career trajectory and for him too. Think about the bigger picture. I personally know it’s easier said than done.

It doesn’t go without saying, we’re military spouses and that means we can take it. We’re strong. Our spouses are strong. And together we can accomplish anything. We can reach our professional and personal goals with clear communication and flexibility for the future.

How do you set long-term goals as a military couple?


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