Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Elizabeth

This morning I awoke at 3:00am because I was thinking about you. When this happens there is only one cure for me, and that’s to get things out of my head and into words.

I have known your father since we were kids riding our bikes together in Southern California. I have known your mother almost as long. Your grandparents are like a second mother and father to me.

Your father tells me that you have recently become engaged, and that the target of your affection is now serving this country in the Army. As you know I have served over twenty years in the Air Force and am now retired.

This letter is being written in an open forum, because I have had this talk with many young folks, and I feel that it applies to a large number of people just getting started in life.

The first reaction may be that you are not just getting started, and that you are now an adult, able to make your own decisions, and that older people just don’t understand.

I have watched you grow from a newborn baby, to the adult you now are, and I can say with confidence, you are still just getting started with your life.

Up until this time you have been under the protection of your family. If you made a bad mistake, your family was there to support you, to wipe away the tears, and to comfort you. They have given you advice, and whether or not you chose to follow that advice, your family was there to help you through the consequences.

Being in the military for almost half of my life, I have seen many young people get married. On a rare occasion, this has worked out okay for them, as far as I know today, but more often then not it has ended in divorce.

It’s not because they didn’t love one another at the time, or that they thought they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, it was because neither of them had actually began their lives.

As a young adult, you are just being set free into the world to make your own way. I believe I can say with some certainty that you still do not know what direction that is.

Having a dream, and living your life, quite often become opposite ends of the spectrum. This is evident by the overwhelming number of people who are not working in the same career field their college degree was in.

For what it's worth, here is a typical young military family lifecycle as seen through my experienced set of eyes.

After getting married young to be together, you move around a lot. This takes the wife away from her family and all that she is used to. Since being together was the reason for the marriage, there starts to become a strain on the relationship because now the wife begins to feel like a roommate to this guy she is finding out is a slob, doesn’t like the same things she likes, drinks too much with his buddies, or whatever the typical wedge becomes for that particular couple.

Being in the military, the husband is away more then he is at home. There are a few exceptions, but I can tell you that a majority of the guys who are overseas either for a long tour, or short tour, cheat on their wives. I won’t get into the psychology of why I think this happens, just know that it does.

Most military marriages end with the wife telling the husband that he needs to quit the military. Sometimes the husband will get orders, and the wife flat out tells him she is not going to wherever they are supposed to move next.

Does this mean military people should never marry? Absolutely not!

People that have been in the military long enough to make it a career tend to get married and stay married. This is because they are now comfortable with the lifestyle, and they are able to explain to their future wife what exactly that lifestyle is all about.

Young folks who marry while the husband is only in for a short time have things even worse if they are still together when he gets out. Now, he must find a job. If he has spent the past four years working on his degree, or toward a career he can go into when he gets out, things may be okay.

A typical military guy has wasted his four years drinking, dating, and acting like he was in a college fraternity. The problem is, guys in college fraternities are going to college and getting degrees, he is not.

Married, the still young couple gets out with not only no decent prospects for the husband to earn a good income for his family, but they usually have two kids as well! Now, they will spend the rest of their lives stressed out over money issues because both the husband and wife are working two jobs trying to keep clothes on their children and food in the house. Sound like the dream family life you’re looking for?

Am I saying all of this to tell you not to get married? Certainly not!

My advice to you, as someone who loves you and your family very much, is to wait. If this was meant to be, and you both are truly in love, then waiting will do nothing but strengthen that bond.

I’m not talking about waiting four months, or a year, I’m talking about waiting until you both know exactly what you want to do with your lives. If he decides to make a career in the Amy that’s great and you will know this going in to the marriage. When he gets out, wait until he finds work and begins his new career to make certain it’s what you want as well.

Getting married for love alone is great in fairy tales, but the concept falls short in reality.

So here comes my advice to you Elizabeth, and to everyone who is young and thinking of getting married before they actually know the direction their life is going to take them.

Wait.

After reading this article I think you know how long you need to wait. Wait until you find a man who has a career already, and knows the direction he is going. This way you can make sure it’s the same direction you have wanted as well.

Just because a guy is studying to be a lawyer in college does not mean you are marrying a lawyer. Wait until he graduates, gets his first job, and begins to actually live the life he has planned.

During the wait, he may very well find another sucker, er, woman who wants to marry him now. That’s fine, let her.

I hate to use the cliché, but it fits so well.

There are plenty of fish in the ocean.

As a beautiful woman with a good head on her shoulders, you need to be selective and throw back the small ones. Wait for the big catch that will be able to feed the family you are planning to have someday.

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