Photo: Frankie Shlain
Just keep marchin’ on.
That’s something I’ve found myself saying a lot these days. I’ve never believed that we have a say in who we fall in love with. If that was the case, I probably would not have chosen to love a military man. The fact, however, is that I did fall for one, and I fell hard.
My All-American man and I have had what one could call a fairy-tale romance. We met after a church event and have been pretty much inseparable ever since. When we first started dating, he would surprise me with ‘fly-bys’ in his helicopter over my condo building. While the neighbors weren’t huge fans of the loud chopper and its spotlight, I swooned like a middle-school girl.
I am what you would call a serial monogamist, but at the time I met Ryan, I was trying my hand at dating. I’d like to think that I took dating as seriously as anything else I took on. While managing the dating scene in DC, I was also training for my first half-marathon and living in my newly purchased condo. Life was busy but very enjoyable…as I mentioned earlier, I fell hard. The other guys seemed like a distant memory when I met Ryan and each day with him was a blessing. Only three weeks into our relationship, we came to the joint conclusion that this was what we wanted, so we were going all in.
Even now, almost two years after our first date, we still can’t get enough of each other, but I suppose that could be attributed (most recently) to the distance between us.
In April 2012, we went on a 10-day mission trip to Cairo, Egypt. We grew stronger in our faith and because of that, our relationship was also positively affected. However, when we landed back on US soil, we got quite the shocking phone call. Ryan was told that he was going to deploy to Afghanistan for a year in November. Wow. Are you kidding me? All I kept thinking was how unfair it was but somehow I looked deep inside myself, hugged him and said ‘we’ll get through this.’
I should first mention that we had been preparing for him to get reassigned by Washington state…at least that was our plan…I guess the Air Force had another one in mind. The deployment was preceded by 5 months of intensive training in 5 different cities and states. At month 4, I couldn’t believe how far we had come but also how far we still had to go.
The largest thing I struggled with just before the deployment and now, 2 months into his tour, is staying positive and committed in a relationship I know to be part of my future but one that is so uncertain on any given day. My boyfriend is nothing short of amazing – he treats me like a princess. When we’re together it’s as if nothing else in the world matters, but then there’s the dark cloud looming over me which I continue to push away. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I think not having a promise of a future together (ie: engagement, marriage, etc), makes me anxious and I don’t know how to handle it. I’ve tried throwing myself into work but that only distracts me for a short while. I’m attempting to stay busy but I still find myself worrying about the future.
Recently, I’ve had some good conversations with military spouses. They all circle back to the same thing – if you don’t think you can handle this life now, then get out because it doesn’t get any easier. That’s never been the problem for me, because when I said “all in” I meant it; I do want this life! I’m not scared about relocating every few years or having to change jobs and being flexible because of his career. If anything, I’m excited about it and can’t wait to get started.
I’ve never been a patient person, so this has to be one of the most challenging things I’ve gone through. I’m constantly being tested in my faith and character through this relationship. I’m trying so hard not to question Ryan’s intentions but honestly it’s hard not to wonder. A year from now, will he still want to be with me? Did I go through all of this and only have my heart broken? To that last question, the answer is no. He has taught me what it means to let go (as much as I can) and trust someone else. He’s taught me how to have a relationship full of faith and what being faithful to each other means. He’s shown me unconditional love and believed in me when I couldn’t. Above all, he’s taught me to love and to love hard.
When I first started writing this, I thought it could serve as a ‘how-to’ for women out there struggling with a relationship that may not be quite where they want it to be. The truth of the matter is, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to write a ‘how-to’ on relationships because they are always evolving. Where we stand now is somewhere in the middle.
I’ve recently accepted a position with my current firm that has me relocating to Chicago in the beginning of March. I’m excited and nervous all at the same time. But for the first time in a while, I’m focusing on my needs, things that are important to me and my life here in the US, temporarily without Ryan by my side. We get to talk almost every day, and it has been so wonderful to hear his voice or ‘see’ his face over Skype, even if it is only for a few minutes.
I want nothing more than to be swept off my feet by some story-book proposal, but I know that what I need is more important. I need to feel grounded right now and secure in the relationship and new job that I’ve truly been blessed with. I need to be patient and let God do His work. I need to trust in this man that I know in my heart will not let me down. And most of all I need to love so hard that it hurts. If you hold back anything, how can you truly know you ever really gave it a shot?
Broken hearts are signs of strength, not weakness. If that is what is in store for me, I’ll know I had the courage to fight for something worth fighting for.