Okay. I was kind of avoiding it, but I guess I'll put in my two cents re: this post on Spousebuzz.
I (obviously) have strong opinions about this...
Yes, I am a girlfriend and I hate it. But, on the other hand, do I want to get married before Ranger Man is ready or for the wrong reasons? Absolutely not.
I think it is crap that what feels some days like the entire world telling me that because I'm not married I must be either a. crazy or b. some sort of dirty barracks whore.
Every day, multiple times a day, people ask me why in the world would I move to Georgia, of all places? And, not being a very good liar, I respond with the truth- that my boyfriend is in the Army and is stationed here. This is met with varying degrees of skepticism, disgust and other myriad reactions. I actually had someone that I work with tell me "for just a boyfriend? you're brave." Seriously? holy cow.
I do everything that wives do. I have moved across the country, I have rearranged my school schedule so I could be with him, I left my family behind to be with him. I wash his uniforms and I put up with the late night phone calls he gets from his privates. I do all of this - just like wives do, for the amazing compensation of 18 freaking days with him.
Oh, and I do it without the perks. I don't have health insurance, I can't shop at the commissary to save money, I don't have an FRG and I absolutely had to change my residency last month because no state is going to look the other way for a camp follower residing in their state illegally. So now I have to pay income tax (unlike the last 23 years of my life). I do it without certain knowledge that I will be notified in case of 'anything.' Oh, and Ranger Man doesn't get BAH and he's still paying our rent (what a guy).
I do it with full knowledge that everyone, including (especially?) my family doesn't even believe in my ability to make this decision and do what is best for me. I do it despite the sideways glances and the whispers. I do it despite the fact that while the adoring, militarized public showers appreciation on servicemembers and their families, that same militarized public looks upon me with disdain and suspicion and assumes that my experience is somehow fundamentally different because I don't have a marriage certificate. That somehow, I support Ranger Man less than wives do, and that somehow the separation is easier on me.
Why do I do it? For him of course, and for us. I love him, and I love the person that he helps me to be. I love that he lets me be weird and that it's okay that I know more about COIN operations than he does. I also love that I'm totally rubbing off on him and he's able to use some of my 'academic' knowledge on his current TDY.
That feels like the same old rant over and over again. But I think part of the problem, as a post on Loquita's blog suggests, isn't so much that the resources aren't available for non-married servicemember spouses (I just made up that term, and I think I like it). It's that there is an inherent assumption that we're somehow different.
I understand why the assumption is there. I understand the transient nature of being 'a girlfriend,' that either we get married or break up- but let's be honest. Isn't divorce prevalent in all sectors of today's society as well? Is it okay to assume that we're not going to make it as a couple, especially those of us that actively seek out spouse support information (like SpouseBuzz)?
As far as I'm concerned, the only thing that is different about our relationship than any other military relationship is that we haven't had a wedding ceremony of any kind. We've done the deployment thing, we've done the PCS thing, we've done the TDY thing... what more do I have to do to be accepted as a spouse? Don't tell me that it's having kids. That's not true.
I'm not ranting against all spouses, nor all civilians. But I honestly can't say that my experience has even been any more half and half good reactions and bad reactions to my situation. There have been really wonderful spouses and there have been really horrible spouses. There have been really wonderful civilians and really horrible civilians. Shoot, even in my family there's probably a 50/50 split as far as saying nice things versus saying hurtful things about my choice to move to Georgia. Maybe that proportion wouldn't change- maybe just as many people would think that I shouldn't even marry him; I don't know that because I don't have a crystal ball. I do know that my experience as a military non-spouse (oh, I like that too) is looked down upon as being inferior to that as a bonafide milspouse at least half the time.
I don't have a solution. Yes, obviously getting married would be one, but like I mentioned, I'm not willing to do that until he's ready to do that, and we're thinking that perhaps we should spend more than 18 days together first. Do I understand the perspective of those that, from experience, treat me the way they do? Yes. I don't appreciate it or justify it, but I do understand it and I know that they're probably dealing with things that are a lot more important than the way their words and actions make a lowly girlfriend feel. That's okay.
Why do spouse-support organizations exclude us? I understand that transience and the verification and the suspicion. I understand it, but I don't think that justifies it. I do just as much as I am able for Ranger Man, but I am not afforded any actual status, or any even recognition of what I do. I don't think there should be separate places for military non-spouses to congregate and commiserate because that would perpetuate the stereotypes and the divisions.
I don't think that it is right for any institution to force marriage, and the Armed Forces are probably even more influential than churches in doing just that. Perhaps, spousal support organizations could be influential in fostering an environment of inclusion and true support that could help younger couples in making the decision to marry before it actually happens, rather than reinforcing the message that the only way for a non-spouse to exist is to become a bonafide spouse.