- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My husband came home from war a different man, and now I think I want a divorce.

My husband is 24, and I am 19. He’s been deployed three times, two since we were married. We don’t have any children.

I have never cheated on him or anything, but this whole Army thing has been too much for me to handle. I would rather be at band practice, going to the mall or text-messaging friends.

My husband returned this time with permanent injuries. I won’t describe them because I don’t want to be identified, but I practically lived at Walter Reed while he had surgeries. I love him, but I know he will never be the same. Yes, there are other spouses my age in the same situation, dealing with an injured husband, but I keep thinking I am too young for all this.

People make me angry because they pass judgment when they don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life. They don’t know what this war has done to so many young kids. It’s not fair.

My mother-in-law is not in my husband’s life, but he has his father and other family members. My parents are telling me I have to stand by him, but I don’t see why I have to. I didn’t ask for this. Also, I’ve been accepted to a good college in the fall.

I want a divorce. My husband knows I am not happy and that my heart is not in it. I’m sure he is hurting, too, for many reasons. But I think it’s time for me to move on with my life. He has a great care plan with other people who can help him move on with his life, too.

- What’s Wrong with Moving On?

Dear Moving,

My friends and colleagues who read my columns tell me I have a tendency to “mother” young writers. My friends remind me that I should give the same candid advice to young writers as I would to those who are older. So here it is. You asked, “What’s wrong with moving on?” Well, nothing is wrong with moving on, but your timing sucks.

You think everything is about you, what you need and what you want, but it’s not.

Now is the time for you to be unselfish.

Yes, you could be at band practice, at the mall with friends or text-messaging underneath the covers at night. However, you made another decision - a decision to marry. From your report, you were not coerced or forced to do this.

I know all too well this war has changed many people in many ways. Thousands have been permanently injured, both physically and mentally. Many did not return home alive. As a military spouse who has dealt with long separations and deployments, I can tell you firsthand it has not been easy for me, either. I often said, “I did not ask for this.” However, I made a decision to support my husband in his career and accept the good with the bad. Trust me, there have been plenty of both.

Now here’s the deal. You cannot divorce your husband right now. So what, you are ready to start college this fall and move on? I get it. You just can’t do it right now. You need to be selfless and stand by your husband until his health improves and he is stable. Afterward, you can begin to have conversations with him about how you would like to take a different path with your life.

Right now, reach out to your family and trusted friends to help you and your husband get through this. I’m not saying it’s easy, but you can work through this and you will be much stronger for it. Stay in touch and thank you for writing.

Dear Ms. Vicki,

What can I do to keep my family together? My husband wanted me to get out of the Army but I refused, so he took the children and moved to North Carolina.

My husband was in the Army but decided to get out after serving five years. I decided to stay in, and I think it’s crazy to give up a career when I’ve been active-duty for 15 years. I have five years before I can retire, and then I will get a retirement check for the rest of my life.

My husband says the deployments are too much for the children and I am hurting them emotionally. He thinks that since he is handling everything on his own, he might as well live where he wants to live.

I’ve been the major breadwinner, and he doesn’t have a problem spending the money the Army pays me. He knows these are tough times and no one is exempt from deployments. I don’t like being away from my family; it’s just my job. But now he is criticizing me and acting like I am not a good mother. I’m a darn good mother; I just married a fool.

I know my husband has taken care of the children while I am gone, and done a good job of it, too. However, he is only doing what military wives have been doing for years, so I don’t feel sorry for him.

I really do want to work this out with him, and I want my children back, but I don’t want to cause trouble for me or him. I certainly don’t need a microscope on my life right now. Thanks for letting me vent.

- Just Bring the Kids Back

Dear Kids,

It sounds like you are frustrated but would like to work out your marital discord and give you marriage another try.

In your husband’s defense, it sounds like he has grown weary of multiple deployments. I have to be honest with you and say his feelings are real. However, his behavior is unacceptable. He can’t take the children and move to North Carolina without your permission. I’m not a lawyer, but it sounds like kidnapping. I know you don’t want to draw attention to yourself or your career, but you need legal advice immediately. You can get this at your local base or post. Most legal offices have walk-in hours.

You told me in a subsequent e-mail that you are regularly talking with him and the children and visiting them, too. This is good, but you are saying he won’t let you have the children.

It’s time to ruffle some feathers and let other professionals weigh in on what should happen.

I would love for your marriage to work. I recommend marital counseling and also some individual counseling for you and your husband. Contact Military OneSource. You and your husband could be connected with a provider in your local area.

I really appreciate your selflessness and service to your country. Stay in touch and let me hear from you.

&#8226 Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her Dear Ms. Vicki column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at dearmsvicki@yahoo.com.

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