Over the span of time dating my boyfriend, I have had many comments about my relationship.
Last semester someone asked me if I am using him for his benefits. As if my relational status is a strategic plan for insurance.
Another told me to make sure I just stick with marriage for a certain amount of time to get his retirement.
Some other people have made comments to me about moving to him after graduation. Then with my response of, “it depends where I get into school,” I get discontent looks from the fact that I am going to pass on that sacrifice for graduate work.
Others ask when I am going to be engaged, and some are shocked I am yet to be engaged to my boyfriend.
Let me explain. I am not here to defend my relationship or myself…but instead to give some people out there another perspective on relationships (that may go against a lot of what the romantic novels and movies tell us is appropriate).
Let me begin with the fact that I have had to really understand that no matter what I choose for the next step in my relationship, and the timing of that next step, is going to come with others opinions (both negative and positive).
Also, I guess all of this can be prefaced as well with how there was once upon a time where I thought I would be a 20-year-old college drop-out married to a controlling and traditionalist man who had commitment issues. I was willing to sacrifice my education, my current living location, and friendships for someone else during a time where I needed to focus more on myself.
I let a man change my perspective of what I thought I wanted to something else entirely. I was willing to give up all the important things, and such as the experiences and opportunities that has come with my time at college.
The end of this relationship left me having a panic attack in my parent’s downstairs hallway two days before I was about to study abroad in Barcelona. I almost didn’t go.
I promised myself then I would never again let a relationship influence such sacrifices without thought.
The thing is, I know what I want to do (or at least I think). We spend so much of our lives at work, therefore I do not want my career choice to be something I despise or just deal with…I want it to be something I believe in, and something I am passionate about.
While this career plan may change (because statistics show we have multiple careers in a lifetime), furthering my education will always be important to me.
So while relationships end. Whether they be friendships or romantic ones… my education, along with the experiences and opportunities that form important skills and abilities, can never be taken away from me. For me, my education means stability and independence. I will not give that up for anyone.
One thing I dislike is that individuals married to military servicemen and women are called dependents. As a spouse and through my own experience as a child, families receive benefits such as medical insurance, dental, and on-base access for other amenities. While families make sacrifices such as time apart and single-parenthood for extended periods of time, this term has become a negative stereotype, especially for women, who marry into the military life.
Well, I am not that woman.
I grew up (THANK GOD), with a mom who set an example for me. My mom was the breadwinner. My mom was the Military Officer in a time where it didn’t seem like an issue to have “wife support groups” for spouses but not “husband support” groups. My mom worked for promotions despite her being accused of sleeping her way to the top (which obviously isn’t true or possible, but o.k.)
Which is typical right? Still I hear people surprised by (and sometimes upset by) how I voice my opinions. Which a lot of times people choose to designate to my judgmental character (but we can get into gender appropriate social behaviors in another post).
My mom chose to place herself in a strategic professional position before she had children (which is a key component, but sometimes impossible obtainment for women in order to make specific levels in organizations). Her doctor couldn’t help but voice his shock that she was having her first child at 30-31.
My mom has shown me that going against the traditional gender role expectations is possible. While I have no grudges against the traditional caretaker role for women, I just see it as a shared role between both people in the relationship.
While I see more women going into the workforce, I see more men being increasingly involved in family caretaker roles.
This is what I want to exemplify for my children (if one day I perhaps have a couple). Hopefully that will all be in 10 years (God forbid me wanting to have children after 30 though!)
So, no I am not going to stay with my boyfriend for his insurance or for his retirement, nor are all military significant others like that.
And yes, I will be continuing my education whether or not that will place me in the same state as my boyfriend. And most importantly, I should NOT feel guilty for this decision, especially for trying to set myself up well, and my significant other for a future I see worth the investment.
I know this is crazy to some…especially because some of you know Bryce. Yes, he is awesome and intentional and sweet. One, because he supports this dream of mine. Honestly, he is in the top five of my supporters (after my parents, because they have known me since day one, and maybe tied to some of my professors).
And finally, no I am not engaged. Nor is there a ring. And honestly, there is a good possibility I will not change my name.
All of these statements go along with the fact that:
My name is Nikole Lynn Gregg.
I am my own person.
My happiness is not solely in my relationship.
NOR is my identity (nor should anyone’s be) in their relationship status.
No one’s identity should be in their relationship status.
Side note: I have no problem with others who make this decision, but this is my personal perspective of what it would mean if I were to make the decision of changing my name.
I am not consumed with the idea of engagement,
nor am I guessing on when it will be.
Marriage is not the end game. Life should not start at the I Do.
It has already started, and I want to be present in every moment. When, and if one day, this would happen to me, I want to be prepared with an education and identity that is my own.
I hear people talking all the time about how they need a boyfriend or they are on edge about when they will get engaged… we rush from stage to stage in life without being present or appreciating the one we are in.
This is what I am doing, and it has really worked out for Bryce and myself. I also know I will be okay without him. I know I am strong, independent. I know I have family and friends, and a balance in life that will make it so I am okay. Granted it would suck, but I would end up okay.
I think that is key in emotional stability and balance in one’s life, but hey what do I know. I am only 22.
So yes, I am dating a military man. No, I am not engaged.
I know that it is widely known that military couples marry fast and at times I feel immense social pressure about this, but at the same time I know I know who I am and what I need to be happy. No longer do I choose to overlook that or put it aside for someone else. From past experience, I have learned that it bites you in the ass.
So while I have no problems with people who do marry fast (heck, my parents married within 6 months of dating at relatively young ages), I think its important to know what you want and to stick to your guns despite the social pressures or expectations (whether this be for finding your “soul mate”…which doesn’t exist by the way…or whether or not to continue with school or in a specific job/work role).