Husband and wife in uniform

Military Couples: When Both Spouses Are Service Members

Families where both spouses are service members have a unique challenge. While the dual-military life is rewarding, time apart can strain communication. Learn techniques to help you balance work and family life so that your relationship thrives. Develop strategies for dealing with stress and sacrifice so that your marriage is strengthened by your and your spouse's service to the country.

Know what to expect

Entering your military marriage with realistic expectations can help prepare you for what's to come. Here are a few situations a dual military couple can anticipate:

  • Separations — Deployments or remote assignments, and the separation that comes with them, are a fact of life for every military family. However, if you are a dual-military couple, you're likely to spend even more time apart because you'll be juggling two assignments.
  • Complicated career decisions — Passing up a career-enhancing assignment or school to stay together, or accepting a less desirable job so the spouse can advance, are decisions almost every dual-career couple has had to face.
  • Extra help from family and friends — You may need to ask for extra help from your family and friends, especially if you're a dual-military couple with children. Your family members may need to be caregivers to your children for certain periods of time if both you and your spouse are deployed or on assignment.

Understand the role rank, service branch and career path play

There are a few different ways your specific military path can play a unique role in dual-military marriages:

  • When two service members of different rank marry, they may not have the common experiences or understanding of each other's career expectations as couples that are closer in rank.
  • When two service members belong to different career-management fields or communities, it may not always be easy to assign them to the same location.
  • When two service members from different service branches marry, the likelihood of being in the same place becomes even more complicated, because it depends on coordination across branches.

How to develop positive coping strategies

Here are a few skills, habits and attitudes you can adopt as a dual-military couple to help manage your lifestyle:

  • Focus on communication — This is essential for all healthy relationships, but becomes even more important when you are balancing two demanding careers. Talk frequently, openly and honestly.
  • Honor each other's goals — Take your partner's career as seriously as you take your own. This may eventually mean making future career choices based on your spouse's career goals.
  • Be flexible — Your relationship will need to be flexible to accommodate both careers. Expect the balance of career responsibilities and family responsibilities to shift over time.
  • Remember the positives — You understand each other's experiences and can relate to the other's career triumphs and challenges in ways nonmilitary spouses can't. Take time to recognize that your experience with teamwork and shared sacrifice make your relationship even stronger.

How to be proactive toward achieving your goals as a dual-military couple

Here are a few steps you and your spouse can take to improve your chances of achieving personal and professional goals:

  • Look for joint assignments — Each service branch has a program for assigning married couples to the same duty location or within 100 miles of each other. Be proactive in your search for joint assignments by looking into programs such as the Air Force Joint Spouse Program and the Married Army Couples Program.
  • Have realistic contingency plans — By planning for different scenarios, you'll know you're both on the same page and can handle whatever comes your way.
  • Reach out for support when you need it — There are resources available to help you manage the demands of being a dual-military couple. Seek out confidential, free, non-medical counseling services through Military OneSource or your installation's military and family life counselors. You can also reach out to your installation chaplain for confidential guidance and counseling services.

While dual-military couples may face more complications than military families with just one service member, they can also build on their strengths of shared experience. With the right communications strategies and other techniques to balance work and family, dual-military marriages can thrive.