A Different Kind of LDR
For the last (almost) five years, I have considered myself a very unique individual. Born, raised and living in Perth, Western Australia, the most remote city in the world, I was the only person I knew of that was in a very special kind of long distance relationship. Not only was my boyfriend American, but he was a Sailor, a Senior Chief of the United States Navy.
Falling in love with an American Sailor
We met on a brief port visit that his ship, The USS George Washington, paid to my little town in July 2009. We met the evening that the ship docked and spent the entire five days of his R&R on long dinner dates and having drinks at a little Irish pub called Paddy Hannan’s. Then, just like that, he was gone. The George Washington left with my sailor and 6,999 others on board. I didn’t know what was going to happen, I thought that as quick as it had started, it was over.
The very next day my phone rang. A very long sequence of numbers flashed across my screen and reluctantly, I answered. Expecting an off-shore telemarketer, I was shocked to hear the voice of my sailor, calling me from the ship somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I was so happy, I couldn’t believe it! And so began what can only be described as a whirlwind story of long distance love, the US Navy Edition.
For the first four years of our relationship I really struggled with distance mainly because I didn’t know anyone in my position. Like I said, I was pretty unique. My friends saw their boyfriends every night of the week, and Perth was so isolated, people tended to date other people who lived in town. No one got the long distance thing, so I resorted to what I’m sure many women in LDR’s around the world do – I threw myself into college and I laid in bed most nights watching sappy romantic movies waiting for that Skype call to come.
Military Significant Others
It was only in mid-2013 when I very accidentally stumbled across what I can only describe as a beacon in the night. A community who called themselves, ‘MilSOs’ (Military Significant Others). They were women (mainly) in exactly my position – Separated from their partners not only by distance, but also by the strict, stringent rules of the US Military – a lifestyle I’d come to know very well. A group of women who, like me, shared their man with Uncle Sam.
Finding these ladies on Instagram changed everything. Finally, I had that community and support I had been missing. They actually knew what I was going through and sympathised, not because they felt they had to, but because they were in the same boat. Sure, I wasn’t so unique anymore, but surprisingly, I was OK with that.
The Plight of the MilSO
MilSOs don’t just deal with the miles on top of a 9-to-5 job or a college degree. They share their Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and Airmen with the US military, and that girl gets ALL the attention. They go months without seeing and sometimes even talking to their significant other. They spend days wondering if they made it through a mission, or if he’ll make it home to see the birth of their first baby. They spend weeks waiting for that two minute broken and static phone call from Afghanistan and settle for a letter from boot camp instead of a Valentine’s Day dinner.
For most long distance couples, marriage closes the gap. It means finally you’re together; same city, same house, same bed every night. For MilSOs, marriage rarely changes anything. Most will move interstate or overseas to where their husband is stationed, away from their family, friends and the life they’d built for themselves. They’ll still go months without their partner once he is sent away. They’ll countdown the weeks until deployment is over, and still be wait tirelessly for those Skype calls to come in.
I guess that’s one thing we do all have in common – Military or otherwise, god bless, Skype!
I know it’s a difficult lifestyle to understand for anyone who isn’t a part of it. I also know before I became a ‘Sailor’s Lady’ I could only imagine what this life would be like. In my mind I pictured something so very romantic. A hybrid of ‘South Pacific’, ‘Top Gun’ and ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’… I wasn’t even close! It’s a long distance relationship with one hell of a twist, because the gap never really closes.
Well, it turns out, that after more than twenty overseas flights, thousands of emails, one amazing engagement ring and almost five years later, I am set to marry that sailor who I met on that winter’s night at that little Irish pub and move from Perth, Australia to Hawaii to be closer to him. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing (pardon the pun), but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m so glad I found the community of MilSOs when I did and if you haven’t found them, I really suggest you do, too. I have since started my own YouTube channel, hoping to inspire some of the other lonely MilSOs out there. Please feel free to check it out by clicking here.