Whole Against a Wide Sky
Dear Susu #6: “How can I support my partner’s choice to join the military without asking me?”
My partner and I met almost five years ago and were in a long distance relationship for three of those years. Eventually we both made moves across the country in order for us to be together. We bought our first house, and after leaving public school teaching in the summer of 2021, I started my own music studio. We both have made changes and adaptations in order to experience life together, both sacrificed a lot professionally to make this happen, and we have been very happy with our decision.
Then two weeks ago, he told me he wants to enlist in the National Guard—and that he already talked to a recruiter in our area. It threw me off completely! We are in our thirties, so I know it’s a “now or never,” yet I feel blindsided and upset. I want him to feel happy, supported, and loved, and I’m trying so hard to understand why he wants to do this, but I feel left out of this huge decision. In the many career and personal changes we made to be together, we made all those decisions together. But this was not a decision we talked about prior—it was a decision he made on his own.
I’m proud of his desire to make a difference and his drive to help others, but I’m finding it difficult to express support for his decision. I feel so defeated. I love him more than anything, and I want to show support, but I’m really struggling. I’ve lived my whole life working on myself, and becoming the best teacher I can be, and I kept my personal life on hold so I could give 100% to my students. When I finally took the plunge into the unknown and went down this new life path with him, it seems that life has other plans and twists and turns that I didn’t expect. I feel excited for him that he wants to do this, but I also feel that the rug has been pulled out from under me.
I wish I could 100% support his decision. I need help finding ways to do that, instead of letting my anxiety and fear of getting left behind take charge. How do I demonstrate support when the future is full of unknowns, when I’m filled with anxiety?
Thank you for everything, even if it’s just reading this email!
During my first bout with leukemia a decade ago, I encouraged my then-boyfriend to take an editing job in New York City. At the time, we were living in my childhood home in upstate New York, so this was going to require us to be apart during the work week. He was a little reluctant—he said, “Isn’t this going to be hard?”
The truth was, I did think it was going to be hard. I was terrified of what it would be like if he were to go. On the other hand, I had just started a clinical trial, and for the foreseeable future, my life was on pause—but it didn’t mean his had to be too. In that moment, I felt two clearly competing desires: I desperately wanted him at my side, and I feared that keeping him close would make him feel suffocated.
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