One of the biggest questions I always used to hear was ‘how can you live away from your husband, surely that’s not a marriage?’ Well I can assure you it is, and it’s actually a lot easier than people think.
My sailor joined the Navy at 17, and he met me on New Year’s Eve 2005 in Edinburgh, aged 21. I don’t want to sound cliché at all, but we did just ‘click’ from the start of our relationship. Even in our first few months as a couple, he went away a lot for months at a time, so I soon got a taste of what it was like to be dating someone who I didn’t see all that much.
I was living in Cannock, working as a pharmaceutical sales rep, and he was based in Portsmouth. We travelled to see each other when we could, and he would often surprise me with visits. We got married in May 2009, but still chose to live apart; married unaccompanied. Some friends and family didn’t understand our decision, but what’s important is that it worked for us!
In September 2009, just a few months after we got married, he was setting off on another ship, this time for an 8 month haul. Not quite feeling myself that day, I still travelled down to Portsmouth to wave him off. That very same day I also discovered that I was pregnant! Of course, he got to miss ALL of my pregnancy hormones, scans and appointments (as often occurs in military life), and he returned home just 3 weeks before our first son was born.
We continued to live married unaccompanied, even after having our son. My husband would travel up from Portsmouth any time he could, usually only an odd weekend here and there.
We made the decision at the start of 2014 to make ‘the big move’ and move into married quarters together as a family, as by now we had another addition to the family! We applied for housing in the February, but we didn’t get allocated an available house until June, typically the day after he got deployed for 7 months, so I had to move to Portsmouth with two boys and a dog on my own! Don’t military spouses always say that the minute hubby goes away, something big happens!
So, after 9 years of living unaccompanied, we were finally living together, as a family, in the same town! The hardest thing that we found about living unaccompanied was the affect it had on our boys. Our eldest, especially, didn’t really have a bond with his Dad until we moved to Portsmouth when he was 4. Is was also a 3 hour commute for him to come ‘home’ and see us, and we didn’t have any family living by us in Cannock for the times he went away, which was usually every other year for 8 or 9 months. One benefit though, for me anyway, was that being unaccompanied was like having a honeymoon period in our relationship for 9 years; we appreciated each other more and hubby was spontaneous and made surprise visits home.
Some might say that moving around a lot is a disadvantage, but unlike the Army, there are only really 3 naval bases that we could be stationed at: Portsmouth, Devonport (Plymouth) and Faslane (Clyde). He has always been and probably always will be based at Portsmouth, which has given us the prospect of good stability for the kids, a stable education and most importantly, they get to see their Dad every day, well until the next deployment at least!
For me, I find Portsmouth to be a lovely, close-knit community, everyone is in the same boat (excuse the pun!) and there are lots of opportunities to meet other wives and volunteer in local clubs. Social Media, especially local ‘wags’ Facebook groups, are also really supportive and helpful for deployments, as a lot of our husbands are often away on the same ship, so we can arrange meet-ups and activities, which helps.
So this July marks our 2 year anniversary of being accompanied, it’s been a new challenge in our lives, but we will never look back.