By Amanda Marksmeier
(I feel like I need to preface this article with a warning: This topic is sensitive and may trigger extreme opinions and emotions.)
As a military spouse, the thought of choosing to live separately from my spouse seemed unimaginable. During our twelve-year marriage, we’ve experienced excessive amounts of time apart with multiple deployments, countless schools, and way too many trainings—the idea of staying behind never seemed like a choice.
However, as we enter the last phase of his military career, our focus has begun to shift from our present situation to our future stability.
Modern Military Spouses
The image of the military spouse has evolved over the last fifty years. Long ago, military spouses were thought to be the women who kept home fires burning while their soldiers went off to war.
Today’s military spouses include men and women from all walks of life, many with successful careers of their own. Military spouses represent professionals including doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, and entrepreneurs.
So, when PCS orders come, they must consider not only their spouse’s career, but their own as well. For professionals faced with a permanent change of station, sometimes the answer is geo-baching.
As military spouses, we have access to several scholarships and financial aid opportunities to help offset the enormous cost of higher education. Many of us have the ability and education to excel in our careers. A lot of spouses have the entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen to successfully build businesses.
What we don’t have is the guarantee that we will be in one place long enough to complete a degree program, get promoted, or grow a clientele.
Imagine being accepted into a nursing program, graduate school, or pursuing a doctorate degree when your spouse receives new orders. (Many of you don’t have to imagine this, having lived that experience and whatnot.) These opportunities are hard to pass up. Transferring college credits can be difficult and, in some cases, impossible!
Nursing programs are competitive and difficult to get into. Would you be willing to give up the coveted spot because of PCS orders? Many doctorate programs have a residency requirement. Can you imagine receiving orders in the middle of that?
You’ve discovered your passion and parlayed it into a business. Your LLC has been registered, you have created a brand and a loyal customer base, success is on the horizon, but so are orders. Would you leave your business to follow your spouse?
You have finally landed your dream job which will catapult your career, but your spouse must report to a faraway post. Would you give up this opportunity?
The retirement packet has been dropped and you find a position, which will help forge a new path for your lives after the military, but it is across the country. Would you spend the next year apart to better your family’s circumstances?
Would you consider living apart for the right opportunity?
If you find yourself in one of these scenarios, being a geographic bachelor may be the option for you. Here are three issues to consider:
Double the Cost
Obviously living separately means double the cost. You both will be responsible for double the rental/mortgage payments, double the utility bills, double the grocery bills; well, you get the idea. In the past, geo-bachelors could stay in the barracks and still receive BAH. However, with new regulations, this may no longer be possible. Discuss housing options with your local Housing Service Office.
Another cost to factor in your budget is travel expenses for those much-needed planned visits.
One is the Loneliest Number (sometimes)
Know thyself—this is key to a successful geo-baching experience. Are you independent and self-reliant? Do you enjoy time on your own? Do you have a secure marriage? If you have children, how do they cope with separation?
Money and career can be recreated; emotional well-being can be difficult to rebuild. Be sure to stay emotionally in touch with yourself, your spouse, and your children.
Failure to Plan is a Plan to Fail
Every successful venture begins with a plan, so your geo-baching journey should be no different. Set realistic expectations for when and how you will communicate. Create a checkpoint system, every week or month, check in on your finances and emotions to ensure each are on track. It is a good idea to create stop points such as if finances get out of hand or the kids are not coping well, it may be time to reconsider your decision.
The decision to become a geographic bachelor is not a decision made lightly. We often don’t bat an eyelash when our spouses’ jobs take them away (on deployment, for training, or a short TDY), but the decision to geo-bach can cause all sorts of emotions and feelings (probably because of all the time our spouses’ careers keep us apart).
While living in separate places for a year or two can feel like a long time, in the grand scheme of life, it is but a moment. It is helpful to stay focused on the end goal. Remember, you are sacrificing a little time in the present for stability in the future.
If you can do that, then geo-baching may be a way to make your academic, career, or business dreams come true.