Experts say there is no data on whether military partners (men or women) are more or less likely than any other Americans to stray. The divorce line goes straight up since 2000 and is believed to now be comparable to that of the general public, said Joyce Wessel Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association. In response to the rising divorce rates, the Army has recently been promoting a chaplain-led weekend marriage retreat for recently returned soldiers and their spouses called “Strong Bonds.”
Raezer and others said that rate is expected to rise as more troops come home for good. Sheila Casey, wife of former Army chief of staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr., made news a few years ago when she testified that military couples were so slammed by the multiple deployments “they haven’t had time to get divorced.”
One thing that hasn’t changed — and that has even been amplified during the intense demands of the past decade — is the tendency in the military to focus on the positive. Several spouses who have led support groups said there’s a fear that a complaint about one’s marriage could somehow morph into something that might sound like a complaint about military life.
“We all in this country, we all wear masks. But I think in the military it’s important to put your best face forward, keep everything together,” said Kaufmann. “I think no one wants to say, infidelity has increased or is more because of these [multiple deployment] pressures because no one wants to make an excuse for it. But there is a difference between making an excuse and putting things into context.”
Yet every aspect of culture has its mythology. Like foreign correspondents or politicians who jet off to Washington five days a week, some members of the military community see the separations and change as an asset to marriage, more romantic.
But who wants to live a myth? A thread on online military chatter in recent days is the vibe that the civilian world is looking at military sex lives like a zoo visitor through a glass, making them sound either more exotic or more unstable than they may feel on a typical day.
“With 18 veterans killing themselves every day . . . we’re too busy to focus on this,” Kaufmann said about why there’s been so little chatter among people she knows in the military about the Petraeus-Broadwell saga.
“Maybe I wear rose-colored glasses. Or maybe I am just a realist. There is not one part of me that can buy into infidelity being a military thing. It is a human nature thing,” Wayne Perry, a stay-at-home dad married to an Army combat medic based at Fort Riley, Kan., wrote last week on a military blog. Commenters agreed.
“Cheating isn’t due to separation,” one wrote. “It’s due to some people being cheating cheaters who cheat, which is a preexisting condition.”