Long-Married, Long-Military Couples in the Post 9/11 Era

dc.contributor.advisorDavis, Shannon N.
dc.contributor.authorSkillman, Joan Eckhart
dc.creatorSkillman, Joan Eckhart
dc.description.abstractLong-married, long-military couples have coped with multiple deployments, multiple moves and the multiplications of demands as a family grows and changes during the post-9/11 era. Research on military marriage in the past has focused on military marriages that have lasted less than five years, but what factors allow military marriages to endure? In this research, I studied active duty Army and Navy couples with a male servicemember and a female civilian spouse who had been married more than 15 years. I used both survey data and in-depth interviews to examine themes of work orientation and gender ideology as a possible mechanism that contributed to marital duration. I found that couples achieved marital duration through interrelated processes created in order to adapt to and cope with the many structures of military life, particularly constant, unpredictable deployments and PCS moves. These long-married, long-military couples relied on the spouse to “create normal” for the family, thus they fashioned and accepted a family life marked by separate spheres even when both partners espoused a more egalitarian gender ideology. Among these long-married, long-military couples, work orientation did function as the motivator to continue in a demanding profession. Both husbands and wives in this research came to view the military member’s service not as an “occupation” or a “job” or a “career,” but as a “calling”—a meaningful, socially valuable part of the servicemember’s identity that also provided financial gain and career advancement. The structure of retirement eligibility justified both continuing in the career and the sustained truncation of the wife’s career. Some spouses were able to return to traditional full-time employment. Some spouses were able to find more portable employment that allowed them to engage in the labor market while still holding the primary caretaking role at home. Other spouses were adrift, unsure how or when to return to the labor market. Military couples in this study managed multiple deployments, multiple moves and the multiple demands of families by employing separate spheres fired by a calling orientation toward the work of the military. At the end of a long military career, they are poised to emerge with a retirement income that will last the rest of their lives and the status attached to a long marriage.
dc.subjectMilitary families
dc.subjectMilitary marriage
dc.subjectMilitary spouse
dc.titleLong-Married, Long-Military Couples in the Post 9/11 Era
thesis.degree.grantorGeorge Mason University
thesis.degree.nameMaster of Arts in Sociology


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