2nd Lt. Nicolas and Mandy Boeschling have known each other for four years, but have spent about two years actually in the same place, the same length of time they’ve been married.
The couple met in 2011 at K-State. Now, due to Nicolas’ active role in the military, he estimates they have spent half of their time together separated. However, they describe their relationship as “easy” despite the challenges and transitions they have faced as a military couple.
“I think a lot of people should understand that if it’s not easy from the get-go, then maybe it’s a sign to re-look at what you’re going to get into,” Nicolas said.
However, that is not always how it works for couples within the military. There can be a lot of bumps in the road to happiness for a military couple, such as deployment and reassignment. If communication is not fostered in a healthy way, the results can tear apart even the strongest, and easiest, of marriages. Fort Riley Chaplain Michael McDonald said that while there are challenging situations only military families experience, there is a positive aspect to it all.
“We need them to be more resilient, and they are,” McDonald said. “I think when their time in the military comes to an end (the couples that endured it) contribute more to the society around them. They’ve endured so many challenges together and I think that makes our society as a whole strong.”
Yet that doesn’t make the experience of a relationship during active military service any less than what it is: a constant state of transition. The transitions the Boeschlings faced within their first year of marriage are ones shared by many military couples, McDonald said.
Married on March 24, 2012, the newlywed couple had until May 11 of that same year to enjoy wedded bliss; Nicolas was deployed to Afghanistan for eight months a few months after their wedding. There wasn’t even enough time for their honeymoon for the couple.
For Mandy, who never thought of marrying into the military prior to meeting Nicolas, she said the reality of a deployment came too soon.
“I didn’t get to talk to him until four days after he had left,” she said. “I was looking at a picture of him while Skyping and it really takes you back. It broke my heart. I knew he was leaving, but him actually leaving was different. What was hard for me was getting used to the idea of that person not being here all the time.”
However, it wasn’t just the lack of Nicolas’ physical presence that Mandy struggled with. She said there was a shift in Nicolas’ personality while he was away that she wasn’t prepared for. They struggled to keep up the communication that had been so easy before, she said.
“I saw a different side of Nick while he was gone,” Mandy said. “But you have to be different. It took me a while to understand that he was in a completely different world than where I was back home and safe.”
Deployment is a different world, Nicolas said. The new perspective experienced by the deployed soldiers is something that the military warns won’t be communicated well at first when calling back home.
“She would talk about some issues going on at home and there would be some instances where I would think, either out loud or to myself, ‘This is what you’re complaining about?’” Nicolas said. “Sometimes too much was too much, and I would try to make the realization with her that she still had her friends and her life.”
According to Chaplain McDonald, the situation Nicolas and Mandy faced during his deployment was a communication-based issue that is very common during deployment for couples.
“Trying to work out anything while you are in a deployed situation becomes difficult,” he said. “You don’t have the ability to talk about things in immediate time. Communication issues develop that inhibit the ability to work through issues.”
Yet the Boeschlings were determined to make the most of their first year of marriage, even with more than 7,000 miles separating them. They figured out how to communicate while planning their future together from their pending honeymoon to their home arrangements.
“That’s what I think got Nick away from where he was,” Mandy said. “He arranged the living room from Afghanistan. He made me measure every single piece of furniture and everything. It gave him something to contribute to while he wasn’t physically around.”
Communication continues to play a huge role in the Boeschling’s marriage as the military continues to prove to be more of a lifestyle rather than a job.
“At my workspace (at Fort Riley) I’m in charge of 35-40 soldiers so I have a lot to worry about there,” Nicolas said. “That’s a lot more people than just Mandy, so a lot of times when I come back home, I don’t feel like I need to worry about her. I think, ‘Oh, she’s fine,’ but at the same time, I have to be nice enough and a husband to realize that she has cares and worries.”
That feeling is a transition many soldiers feel upon their return home. They have to readjust to a home they no longer run, and relearn how to function with someone who might have no idea what they are going through or went through. However Mandy said that while it was a hard lifestyle to adapt to at times, she never once second-guessed her relationship with Nicolas.