1. HJ: How did you meet?
Jacob and I met in college in 2011; he had freshly enlisted in the US Air Force. Although I had sworn I’d never date a “Chair Force” man, he won me over and we began dating. Two months later, he went to BMT. Over the next couple of years, he served as a Reservist while we attended college. He later separated, and we got married after our college graduation in 2010. Jacob began his Masters degree and commissioned through the Chaplain Candidate program shortly after. I connected with a chaplain spouse group and got my first taste of the military community while working to put him through school. I applied to commission through Officer Training School in 2017, and I later learned I had been accepted. In the spring of 2018 I commissioned as an Active Duty officer, and Jacob graduated with his Masters of Divinity. We are now both AF officers, Jacob a 1Lt in the Reserves and me a 2Lt on Active Duty.
Emileigh and I met through a mutual friend in 2011. Though she was not interested in me at first, I proved I was worthy by throwing that mutual friend into a snow bank one winter because we was pushing her on an icy parking lot while she was wearing a dress. She warned him and he didn’t stop, so I looked at my other friend and we grabbed him and heaved him into the nearest mound of snow. We started dating a few weeks after that. We had only been dating for three months before I left for BMT at Lackland AFB. From there we communicated primarily through letters and the occasional phone call for half of our relationship at that point. I spent a few years in the Reserves as an enlisted Airman and got out as I finished my undergraduate work. Once I started Seminary I commissioned as a chaplain candidate, and I just recently reappointed as a real chaplain in the Air Force Reserves. All together I have been in for about 5 years. Em had a hard time starting her recruiting process as local recruiters wouldn’t give a short female the time of day, so I started going with her as “bait.” They would be ready to talk to me, and I would tell them I was already commissioned, and they finally took her info, ha! She was picked up for a commission and went to OTS the last year of my Seminary education. We graduated in the same month (her from OTS, me from seminary), and headed to our first duty station. We have been here almost exactly one year with Em on Active Duty and me still in the Reserves.
2. HJ: What are three things that makes your marriage resilient?
Three things that make our marriage resilient: 1. We established our “core values” as a couple early on in our marriage, and we’ve stuck by those priorities. They help us filter our career and personal decisions in line with our long-term goals for our family and marriage, not what is convenient or most appealing in the short term. 2. We have built in accountability for each other in different areas, and that has helped us grow in trusting each other, especially when we’re apart for long periods. We’re careful to guard our integrity and our marriage with certain boundaries that keep the other person in the loop, particularly in our relationships with other people, finances, or activities while we travel. 3. We both focus on our individual relationships with Jesus and make them a priority. We’ve found that as Jesus sharpens us as individuals and we get what we personally need from him, we’re less likely to put unrealistic expectations on the other person and are generally more selfless toward each other.
To be resilient it starts with our relationship with God. Stress is an ever present reality, but my devotions are invaluable to put all of it into perspective. Nothing is bigger than He is, and all the things on my plate are opportunities to steward what He has entrusted to me. I trust He will empower me to do those things with excellence even if the task isn’t overtly spiritual. Secondly, Emileigh and I prioritize one another with our time. We spend meaningful time together where we talk about our day, stresses, funny stories, or points of prayer. Thirdly, we give honest feedback to one another. If she is upset that the house is messy, it’s important that she say it to me so I can do my part to fix it, or if I am feeling under-appreciated for all the things I do, I need to say something instead of letting that feeling fester into resentment.
3. HJ: What are three things you do together that brings you joy?
Three things we do together to have joy: 1. We eat food, haha! We’re both foodies and a lot of our fun activities have revolved around trying and making new kinds of food together. 2. We work out together (except now as I’m currently pregnant and very tired!). Especially because we both have PT tests to pass, it’s an easy way to kill two birds with one stone and get physically stronger and be with each other. 3. We talk about our days while one/both of us makes dinner. We share all the exciting and boring details, haha!
Maintaining joy and happiness can be tricky. Primarily we cook and eat together, but we also have practiced maintaining reasonable expectations. We already know that we are not going to celebrate every holiday, birthday, moving day, or other major life event together, so we really celebrate the ones we do have together and we try to plan in advance for the others.
4. HJ: How do you balance your profession and married life?
From my vast experience in one year as an Active Duty Lieutenant…. ha…. I make sure to get as much work in during the day as possible and leave at 4:30 whenever possible. When I’m home, I’m home and I don’t answer emails or work texts unless they’re emergencies. I don’t try to look busy or stay late to impress anybody; it doesn’t help anything in the long term. At the advice of an older military couple, I take advantage of margin when I have it and use it to recharge because there will be times when I won’t have option.
Work / life balance as a spouse can be challenging because my work is in my home. I could slack off all day and then do things when Em comes home, but it is important to prioritize the time we have together by getting all my work done during the day so all I need to do when she is home is clean up after dinner and then I am free to spend time with her.
5. HJ: What would you say is the main key to your happiness and strong marriage?
Main thing, Jesus is the one that has made a difference in our marriage. He is what keeps us together, helps us love each other at a deep level we could never reach on our own will power, and work through issues with love and grace. Also, do what you need to do to build trust with each other early on in your relationship, whatever that looks like for you guys. If you discover insecurities in yourself or from your past that makes it hard to trust your spouse in an area, work on them as an individual and agree on boundaries as a couple.
Jesus is the foundation our marriage is built on. He holds us accountable even when we are alone, so we can be honest with each other when we struggle and we can learn to trust one another more. Divorce isn’t an option for us as a couple. No running away or calling it quits. He sets the gold standard of what it means to love one another, so we both sacrifice for one another. No one gets to keep score.
6. HJ: Do you get the support you need in your role as an officer and military spouse?
The military has been pretty great for me and Jacob. When he was in school and I got to connect with other chaplaincy wives, I gained some best friends that have helped me through rough times. As we’ve gone AD, I’ve appreciated how the military community has affirmed me as a female officer and accepted Jacob in the spouse community that is largely female. I know that isn’t everyone’s experience, but the people we’ve met in the military so far have been very supportive.
The military helped me pay for school, and some of my best friends from seminary were in the Chaplain Candidate program. Now that I’m a full-fledged chaplain and awaiting Reserves orders, I am getting involved with the spouse organizations on base and have experienced nothing but support and welcoming.
7. HJ: What role does faith play in your marriage?
I kinda already answered this in previous questions, but our faith in Jesus is the foundation on which our marriage is built. Individually, Jesus helps Jacob and I in our personal circumstances and is the strength we each draw from. Then, as we come together as a couple, we are stronger and healthier in our marriage as we seek his input and guidance. Jesus knows the future and what’s around the corner, so we are confident there is nothing we can face in military life that he will not prepare us for and preserve our marriage through.
I think I have already answered this one, but Jesus tells me what it really means to be a man and a good husband, His word gives us the principles to set the values Em and I are committed to. He is the foundation of our marriage and our lives as individuals.
8. HJ: What are some of the challenges you have as a Military Spouse?
As a mil spouse it can be difficult to make friends if you aren’t active in the community. Among our neighbors, we are one of the only couples that do not have kids. We don’t mind kids, but we just are not included in some of the family activities the others plan because we can’t participate in that part. You have to be very intentional to get yourself out there to meet people or you just won’t.
Follow Em and Jacob on social media at @leadwiththeleft