As the Dear Abby of Military.com, I write a daily advice column for active servicemen and women trying to navigate their complicated dual role of everyday hero meets flawed human being in search of romantic counsel. I’ve heard nearly every story; from the deployed solider who fears his wife will stray to the heartbroken officer who receives a “Dear John” letter. And of course, there’s always the topic of cheating; a very common occurrence in the military lifestyle.
With long, repeated separations between military husbands and wives, extramarital affairs become the norm for many couples. So, it was not shocking when news broke about four-star retired Army Gen. David Petraeus’ indiscretions. Nor is it surprising that Brig. Gen.Jeffrey Sinclair’s wife, Rebecca, is standing by her man amid sexual misconduct allegations. She claims her husband participated in consensual sex.
Most civilian women would not defend their husband’s infidelity. But for the military wife, cheating practically comes with the territory. And rather than ignore the lusty elephant in the room, some military couples have created their own defense against infidelity: the so-called deployment sex pact.
I first heard about this unusual agreement a year ago, from a military wife. She explained a deployment sex pact as an agreement between partners that clearly states what is acceptable sexual activity outside the relationship during deployments. For instance, a couple may deem oral sex appropriate, when it takes place while a soldier or officer is away on deployment. But those same acts, if done with someone other than a spouse on the home front, could be grounds for divorce.
My writing on deployment sex pacts ignited a firestorm of comments, both for and against the idea.
“It’s [deployment sex pact] a great idea. It gets really lonely over there sometimes, and besides -- men have urges...urges!” wrote one soldier.
Other military couples feel deployment sex pacts dilute the sanctity of marriage. “I'm a guy and I don't go look for woman to have something with rules and regulations,” wrote one soldier. “I think the military already has got enough regulations for me.”
Another soldier's wife expressed her disdain for the idea "If you need to cheat then do you and your spouse a favor and get a divorce. There are plenty of things to do in theater besides sex. Ummm, what about the gym, your job, clean your weapon, college? Keep your military bearing."
Part of being committed to someone means taking your vows seriously. And yes, I agree that being away from your partner for a extended period of time is the worse part of “for better or worse.” But if you’ve chosen to make a life within the military, then you have chosen the lifestyle.
I feel a couple has the right to decide what works for them in their relationship. But it’s my belief that if you cannot be faithful for the 10-18 months of a given deployment, perhaps you should reconsider the fundamentals of what makes a relationship.
The foundation of a relationship is built on trust and communication. It’s also built on knowing that with love comes sacrifice. Soldiers are willing to sacrifice their lives for our country. But why can’t some put a pause on lustful needs for the betterment of their relationship?
You may agree verbally it’s okay to 'hook up' outside of your relationship. Yet when it happens, how will you feel? It can change the entire dynamic of the partnership you once cherished. Not to mention the danger of sexually transmitted diseases, or pregnancy.
It’s a difficult enough journey to find someone to love, who also loves you. If you have found love, I recommend not throwing it away or creating undue problems. Should you make a pact, make one that vows you will be faithful to one each other. A deployment sex pact benefits no one.