A woman with a thing for men in uniform asks the experts to weigh in on her obsession.
It's the sight of a police officer with a glistening badge on his chest and handcuffs dangling from his hip. Firemen wearing heavy black bunker gear in big red trucks—even recent footage of Navy Seal Team 6 propelling from helicopters in Pakistan has an effect. Like many women with a penchant for men in uniform, I stop and stare.
When asked why these men are enticing, some quip it's the clothes (who wouldn't want a modern-day Superman?), while others find deeper meaning, reasoning it's the integrity and courage they possess that transfer to the household. My response: all of the above with emphasis on the latter. 7 Reasons To Fall In Love With A Military Man
Ever since my late teens, when infidelity led to the demise of my parents' marriage, I began gravitating toward these uniformed men, dating firemen, police officers, a Marine and a war veteran along the way before eventually marrying a (now-retired) serviceman. My addiction to this breed, I concluded, was because valor and respect were both visible (the uniform) and invisible (their yearning to achieve excellence through commitment). According to Psychologist and Relationship Expert, Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D., "The 'uniform' may signify that the man is able to manage life's troubles. We all want those to whom we are attached to be able to stay solid when we are a mess so that we can count on them. It spells safety and security."
Besides protection, I longed for a group of tight-knit friends. Being with a man in uniform allowed me to enter a social realm where the camaraderie amongst servicemen extends to the women. Annual functions like picnics, holiday parties, and formal dances helped birth these friendships.
"I look forward to dinner dances," says Judy, a longtime girlfriend of a firefighter. "It's a chance to dress up and dine at a classy restaurant with my love. It's also an opportunity to catch up with the ladies."
Members of these agencies and their families often become an extension of one's family. In my experience, these friendships have helped repair my once fractured home front; the communal aspect of "uniformed dating" fulfilling another need.
Rachel Russo, Matchmaker and Relationship Coach, explains this behavior:
"There is definite appeal in camaraderie. For many women, it is nice to see a man who can make a real commitment and be there for another person. Male friendships can touch a woman's heart—especially if the man has commitment-phobic tendencies. It is truly beautiful to see the growing rapport among these men, as they are often willing to put their life on the lines to protect their friends."
Being in the uniformed dating trenches, however, isn't always easy. Because of the risky nature of their work, their return home can be challenging. When the uniform comes off, oftentimes so does the persona. I've discovered that beneath the extraordinary armor are ordinary guys, sensitive people who want someone to lean on. 5 Types of Guys Women Can't Resist
"I love my husband," said one military wife when asked about her relationship with a Corporal in the Army. "Like anyone, we have our fair share of ups and downs. But, being married to someone with a dangerous job takes tremendous effort. It's almost like living with two different people—my hubby the super hero, and my hubby the mush."
Dr. Raymond says this isn't uncommon. "These men, who are the epitome of adulthood and strength, may need taking care of once the uniform is removed. And, while this may trigger maternal instincts in his woman, it is a stark contrast to the reliable and dependable guy he is in uniform."
While dating these guys is exhilarating, committing to the lifestyle for the long haul should be carefully considered. According to recent AP statistics, divorce rates in the military have "risen due to the two ongoing wars... [In 2008 alone] there were an estimated 10,200 failed marriages in the active duty Army… that's 3.5 percent among more than 287,000 married troops in the Army." 5 Ways To Keep Your Military Marriage STRONG During Deployments
To ensure you steer clear of this danger zone, here are some tools I've used for my own husband in uniform, that you can apply when playing house with Sergeant Sexy:
1. Keep work inquiries simple. Asking your partner how his day was is courteous and is encouraged by dating experts. For 9-to-5ers, this is the norm. Not necessarily so with the uniformed. Cops and firefighters may talk when asked, but if he's in the military, chances are his duties are confidential, especially after deployment overseas. So, where does this leave you? My advice is K.I.S.S: keep inquiries simple, sister!
2. Be flexible. Though they aren't doctors, men who protect and serve are on-call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. And remember, disaster doesn't take vacation either, which means dating or marrying a man in uniform takes a lot of patience and flexibility. One strategy when making plans is to use a pencil in your date book. This will prevent your calendar from looking like a Rorschach inkblot.
3. Decoding "Boys' Night Out." Camaraderie is the foundation of survival for servicemen across the country. Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, there have been more memorials, fundraisers, and other organized events than ever. Unwritten rules in firehouses, police stations, and military bases nationwide require brotherhood attendance, so ladies please cut your man slack. Don't get me wrong, NO guy should use these outings as a means to get drunk with his buddies and ditch out on his duties to your or his family, but understand that gatherings are expected.
4. Making nice. A good laugh amongst like-minded women who "get it" can enrich your relationship. When I was a newbie attending a formal with my fireman, I found that being cordial right away put me in a favorable light. I quickly began making plans with others who used pencils in their planners!
It takes a strong, confident woman to date a man in uniform. Handling uncertainties is a job in itself, but the rewards of being with a hero (from watching him slip into his gear to seeing his courageous actions captured in local newspapers) are priceless.