Taylor was 18 and a senior in high school when she decided to post a profile on an online dating site. She would be attending college in the area the coming fall and was hoping to meet some new people.

That was how she met David. He was stationed at a local military base. She saw his profile and decided to e-mail him. They really hit it off. After three or four dates, they decided to date each other exclusively.

David was a couple of years older and had been in the Navy a year when they started dating. She liked that he seemed more stable, more mature, more independent, and even ‘braver’ than most of the high school boys she knew. David was in training to learn his specific job. Although David was busy, Taylor was in her final year in high school and things were starting to ease up. She and David spent nearly all of their free time together.

That is when Taylor’s mom talked to her and warned her that David could get orders elsewhere.

In fact, that day came sooner rather than later. Taylor remembers sitting in high school English class when she got a text from David. They both knew he was up for reassignment. Not wanting the teacher to see her phone, she quickly glanced at the message. She was relieved to see Washington in the text as Washington, D.C., was only three hours from home. It was only after class, that Taylor reread the text. In August, David was being reassigned to a Navy base in Washington state. Taylor remembers David coming over that night and we ‘danced around the issue.’

Despite his approaching move, they spent much of the summer before college together. They denied the obvious, that David would be moving soon. When they did talk about it, they came up with different ideas of how they could continue to see each other. Taylor decided she would visit David as much as possible after his move. Then David learned that his new ship was going to be deployed shortly after his arrival. Both knew it was not rational to think they could continue dating.

For the second time, Taylor’s mom sat her down. As any mom would be, she was concerned. She suggested that Taylor begin to prepare herself for the day that David would be leaving.

Shortly before David moved, Taylor began to distance herself. She was attempting to protect herself from the fear that she would never see David again. Taylor’s initial response of denial and later distance (and sometimes even fighting), are not uncommon reactions to a military member’s moves and deployment, especially for someone new to this experience.

And now? Taylor is in her first year of college and David is deployed halfway around the world. He has meet new friends on the ship and feels excited to be doing his job, but he is tired of just blue water. She and David text as often as possible and still use pet names for one another but the difference in time zones and schedules makes it difficult. David is not able to say where the ship is headed so Taylor follows the ship’s whereabouts online as best she can. She found out the ship will be back by Christmas. She would love to go to the west coast to visit, but she doesn’t think she can afford it.

Although at times Taylor is sour that David got stationed on the other side of the country and then deployed, she doesn’t regret the experience. In contrast, her only regret is that “the last couple of weeks weren’t me. I wish I hadn’t tried so hard to be unemotional and put up such a brave front.” When asked about David, Taylor replied that David fears that military life will mean a lifetime of getting close and leaving others behind.

About the Author

Michelle L. Kelley, Ph.D.

Michelle L. Kelley, Ph.D. is Professor of Psychology at Old Dominion University. She has conducted research with military members and their families for 25 years.

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