Category Archives: Marriage

Iraq / Afghanistan Effects on Marriage

Through the rapid increases and decreases in marriage, one thing can be said: each time period, and in association each war, has had its own unique pattern. Through the Iraq and Afghanistan War, another pattern has emerged: one of more stability.


This war is different in that it is current and still happening. Thus far, there have been over two million people involved with hundreds of deaths. Of the casualties, most have been soldiers 21 years of age from the eastern coast of the U.S (Home and Away: Iraq and Afghanistan Casualties, n.d.). iraqsoldiersOf those, the highest casualties in Afghanistan occurred in 2010 and the highest casualties in Iraq occurred in 2004 (Home and Away: Iraq and Afghanistan Casualties, n.d.). While many sources contradict each other, the average soldier for this war is between 18-30, which makes sense since they recruit in high schools and have older, more experienced generals.

Old Faithful

Marriage has reached a steady state compared to past wars. There was no dramatic rush towards marriage. This is because over half of the soldiers who have served/ currently serving are married (Williamson & Mulhall, n.d.). The others involved in the war were too young to be considering marriage because the current trends in society have shifted marriage to later in life where most get married in their late 20s. So, instead of quick, ‘shotgun’ weddings as seen in World War II and such, there is a slower, more consistent rate that changed little with the war.

Successful Tales

With every war, there are stories of successful marriages and there are stories of not so successful marriages. As is the case with Lisa and Sgt. Maj. Chris Faris, it started out as the latter and morphed into success come the end. Chris Faris began his service in the Gulf War and later was part of the Delta Force in the Iraq / Afghanistan War. Sgt-Maj-Chris-FarisDuring the Gulf War, Chris almost died, causing him to face his death and the very real possibility that he might die. After serving, he came home a very changed man, very distant and calloused. As his wife put it, “Something had died inside of him and he was there. But he wasn’t there” (Married Special-Operations Troops Feel Strains of War, n.d.). He came back a cold person because he learned to feel nothing to survive in war. He then re-enlisted to serve in Iraq / Afghanistan where for the 6 years he served, he was home for no longer than 2 months. At that point, his wife insisted they live as roommates instead of spouses because reintegrating was too difficult to bear. Their relationship was strained and his anger was palpable. One night, while his wife and two daughters discussed American Idol, he said “Shut the (expletive) up. What is wrong with you? Have you no concept of what is important in the world? Do you know what’s going on? The three of you disgust me” (Married Special-Operations Troops Feel Strains of War, n.d.). After some time, Chris realized his mistakes and how he had distanced himself from his family. He begged his wife to give him another chance because divorce was right around the corner. Fortunately, she agreed and they sought counselling, a service the army successfully provides. This saved their marriage, and now Lisa and Chris travel around to conferences and speak with soldiers and veterans about marital strain and how to deal with it.Chrisfaris

Another success is that of Angel Stanley and Matthew McCollum. Their relationship never faltered, (at least in the major scheme of things meaning it never came close to divorce) mostly because of how Angel dealt with his return. When Matthew returned, one of the first things they talked about was his experience. She told him to “Get it off your chest. Tell me the worst thing you did” (Freedberg, 2010). When he told her, Angel said “Sounds reasonable to me. I’m glad you’re OK, now let’s move on” (Freedberg, 2010). In having him tell her the worst thing he did, it released the burden of guilt, and he no longer had to carry that around as a secret where he felt as though he would be judged if he mentioned it. This kind of relief could possibly be the best advice given to any returning soldier because it helps to rebuild the relationship and to start fresh.

The fails

There can never be success without failure as well. Marriages fail for many reasons but can be summed up as poor marriage quality. According to a study completed in 2009, marital quality in soldiers had decreased over time with the increase in infidelity and separation (Riviere, Merrill, Thomas, Wilk, & Bliese, 2012). This trend in dissatisfaction remained even after controlling for factors such as mental health, combat exposure, physical health, etc. ( Riviere, Merrill, Thomas, Wilk, & Bliese, 2012). This means that all of these factors had in some way an influence in satisfaction and consequently divorce. Higher PTSD rates were corresponded to higher separation rates and so on. On some levels, it seems the mental wounds left over from war posed more of a threat than any physical wound ever could.losing-on-the-home-front


Divorce, like marriage, has reached a state of somewhat stability. There again was no dramatic increase in rate and was really not significantly different from the general population. For example, in 2001 there were 5,600 army divorces and in 2004 there were 10,477 army divorces (Baker, n.d.). Additionally, military divorce in 2005 had only risen to rates observed in 1996 (Williamson & Mulhall, n.d.). What these statistics reveal is that while there was a change, it was not significant enough to stand separate from time and regular trends in divorce. The highest rates of divorce were for females serving in the war. Between 2005-2008, divorce in army women rose 2% as opposed to men: 0.1% which is a rather interesting difference (Williamson & Mulhall, n.d.). The reasons for this difference are foggy, but perhaps husbands at home are less likely to deal with the separation well.

The fixings

Are these problems fixable? As Jeffrey Murrah (licensed marriage and family therapist) has said, these problems are caused from soldiers arriving home too quickly. He is of the opinion that men serving now get home so quickly that they do not have time to decompress and deal partially with their experiences, which is a major change from previous wars such as World War II (Baker, n.d.). Perhaps soldiers need a quarantine period where they can mentally regroup so as to avoid relational problems at home. This goes along with the words of Sven Wilson of BYU: “Traumatic experiences like combat seem to have a persistent impact on the ability of people to form and maintain successful relationships” (Baker, n.d.). Their experiences are so unlike anything dealt with by the general American populous that it affects soldiers to the core; those experiences combined with little decompressing time leads to strained relationships and ended marriages. A way to fix this would be to perhaps require counselling upon reintegrating into society. The stigma of therapy would have to be broken, but it could do a significant amount of good.

Work Cited

Baker, S. (n.d.). Marriages — Another Casualty of War?. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from—-another-casualty-of-war.aspx?artid=403

Freedberg Jr., S. J. (2010). Oral History Of Iraq & Afghanistan: Angel McCollum. National Journal, 2.

Married special-operations troops feel strains of war. (n.d.). USATODAY.COM. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

Martinez, L., & Bingham, A. (n.d.). U.S. Veterans: By the Numbers. ABC News. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

Riviere, L. A., Merrill, J. C., Thomas, J. L., Wilk, J. E., & Bliese, P. D. (2012). 2003-2009 Marital Functioning Trends Among U.S. Enlisted Soldiers Following Combat Deployments. Military Medicine, 177(10), 1169-1177.

Williamson, V., & Mulhall, E. (n.d.). Invisible Wounds Psychological and Neurological Injuries Confront a New Generation of Veterans. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

Images Cited


Marriage & The Vietnam War


vietnam marriage

The war in Vietnam was comparatively less significant regarding marriage. Because the average soldier was 19, many soldiers were unmarried. By “February 1969, of every ten enlisted men (including draftees), four were married, and two had children” (Lieberman, 1971). This was a drop from rates observed in World War II, which would most likely have been 6 or 7 out of every 10 married as opposed to 4. Additionally, “23% of U.S. military personnel in their first term are married (330,000 men), over half their wives work…” supporting this lower rate of marriage (Lieberman, 1971). There was a much lower drive to marry this time before leaving for war.

Military Brides

With the presence of American soldiers in Vietnam, the Vietnamese women were exposed to them and developed relations with them. As a result, they married American soldiers, thus making up the South-East Asian American population after entering the United States. This potentially posed a problem in the U.S., causing the number of unmarried American women to increase (which was partially from the deaths of soldiers and partially from the returning soldiers marrying Vietnamese women). This trend in marrying Vietnamese women might have caused familial tension because of objections to sons marrying foreigners and hard feelings towards all Vietnamese due to the deaths of soldiers. Regardless, by 1980 “33.3% of Veterans had Vietnamese spouses,” most of which were women (Lieberman,1971). This immigration to the U.S. caused a shift in the population, increasing the Asian minority.

vietnamese bride

During the War

Although the war was happening right outside the camps of American soldiers, they were still conducting marriage ceremonies on the front lines. Catherine Ward and Marie Bates are prime examples. They were two women who roomed together in nursing school and joined the U.S. Army Nurse Corps (Dixon, 2007). They also went to Vietnam together and had a double marriage there to two physicians they met (Dixon, 2007). Due to changing social norms, marriages on the front lines were in part accepted, though they did not occur frequently (most likely for the obvious reason: there was a war to focus on). This may have provided a distraction, provided entertainment, and increased morale in the soldiers since marriage was a positive event and something to think about instead of death.


With these marriages occurring in the barracks, there was a push to station wives with their husbands.nurses vietnam Shirley and Greg Menard were a couple lucky enough to be stationed together. Shirley was a nurse while Greg was a helicopter pilot. When her service was up and she found out her husband was staying, “she admitted that she “had no conception of what Vietnam was” but that she “just wanted to be with my husband.” “So,” she explained, ‘I forgot about getting out of the Army. There was a hospital over there, and my husband needed me… I asked for orders immediately’” (Dixon, 2007). Many wives held the same view, not wanting to be stay-at-home wives and wanting to be close to their spouse while serving. This could not happen for everyone, causing jealousy in those not stationed with their husbands. The Menards were two of the lucky ones.

Gay Marriage

While gay marriage was not a hot topic quite yet, it is worth mentioning because the beginnings of the topic were emerging. Gay marriage was not allowed, as is obviously still the case today, but rather than pushing for acceptance the gays wanted left alone. As William Donohoe, of the U.S. Airforce, said, the Vietnam War was his first encounter with a homosexual man and mentioned “Don’t ask, don’t tell’ was always the rule—it’s just that it wasn’t formalized in writing” (The Case Against Gay Marriage, n.d.). Donohoe had no problem with the men he served with; he said they waned left alone and it was simply never talked about, that men went about their own business.

Widows &Death

Over the course of the Vietnam War, there were around 50,000 deaths leaving a significant number of 16-24 year old girls who could no longer marry. With those deaths, according to the VA records, 6,300 widows were added to the rolls in 1968 alone, and by 1980 that number climbed to 18,000 (Lieberman, 1971). vietnam wallThis weighed heavy on those women effected by this formidable number of deaths. What is more, there was pressure on widows to not remarry, the government implementing consequences for such behavior. They decided “her educational grant, loan eligibility, and DIC (Dependency & Indemnity Compensation) are terminated upon remarriage” justifying that the new spouse can now provide for her (Lieberman, 1971). This led to many problems, especially with women who needed to move on emotionally but were trapped economically. It appeared to be a bit of a punishment based on faulty logic resulting in widows having to make a hard decision. There was no guarantee that a new spouse could provide, but was it worth the risk if it helped with moving on?


While divorce was high during World War II, it was ever increasing. There was a 30% increase in the divorce rate since 1967 with 715,000 divorces in 1970 (3.5 per 1,000 population) (Lieberman, 1971). This can be compared to 1946 where there were 610,000 divorces (4.2 per 1,000 population) (Lieberman, 1971). The number of divorces was increasing; the reason the percent was higher in 1946 may be attributed to the change in population size. What is unclear is whether the war was a cause of the rise in divorces or if that was happening regardless. Divorce has been increasing over time anyway and may not have been cause by the war, but even so it continued through the war and was definitely helped in the increasing rate.

memorial vietnamWhile marriage was effected by the Vietnam War, it was not as greatly effected as it had been in previous wars. The age bracket of soldiers was significantly lower with soldiers almost too young to consider marriage. Additionally, unless directly effected by the war, life went on as normal. This means that natural trends in marriage and divorce were free to continue showing an older age bracket marrying and finding careers and divorce rates on the rise. These rates may have been affected by the war, but by how much is undetermined. The most significant effect of the war on marriage came in the form of widows, left without their husbands to move on with life in society. For those women, this war will always be significantly traumatizing.

Work Cited

The Case Against Gay Marriage. (n.d.). Catholic League RSS. Retrieved March 28, 2014, from

Dixon Vuic, K. (2007). “I’m afraid We’re Going to Have to Just Change Our Ways”: Marriage, Motherhood, and Pregnancy in the Army Nurse Corps During the Vietnam War. Signs, 32 ( 4), 997-1022.

Lieberman, E. (1971). American Families and the Vietnam War. Journal of Marriage and Family, 33(4), 709-721.

Image Sources





World War II – Marriage And Divorce


With the beginnings of World War II, marriage rates skyrocketed. This in part was due to a break in the Great Depression along with many young men wanting to experience married life before marching off to war, not knowing if they would return. According to J.R. Woods and Sons, a ring company, marriage rates increased 250% after the Selective Service Act was passed and continued to climb (Mintz & Kellogg, 1988). Additionally, after the draft, marriage rates increased another 25%, and after Pearl Harbor rates rose 60% higher than the same month the previous year (Mintz & Kellogg, 1988). This rate rose dramatically for many reasons; some married because they were impatient, some married to receive money from the government, and others married because they could die at war. Furthermore, “some married to avoid draft, since men with dependants were deferred until 1942” (Mintz & Kellogg, 1988). Whatever their reasons, rates increased at a rate unseen in the past, a major shift from the Civil War.

WWIIOne man who did not fall into this category of quick marriage was Brandon Scott Bailey (an airman, 1st class Red Horse Squadron). He decided to wait until he got stationed to marry his girlfriend, choosing not to rush their relationship. He wrote to his girlfriend often, blaming her and complaining “I have kicked myself for joining the Air Force so many times because I desire to be with you…” (Schaeffer, 2004). He told her all about the women that threw themselves at him and how he turned them down, earning him criticism from his comrades who told him his girlfriend never had to know about the other women. He was one case in which the relationship did not end as quickly as it started because it was not rushed into marriage.

Women at Work

wwii-women-war-work As men marched off to war, women were left to take care of homes and businesses and fill war-time jobs in industries to support war effort. This led to a new found independence and many concerns about women in the workforce straining marriages. Typically, women working were young and unmarried, but with the arrival of World War II, the majority shifted to married, older women. It was voiced that “in our complicated society, with its traditional concept of employment as a masculine prerogative, a woman’s working may have symbolic meaning for her husband and may be a threat to him if he is not altogether secure in his masculinity” ( Mintz & Kellogg, 1988). Society was concerned that this shift to married women working would cause marital friction through wives undermining husbands’ self-image. This may sound dramatic but at the time, it was a concern of many.


With quick marriages came rising divorce rates as well. Between 1940 and 1944, divorce rates rose from 16 per 100 marriages to 27 per 100 marriages with 1 in 6 marriages ending in divorce in 1940 to 1 in 4 marriages ending in divorce in 1946 ( Mintz & Kellogg, 1988). The spike in divorce rates had many possible causes, the most obvious being a lack of foundation.

Divorce rate WW2Because men were marrying women they hardly knew before leaving for war, there was little time to build a relationship leading to infidelity on both accounts: men falling prey to prostitution and women abandoning their husbands for lovers they met in their husbands’ absences. If they managed to stay together until the end of the war, there was estrangement due to separation to deal with upon men returning. What’s more, women enjoyed their independence in their husbands’ absences and some were unwilling to relinquish the freedom. The perception of divorce was changing with the generations also meaning it became more acceptable to separate from a spouse. For all of these reasons and more, those quick marriages before the war also ended with the war.


The media is a window into concerns of a time period. Thus, it is no surprise that divorce appears in the media, such as films, interlaced with war topics. As an example, in 1949, just after the war (while the memory is vivid and the wounds are still fresh), the film Sands of Iwo Jima was produced. It is a film about Sargent John Stryker, a U.S. Marine, whose wife leaves him, taking their son with her and leaving him to deal with his anger and pain (Sands of Iwo Jima, n.d.). He takes out his feelings on his soldiers, spiralling out of control and causing concern among his subordinates. The point being that this shift in culture was concerning to society, and past generations were unsure of how to deal with the change, leading to films of war interlaced with themes of divorce and the repercussions.

WW2 Sands-of-Iwo-JimaMarriage and divorce rates changed so rapidly that society as a whole became concerned about the subject. Older generations were concerned about virtue and traditional values while younger soldiers and teenagers brought forth an emerging younger culture completely different from previously accepted norms. Intergenerational friction was created as changing rates in marriage and divorce forced a shift, not necessarily a negative shift. This was a dramatic change from the past and society had to figure out its implications and how to deal with it.

Image Sources–sands-of-iwo-jima-movie-poster.html

Text Sources

Mintz, S., & Kellogg, S. (1988). Domestic revolutions: a social history of American family life. New York: Free Press

Sands of Iwo Jima. (n.d.). IMDb. Retrieved March 2, 2014, from

Schaeffer, F. (2004). Voices from the front: letters home from America’s military family. New York: Carroll & Graf

Marriage and the Civil War

civil warSubtle differences in marriage patterns can be seen throughout different wars. Divorce rates change, communication improves, and concerns are even altered. The problems facing married couples in the Civil War were different from those in more current wars and are unique to the situations they experienced, yet there are some things that remained constant.

Emotions During the War

While situations changed for spouses, the emotions remain consistent. The wives of soldiers are always concerned, anxious, worried, angry, sad, or some other variation. This is because they are concerned for their loved one’s safety and hope they return in one piece without any significant change. Diana Phillips for example wrote in 1862 to her husband saying “I shall feel anxious till I hear from you after the battle” (Nelson & Sheriff, 2007). Many wives were concerned during the civil war that if their husbands returned, they would return calloused, emotionally scarred, and a stranger to them due to long separation. Men on another note felt guilty, exemplified by Marshall Phillips writing back to his wife I feel sometimes as if I done wrong by inlisting and leaving you with a family of small children” (Nelson & Sheriff, 2007). While men were away at war leaving their wives at home, these emotions bubbled into distraction, becoming a major obstacle for both spouses to overcome. This anxiety was mitigated by at least one factor, trust, like George Upton who wrote “Whatever you, and him, think is best shall feel perfectly satisfy with” ( Nelson & Sheriff, 2007). A soldier could rest easy in one aspect when he knew he could trust his wife to take care of the home to the best of her abilities.

Question of Virtue

With such separation also came a necessity for trust, faith in the husband to make wise decisions as well as faith in the wife left at home. Thus, virtue became a tremendous source of tension between couples and a increasingly debated topic. Even mothers during the Civil War were concerned about their son’s virtue as one mother encouraged her son to seek female correspondents to buoy his spirits ( Nelson & Sheriff, 2007). Many family members left at home, mostly wives, worried their husbands would cave to prostitution, gambling, and other vices to fill their free time. As one unknown wife fumed to her husband Gamblers“It came upon me so sudden I was not thinking of such a thing and did not know you used cards at all and was thinking of the same man that went away and hoping he would return the same” and going on to say “you are a father now and don’t bring disgrace upon your child’s head” ( Nelson & Sheriff, 2007). The separation brought out a lot of doubt in marriages, a commonality between wars. However it was not just the women concerned about their husbands, men were equally concerned about their wives left at home alone, affairs being a possibility.


Communication during the Civil War consisted predominantly of letters back and forth, making them a very important aspect to the soldiers and families because it was their link across the lines. Consequently, it became a concern of the content of these letters and their effects on soldiers’ focus. As a result of this concern, newspaper articles were written instructing wives and family members on what to write to their soldiers. It was recommended that they write letters about how everything at home was fine, there were no problems, it was quiet and peaceful with nothing to worry about, and so on. This could relieve some of the stress and guilt of soldiers leaving their families behind to fend for themselves, but it could also distract the soldiers. Instead of keeping them from worrying, it might have caused them to wish they were home rather than at war, consequently distracting them from their duties. As Joseph Huneycutt had to write “My dear wife, I have to state to you the sad news that tomorrow at 12 oclock that I have die. I have to be shot to death for starting home to see my wife Letter...civil warand dear children” ( Nelson & Sheriff, 2007). Some men wanted to be anywhere but at war and so deserting became a problem. In the south, women purposely told their husbands to desert and come home, sabotaging the efforts of the confederates and giving them power. Letters became a way for husbands to say goodbye to their wives and families, as with Huneycutt, when deserting increased on both sides of the war. Sullivan Ballou, a Union soldier from Rhode Island, wrote a long poetic letter to his wife the night before his death making peace with his fate and telling his wife how much he loved her. It was a sad, romantic letter where he told his wife “my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name” (E. & J., 2013). There was a question to the validity of this letter because it was found in his trunk after his death and did not match his handwriting, but regardless of its validity, the letter serves as a powerful testament to the love between couples surviving the war even though many did not return home.

Marriage After the War

When the war ended and soldiers returned home, many things changed. For some, marriages ended. As one study showed, “Southern legislatures after the war expanded the grounds for both absolute divorce and legal separation, as well as bolstered the property rights of married women, reflecting the new reliance on the state to mediate domestic relations” (Petition written by Elizabeth Jenkins after Civil War when divorce rights were given to women, n.d.). Divorce rates after the war increased because of unfaithful men who fell prey to prostitution as well as unfaithful wives and because men coming back from war were changed men. Some came back mentally scarred, violent, and altogether different from when they left leading to strained marriages and in some cases separation. In addition, due to the high mortality rates from battle, there was an uneven ratio between men and women upon their return to society, leaving many women single or widowed and causing people to marry at a younger age to stabilize the population (Hacker, Hilde, & Jones, 2010). This led to social disarray and changing norms.


While some marriages ended, others became examples of powerful bonds. There were insecurities and bumps in the road, trials of time and separation, but many marriages survived. War is a test of the strength in relationships.

Image Sources

Text Sources

E. C., J. J. (2013). Ballou’s poignant last letter to Sarah. America’s Civil War, 26(3), 64-65.

Hacker, J., Hilde, L., & Jones, J. (2010). The Effect of the Civil War on Southern Marriage Patterns. Journal Of Southern History, 76(1), 39-70.

Nelson, S. R., & Sheriff, C. (2007). A people at war: civilians and soldiers in America’s Civil War, 1854-1877. New York: Oxford University Press.

Petition written by Elizabeth Jenkins after Civil War when divorce rights were given to women, 1869. (n.d.). Teaching American History in South Carolina a State-wide Approach to Teaching Professional Development. Retrieved February 14, 2014, from