I asked how they viewed their own work and how they viewed their spouse’s job.
Since surveys can tell you a lot about what people are doing but not how or why they are doing it, I went back and completed extensive interviews with Army and Navy couples.
They answered questions about some of the factors we know contribute to marital duration, such as age at marriage, race and education.
Then they answered questions about how they divided the responsibilities of the family.
These young people married and then behaved themselves into a long marriage.
This doesn’t mean young couples should run to the altar just yet.
The thing that surprised my thesis committee (but did not surprise me at all) was how these long-married military families were constructed around separation. This was not because she was a woman or because her job was less important.
Service members were training for a deployment, deploying or returning from deployment all the time. Because the service member was expected to be absent for long periods, the responsibility for the structure of family life was thrust on the spouse. The military spouse created the structure of the family because she was most consistently present.
Long marriage in the military is not the opposite of divorce.
Yet we study the divorce rate among couples married less than five years as if that explained everything.