When my boyfriend left for boot camp, we had only ever known long distance dating. We had only spent five days together in person. Still, even being used to being physically apart, we spoke every single day for months. I didn’t know how I was going to handle the boot camp separation. I just knew it wasn’t optional and I’d get to see him on the other side. No matter how much you think you’re “used” to not having your best friend around, you probably aren’t used to being unable to communicate with them at all. Because we weren’t married, my recruit sent his things back to his family, not me. That meant I had to wait until he was allowed to send his first letter before I could hear from him.
I got his first letter 21 days later. It was longer before he heard from me.
Yeah, if you’re married, you’ll probably hear from your recruit sooner. You might get the phone call mine couldn’t make when he was sick with pneumonia after being in dirty close quarters with hundreds of other sweaty, sick recruits. You might not be at work when your recruit finally makes their “I’m a sailor!” phone call. But those are mere minutes out of two months.
So here’s the truth, pals: you’re in this one alone. You and your sailor individually have to get through these separations, just like during a real deployment. This is your welcome into military life as a couple. Because you have to rely on your own strength, I’ve got advice for you here and my sailor has advice for your recruit below.
Here’s how my sailor and I survived boot camp separation.
Dear Navy Recruit,
Remind Yourself Why You’re There
If you’re married, get a rubber ring. You can keep the real one, but it’s better to have something you aren’t afraid to get disgusting or damaged. A friend of mine had one and he said it helped remind him why he was there.
My girlfriend sent me photos of herself and screenshots of cute texts and everything else. I stayed up a lot of the time looking at those photos until I fell asleep just so I had something to see in the morning when I was being screamed out of bed.
Manage Letters from Home Before They Add to Stress
One you start receiving letters, you’ll need somewhere to keep them that won’t get you in trouble. Stash your letters under your drawer instead of inside of it. The drawers on the rack pull all the way out, meaning there’s space under that drawer for more things. Other recruits stashed extra skivvies in there. I stashed letters.
Take the time to write notes about your next letter after bed. That way you can send multiple letters on Sunday. [Note from Kate: One week I got four pages of letters and it was easily the best week for all of our separation! It also helped me the week my sailor didn’t have time to send any letters at all.]
Lean On Your Shipmates and Your Significant Other
Embrace the suck. Don’t be afraid to talk to a shipmate or cry. I had multiple days where I just had to relieve stress. There were days where I was so close to breaking that I had to distract myself by talking to a shipmate about my girlfriend. Sometimes I would just read her letters again and again, and even cry a little before bed. I’m not sure how your RDCs will be; mine were some of the most “thorough” in our ship.
There are going to be days where you question everything. Everyone in charge of you is going to tell you that the woman you love is probably getting with someone else right now, or that the first letter you’re going to get is going to be a “Dear John” letter.
You’ll hear everything under the sun to try and break you because at the end of the day that’s what they’re doing. They’re tearing everything apart in front of you so you realize what’s really important.
Don’t forget that the woman who loved you going in is probably having just as shitty of a day as you. She doesn’t have the benefit of time flying by because people are making her run until she can’t think or do any number of other tasks. She’s out there waiting for you.