Military marriage is hard. Each year, anywhere from 2% to 7% of military couples file for divorce and even those that don’t aren’t always happy. Sometimes spouses at home cheat, and sometimes service members cheat on deployment. While it’s easy to dismiss cheating as a thing only terrible people do, the underlying causes of infidelity, in many circumstances, are much more complex and heartbreaking than they appear.
Most often, people believe the stateside spouses are the ones engaging in extramarital affairs, but it turns out Jody isn’t the only one sleeping with someone else’s wife — service members do it abroad, too.
Task & Purpose surveyed readers and discovered that cheating on deployment is not always is one-sided, nor is it simple. These 11 stories from service members who cheated on deployment show just how difficult military marriage can be, and why it sometimes fails.
The incident started as just two friends hanging out, [but] soon we were progressing a little further until one thing led to another. We convinced ourselves that we were friends, we were alone, and we were just fulfilling one another’s needs. But we all know no one leaves unhurt. Before my first deployment, my wife and I became new parents. A month prior to my deployment I relocated my little family to a new apartment in a better area off base. Two weeks after my new baby was born, I was deployed. For months, every skype call was an argument about money or that she was angry about being in a new town with a new baby. We didn’t talk much, we just argued. Eventually this drove me closer to my friend. Her and I began hanging out more and more. Then the inevitable happened. — Joe, 35, Navy
[I] slept with a medic who worked in the TMC because [my] fiancée didn’t want to have sex and hated my career choice. — Rob, 30, Army
I was out in Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and went like two months without talking to anyone — as the Air Force likes to deploy people by themselves. [I] finally met this dude that was pretty cool. He was messing around with this chick. After he left, it was just me and this girl, all the time, together. Turned out I started to catch feelings for her. It just felt right. My wife let herself go. She was 200 pounds, and when I met her she was 120 — huge difference. [I] wasn’t attracted to her anymore. [We] felt distant and more like roommates. — D, Air Force
It was Iraq, July 2009, and three days before we had lost a truck team to an explosively formed projectile that ripped through the cab of a Maxxpro. My female driver, also a married specialist, came by the CHU to talk, and it just happened. She started it; it’s kind of blurry but we woke up together when my roommate got back from a mission. It didn’t really make things awkward for the rest of the deployment and wasn’t talked about after the fact. We were both grieving from the loss of three of our brothers. — Robert, 28, Army
I told myself I would never date or have sex with a coworker. We were discussing the states of our relationships when it happened. I was filled with guilt, shame, then acceptance. That same night, I told my husband what happened and that we’d be divorcing. I was the sole provider. My husband was kicked out of the military and did nothing but eat and play video games. He even refused to sleep with me. I had never felt so unloved in my life, so I guess I naturally looked for it in all the wrong places. Should I have cheated? No, but you’ll never catch me regretting what I did. — Alicia, 25, Air Force
[I slept with] a whore in Bangkok because she was cheap and I was drunk. — Billy, 28, Marine Corps
I cheated because things weren’t great and a coworker filled a void. I could’ve easily told [my husband] but the new guy was refreshing. We made up, and a year later, I cheated again. I thought we were good but all it took was a few drinks, distance, and a little connection with another deployed coworker for me to have another affair. My husband is a great man and deserves the best, but he lacked compassion and affection. He tried to communicate with me but it didn’t work because i have this “wall” up against him. It’s just him. — Julia, 28
She was an embassy employee who I worked with closely. She saw the qualities I possessed manifest in a professional sense and had great respect for the job I did and the manner in which I did it. It was not only physical, but emotional too. My college-educated partner never respected my job and never understood it or demonstrated a desire to understand it. She liked thinking she was superior to me because of her education and dismissing military service as something people do who aren’t capable of “grown up” professions. We drifted apart. And I ended up with a woman that witnessed me at my best, all my best qualities, that manifested in the work I did while deployed. I guess I was not that ideal person when I was stateside but when I was deployed, absolutely immersed in my job, all those qualities that a professional, mature woman wants were right on the surface. But home, without her desire or ability to see those traits and no evidence per se, she’d rather consider me the lesser party and dismiss me. And that is why I was unfaithful. — L, 28, Army
IED explosion, rocket attacks, deaths, etc. I wasn’t married yet, just engaged, but I thought after a convoy that I was going to die. Called my family, my fiancé, no one answered. Turned to my battle buddy. [It was] vulnerability. We shared a traumatic experience. Doesn’t make it right, but it happened. We stayed friends. — Maria, 27, Marine Corps
[I] reconnected with an old friend online through Facebook and shared really personal moments that should not have been shared. It was an emotional bond, and we made plans to see each other when I got back. I flew to see her and had sex with her. My relationship wasn’t going well to begin with. I wasn’t communicating effectively enough to ensure my spouse knew what I was dealing with and the stress of being a Marine. I started to look elsewhere for acceptance, understanding, and compassion when my needs weren’t met. — Francisco, 35, Marine Corps
I got cozy with another soldier and we ended up in a hotel. We both wanted it, but we knew we had to go back to our family and we were ok with that. [I did it because] I thought my wife wouldn’t find out since I was far away. — Tika, 37, Army