Relationships and military life

Relationships and military life

By Vince Hockley

Vince has served for over 23 years in the British army and now leads a team providing military and leadership training, coaching and development. Vince also runs a personal training company and has delivered resilience and motivation talks to large businesses across the UK. Any enquiries about the services provided can be made to

Military life can certainly make having relationships difficult. Routines are required in order to allow for any kind of normality within military life. That said, these routines can be challenging, outside of many social norms, and are often thrown to the wind with little or no warning.

When we look at relationships within the military world, they are often different to a lot of the civilian relationships we all encounter. When talking about significant partners for example, to allow for the building of those all-important routines of military life and to give enough time and opportunity for those relationships to grow, big commitments like marriage and living together are embarked upon a lot sooner than might have been otherwise. In contrast, there is often less opportunity to form meaningful relationships or indeed friendships with wider family or friends.

The impact of my experience

If I focus more on the impact of sustaining life changing injuries in Afghanistan and the time that followed, I know that these experiences led to me approaching relationships differently. Through the adversity I had been through and the people I got to know through this experience, many of whom had a lot worse to deal with than me, empathy and sympathy were always a driving force.

This made me approach a lot of situations with a “where is my value” attitude, forcing me to ask myself ‘what am I adding?’. An appreciation and realisation that we are all mortal can sometimes also force you to have more self-awareness of what you are getting from a relationship and the time being spent on it. You can also get a real sense that so much of what we let in and allow to have an impact really isn’t worth worrying about.

Spend time nurturing the relationships that truly matter

In my youth, I wish I had been more appreciative of time and how to nurture relationships to help them grow. Over the years that followed, although I struggled at times to apply this to already formed relationships, I started to realise the importance of looking at what truly matters. I realise now that I needed to grow as a person and therefore be a more participating and valued member of a relationship.

I guess this is all linked to self-awareness and honesty. Honesty is a word that is easily thrown around when it comes to relationships and building something meaningful. I believe now through my experiences that honesty is also about being honest with yourself when something isn’t ok and being honest about the investment needed to make things worth it for all people that are affected by the actions within a relationship.

Where to find help

Going back to the armed forces, support is there and available in a physical and actionable sense within the military, but it is a lot harder to provide the emotional support that is sometimes needed. As is often the case with supporting agencies, people need to be more open to discussing these issues and asking for the help needed. The only way to assist in this help being provided, is for more people to ask for emotional support when it is required; something that is outside of the norm when we talk about the military family community.