"I, Private Schmuckatelli, take you, whatever your name is, to be my lawfully wedded wife."
Many service members (not mentioning any names) spoke these words right before a deployment to move out of the small studio-sized barracks most likely for the extra money every month.
This money comes from the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). Implemented in January 1998 BAH pays housing expenses for service members to move off-base if the barracks are overcrowded or if a change in the member's lifestyle warrants it (i.e., having a baby or getting married. After a certain pay grade, everyone receives BAH, but it is restricted in the lower ranks. That's why some take the risk of a contract marriage.
Although contract marriages are frowned upon by the chain of command, it's a well-known practice utilized by all ranks today. Capitalizing on this financial loophole could benefit your future (depending on the person with whom you join in court-approved matrimony).
Here are a few added bonuses to your contract marriage that you may have never noticed before.
1. Renter's History
Signing a lease with a rental company starts your "Renter's History." As long as you pay your rent on time, this keeps you in good standing with the rental bureaus. Young service members may not have the best credit, but having good rental history is a step in the right direction.
Your contract marriage could help prevent you from being homeless in the future.
2. Learn to Budget
Although the medical benefits are valuable, they could throw a curveball and require more money every month than you planned. Checking to see how much a service member earns is simple: you can Google it. Waiting to get paid on the 1st and 15th of every month could feel like a freaking eternity without a budget.
A contract marriage probably didn't make you a millionaire even if it made you feel that way after that first check. So learn to...
3. It Follows
Unfortunately, one crappy aspect of being in the military is how your command intervenes in your personal life. They like to know about everything and if you don't tell them upfront, somehow they manage to find out.
If you plan on making the military a career, I advise against a contract marriage, especially when word gets out about your legally-binding "spouse" while you're out hitting on every single person at the bar. Remember: it's technically fraud, so good luck getting promoted.
People can often suck.
4. Emotional Maturity
The average marrying age range in the civilian world is 25 to 27. However, in the military, the median falls at 22 – above legal drinking age, but not yet a mature adult. No one is condoning getting married for the benefits, but if you do and it doesn't work out, you shouldn't be surprised.
You were young, dumb and full of one bad idea after another. Your temporary spouse may not have been the perfect soulmate, but at least you narrowed it down.
5. The Silver Lining
Looking back on it, would you do it again? Overall experiences will vary depending on if everything went to plan. The memories you have are what separates you as an individual and makes you unique. If it made you into a grumpy old man, then that sucks.
Take it for what it is. It's always better to look toward the future than dwell in the past.