A dual-military family is adjusting to life under the same roof after almost two years apart.
It's not uncommon in the military community to have a unique story of how you and your spouse met. But for Army Sgt. Jared Jackson and his wife, Spc. Christina Jackson, their happily–ever after didn't start with being pronounced husband and wife. They've spent their entire courtship and marriage living thousands of miles apart — until now.
When Christina and Jared were introduced by a mutual friend, they hit it off quickly. But the fireworks were strictly plutonic. For three years, they – along with a mutual friend — were inseparable, referring to themselves as "the three amigos."
"We did everything together," Christina said.
And becoming a couple wasn't even a thought. It wasn't until Jared moved to Hawaii that they entertained the idea of having a romantic relationship.
"We tested the waters and we decided to start dating," she said.
Having established a strong friendship, the main challenges presented with dating for Jared was the distance and three–hour time difference.
"We communicated well, but trying to find the right time to call would be hard," he said.
He couldn't build the consistency he wanted with both Christina and her 8–year old daughter because all they had were phone calls and short visits.
"I wanted to make sure they know I'm here to stay," Jared said.
The Jacksons both craved stability for their new family. Christina says her daughter, "wanted this father figure. And when she finally got him it was hard on her because he would come and go. He would come see us, then he would leave."
After dating for a year, they married with the expectation of being stationed together.
"My mindset was thinking that the military was going to put us together and it wouldn't be that long," Jared said, but waiting for approval dragged on. "It's bothering me because I'm married but yet I still feel like I'm kind of a bachelor because I'm here by myself."
Christine was also losing hope and eventually wanted to get out of the military. She was told by her NCO that she'd get orders right after being married. That didn't happen. And she was further stressed by all of the paperwork requirements and chasing after people for answers.
Each service branch has a program for assigning married couples to the same duty location or within 100 miles of each other, according to Military OneSource. Couples can look into joint assignments through offerings like the Air Force Joint Spouse Program and the Married Army Couples Program. But for the Jacksons, this wasn't a smooth process.
After almost a year of not knowing when they could be together, they were finally given orders to the same duty station. Now they had new challenges to tackle.
For the first time in his life, Jared was a full–time parent. Christina's daughter is adjusting to a two-parent home where they both share an equal role in raising and disciplining her.
"I've been trying to give him more of that responsibility in that role and just say whatever he says goes," Christina said.
Jared wants to establish a good father/daughter relationship, with Christina's support of his role helping to ease the adjustment.
"I appreciate that Christina always validates me and tells me 'you're doing a good job.' It keeps me motivated," he said.
One thing they did not do was leave their family cohesiveness to chance, so they attended premarital counseling.
"We went into this already knowing how we both wanted to parent. He knew what I expected and I knew what he expected," Christina said.
And now the family will be adding a new member, a son, in July.
Throughout their time apart, they kept communication fluid and honest, sharing their hopes and frustrations without hesitation. This put the relationship in a healthy place during their entire transition.
Christina says for help and support if you're are dealing with a similar situation, to find a military spouses club. Share your experiences and find others who have gone through the same thing.
Jared advises, above all, make sure that even when you get discouraged keep the communication strong. Also do your research so that you know what should be happening with job assignments.
When it comes to their parenting advice on blending a family, they simultaneously agree that the answer is patience.
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