real life

What it’s like to be married to the navy.

Defence Housing Australia
Thanks to our brand partner, Defence Housing Australia

The road to true love never did run smooth, but for those in love with a member of the Defence force, there are always a few extra bumps to consider.

Julia Brogan has been head over heels for her partner, Derek for the past three years. According to the young Sydney woman, there’s no magic trick to keeping a relationship alive. Especially when there is literally an ocean between you and the one you love.

You see, Derek is a member of the Royal Australian Navy.

“Trust, you just need 100 per cent trust,” she said. “When you’re in a relationship like this and you’re separated from each other so much, you just never know what’s going to happen. So you have to believe. And be in love. Love is really the biggest thing. Because if you don’t love that person it is just never going to work. It’s a lot of commitment, a relationship like this.”

Like most other Defence force spouse in Australia, Julia can go for weeks, sometimes even months at a time without speaking to her partner. Instead, she relies on a never ending email chain, and the occasional treasured phone call, to keep the relationship afloat.

navy wife
“Like most other Defence force spouse in Australia, Julia can go for weeks, sometimes even months at a time without speaking to her partner.” Image via iStock.

“When he’s out on the ship, it’s really hard for us to talk,” she said. “There’s no Skype and there’s no Facebook. I maybe get a call once a week, if they are in range. But sometimes I can get one or two emails in a day. It’s all really dependant on whether or not they are doing operations at the time. When that happens, they turn off the email so there is no contact.

“Just to add in a little sob story, my little dog needed back surgery last year and that was a very stressful time for me. Derek was actually away at the time and I had no way to get in contact with him. It was very difficult to make such a huge decision about what to do with our dog’s health all on my own. A dog that is like a child to us, basically.

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“Let’s just say Derek got a very abusive email, at like 3am that day, because I was really upset about leaving my dog all alone in medical care. It was a very emotional, and it was just a really traumatic experience, being all alone and having to decide if I would spend $10,000 on our dog’s health. It was not an easy decision to make.

“Derek actually managed to call me, I think it was about 11am the next day, and said we should go for it. We should get the surgery. He said that I had made the best decision and that he wouldn’t have been able to decide against the surgery either, if he had been there. He respected my decision. We’re very much the same person and we’ve never had any fights about his work. That’s just how it is from us. That’s how it has to be with his job.

“It was very difficult to make such a huge decision about what to do with our dog’s health all on my own. A dog that is like a child to us, basically.” Images: Supplied/iStock.

“Of course, there’s always the issue that he can be away for holidays and big events. So far, I’ve been really lucky because he’s been home for Christmas. But for me, those days, those holidays or big celebrations, become just another ordinary day when he’s away and we can’t share it. I take each day we are lucky enough to have together as just the most amazing gift. Either you need to be together, or you don’t.”

As lovely as love is for a couple who are only able to grab moments together during the year, a sweet email won’t fix a broken fridge, stop for a friendly chat in the driveway or offer you a piece of stability in. Which is why Julia says the couple are lucky to have a strong Defence network around them. In fact, it’s the key to their survival.

“We basically got set up with a great housing option, which is so helpful. We’re in an apartment block with other Defence people, so we can have a bit of a chat when we see them, which is really nice to know there’s people like that around us.

“Both our careers are important, so we need to have some compromise and flexibility. At the moment, we think he’ll be based in Sydney for a while which makes it a bit easier as that’s where my job is. But, if we did have to move, I know that I could actually stay in our apartment and he could just move to the quarters of wherever his job is. Or I could move with him, the choice is up to me. It’s nice to know I have that choice and that stability around me. It means I can still choose to keep my job and my career.

“That’s something all couples in our situation need to think about.

“I’m 25, I’m turning 26 this year, and we live in an amazing apartment. That definitely takes some of the stress out of our lives. Having animals together really helps as well.

“But really, you just need love. If you have that, the distance doesn’t seem to matter as much.”

Do you have a spouse in the Defence Force? How has this affected your relationship?

Feature image: Navy wife Julia, with partner Derek. Image: Supplied.