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The man I married is torn between two loves.  I know he is committed to me, yet I am always aware of his attraction to the other.  

He stood with me at the altar and pledged his undying devotion to me.  His other love, though uninvited, showed up too, quietly watching and listening from the back of the church.  

Our newlywed days were sweet.  Weeks went by without one thought of her.  Then, unannounced, she was there again, meddling in our best laid plans.   Rude reminders of her sobered the moments and stung our hearts.   I reasoned that perhaps my making him a father would turn his heart away from her and he would be completely mine.  I believed that becoming a family would sever the ties that bound him to her once and for all.  I was wrong.  It just enlarged her influence.

She constantly tries to tell me how to parent.   I am convinced that life as a "military brat" yields a unique world view.  The kids believe she's a distant relative, the all-powerful person who shapes every aspect of our family life. Quarters aren't just coins, but home.  The exchange isn't a fair trade but the store where they get everything from pencils to pants.  Going to the doctor means meeting and exposing themselves to yet another stranger because the medical staff transferred as often as we do.  Daddy's office isn't a building, but a ship, a sub, an airplane, a quansan hut or a firing range.  Dad disappears into vacuous, black holes every morning and, on occasion, reappears after sunset.  Other times, the days run together, becoming weeks and months, and Daddy doesn't reappear.  Their Dad's commute is also atypical.  He arrives home on bikes, ferries, zodiacs, C-5 ALFAs, C-17s, C-130s, C-141s, aircraft carriers, LCAC and kayaks.

There's a certain fire in his eyes when he talks about her.  He is drawn to her, the way she speaks to him, the way she moves.  Funny, it doesn't matter to him that she has lured countless others and won their hearts, too.  She inspires them all to leave their homes, to discipline, strain and bruise their bodies, and to tattoo their biceps, chests and calves.  They are even willing to lay down their lives for her.  

What does she have that I don't have?  She's moody, unpredictable and demanding.  She's definitely high maintenance.  She's slow, tedious and a stickler for details.  But she challenges him to excel.  She gives him a place in something larger, more noble than he is alone.  In many ways, she infuses him with purpose, calling and identity.  

Sometimes I hate her.  I hate her for the pain she has caused us as a couple and as a family.   I resent her for stealing from me the times we have missed as lovers and friends and can never retrieve or relive.  I hate her for holding captive a part of his heart that will never be mine, no matter what I say or do.  

At the same time, I am awed by her strength, her grace, her timelessness, her ideals.  I can see why he loves her so.  Deep down, beneath all my jealous wrestling, I love her, too.  I must, for I, too, have laid down everything for my husband's other love.

His other love will outlive me.  Her lure transcends our relationship, our times.  My husband has already handed her down to our son, to be looked after, cared for and loved by another generation.

I would never ask my husband to abandon his love for her.  It would be asking his heart to beat with only three of its four chambers.  He would not be whole.  I know how hard it is to measure the value of having an inspired, fulfilled husband.  The alternative, a bored and aimless spouse, would be unbearable for both of us.  

I know I'm not alone in my feelings about her.  There are a million more like me whose life partners have another love.  Whether it's the sea, the shore or the wild blue yonder, every service member is captivated by everything that Old Glory symbolizes.  Their hearts are ringed with another wedding band, stars set in bands of red and white, engraved with the words, " 'til death do we part."


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