Finding balance: Romance, relationships and ROTC

olivermilitaryballCourtesy of Hailey Oliver
Hailey Oliver and her boyfriend Luke Sheridan celebrate ROTC and their relationship at a military ball.


Juggling the demands of a relationship with college coursework, extracurricular activities, jobs and a social life is challenging for any student. For students in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program, this balance can become even more complicated with the addition of physical training, military science class, tactical training lab, field training, various other events and the post-grad commitment to service.

Christian Silva, a junior exercise science major in the ROTC Army program, currently dates a senior at the university. In his experience, flexibility and understanding when it comes to scheduling and timing is often necessary.

Creating time for a relationship is also an important habit for Hailey Oliver, who is currently in a long distance relationship with a senior in ROTC from The University of Tennessee.

Oliver, a junior nursing major in the ROTC Army program, prioritizes making time to meet up once a month with her boyfriend and makes it work by talking on the phone when they can.

“I’d say that there is a lot of planning that goes into our relationship,” Oliver says. “I mean, he’s graduating this year but he luckily is kind of putting the army on the backburner. He’s in ROTC too and he’ll be in med school for a while, so he doesn’t really have to worry about the army for a while.”

The couple has figured out how to plan their relationship now, but looking into the future things become more complicated and unclear.

“He’ll be in Alabama and then I have to graduate next year, hopefully,” Oliver says. “And then who knows where I’ll end up. I’ll probably be bouncing back and forth around the U.S. for a bit. If I was going to get stationed anywhere specifically, we’d have to think about what kind of things we’d have to plan in that sense too.”

The reality of being stationed around the country becomes a stronger pressure in students’ junior and senior years, which often affects relationships.

“They also have to know what they want to do right after college,” Silva says. “Like they can’t really have any questions because in order for you guys to stay together you have to be together, like married or engaged in the first year or two after you graduate it’s a lot of pressure.”

Oliver notes that there are a lot of benefits, including financial ones, that motivate people in ROTC to get married early.

“I’d say that a lot of people will get into relationships quick and pull the trigger on making things official,” Oliver says. “I mean not a lot, but it’s kind of a known thing that people shouldn’t do. But people will do it for the benefits.”

This trend is not surprising. The average rate of marriage among people in the military is much higher than the rate among other citizens of the same age, according to an article from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The prospect of change plays a significant role in how any relationship plays out. However, the potential for either partner to change can be even more apparent within military relationships.

“Anybody can change at anytime so you just gotta kind of roll with it,” Silva says. “It’s what they want right now and could be cool with going, but in a year they could be like, ‘I dropped my whole life just to follow you wherever you went and I don’t want to do that anymore.’ It’s not a concern but it’s just something that could happen at any time.”

Not only can someone change their mind about the lifestyle that comes along with involvement in the military, but being in the military can also create change itself.

“Deployment wise, you have to be aware that that could change a person,” Oliver says. “So you have to go into it willing and knowing that a person has the potential to change.”

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