US Army gives advice on picking a partner
February 7, 2006 5:37 AM   Subscribe

US Army Teaches Troops How to Pick a Spouse "Army chaplains are trying to teach troops how to pick the right spouse, through a program called "How To Avoid Marrying a Jerk. ... It teaches the lovestruck to pace themselves with a R.A.M. chart — the Relationship Attachment Model — which basically says don't let your sexual involvement exceed your level of commitment or level of knowledge about the other person."

I can't decide if this is common sense or takes all the fun out of love. If, indeed, there is any fun in it. Details on the programme can also be found at
posted by badlydubbedboy (43 comments total)
One idea that was floated a few years ago was to have younger, more junior servicemen (and women, I'd hope) stay single, but there was a lot of predictable pushback on that.
posted by alumshubby at 5:55 AM on February 7, 2006

Kinda reminds me of the Marriage short from MST3K.

/picks up rubber band

If a relationship is stretched too much... it could SNAP!
posted by dr_dank at 6:02 AM on February 7, 2006

Reminds me somewhat of the MST3K short "Are you ready for marriage?" (available in un-MSTED form at in which a marriage counselor uses a great many charts and puppet models to demonstrate important factors and formulas deemed relevant. It is really hilarious in its clinical analysis of partner age and the resulting "chance for happiness" graphs and its almost complete dismissal of factors such as mutual attraction.

Oh, and I'd think if anyone had come up with a reliable model for predicting success of partnerships they'd be out there making millions and not printing booklets for the army.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 6:03 AM on February 7, 2006

Jinx! And... "Boing everybody!"
posted by PontifexPrimus at 6:04 AM on February 7, 2006

1) No poofters
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:15 AM on February 7, 2006

It advises the marriage-bound to study a partner's F.A.C.E.S. — family background, attitudes, compatibility, experiences in previous relationships and skills they'd bring to the union.

But what about education? That's very important as well. You don't want smart people marrying dummies, or vice versa. The programme should be modified so that soldiers are taught how to study their prospective partner's F.A.E.C.E.S.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:37 AM on February 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I got took when I was in the AF by a young woman who was all nice & cuddly - until we got married and she had her hooks in my paycheck, then everything went to hell. Massive spending, threats of suicide, all sorts of hilarity ensued. Add in frequent TDYs, $800+ phone bills, and I was in shit shape fast.

Stuck it out for a year, got divorced, she split for what she saw as greener pastures and left no forwarding address. Should have had a clue when she went damn near ballistic over the idea of premarital counseling, and she got really mad when (after insisting for weeks I put her name on my car title) I put her on it as AND instead of OR. The state we were in at the time needed both people to sign off on the title no matter what, so I didn't see the problem - but she acted as if I was planning on ripping her off. When we split, she took the car... literally... then called me a few months later to come get it because she didn't want to pay for the insurance and upkeep. Then she tried to get me to desert, saying she appreciated me more than the military did. Yeah, that's why you ripped me off, right? Gee, appreciation like that I can do without, thank you. Had to go the Chapter 13 route once - and that was enough.

Didn't get her signature on the title at the time - eventually I abandoned the car because I couldn't sell it. Ah, well, the clutch was shot anyway and I couldn't afford to get it fixed.

So - if the military wants to come up with a program that'll help teach guys like I was ('young, dumb, and full of come', to use the phrase at the time) to think with our brains instead of our dicks - I'm all for it. It's about 25 years too late for me, but someone else might benefit and miss all the 'educational' experiences I had. (Which were about as much fun as being a cheap steak under a spiky meat hammer.)
posted by JB71 at 6:37 AM on February 7, 2006

bitter, JB71? sorry...
posted by slater at 6:40 AM on February 7, 2006

wow JB71, hope lifes gotten a bit better for you.

This mae me chuckle in a very juvenile way:

Maj. John Kegley, a chaplain who teaches the program in Monterey, Calif., throws in the "no jerk salute" for fun.

no jerk salute indeed, and for fun! you army guys are a weird bunch.
posted by twistedonion at 6:45 AM on February 7, 2006

FWIW, I got took when I was in the AF by a young woman who was all nice & cuddly - until we got married and she had her hooks in my paycheck, then everything went to hell.

And to think, I didn't even have to join the Air Force to do that!
posted by three blind mice at 6:46 AM on February 7, 2006

Great minds, PontifexPrimus .....
posted by dr_dank at 6:49 AM on February 7, 2006

From the forums:

"Recently I agreed to go on a date with a guy that I met online. We talked for several weeks and I always felt that he was a little off. He would talk about some of the weirdest stuff but not wanting to be rude I thought I would give it a shot. He asked me to go the breakfast with him on a Sunday morning so we met in a parking lot so we could ride over together. So you would never guess where we went.... He took me to McDonalds....and not only that his parents met us there! I couldnt belive it, I had never laid eyes on this guy and here I was eating an egg mcmuffin with his mom and dad asking me about how many kids I want to have! Needless to say I turned him down for the next date. Who knows he could have been inviting me to a family reunion or my own wedding for that matter. Better luck next time...I hope."
posted by Sidthecat at 7:05 AM on February 7, 2006

Sidthecat. Wow. Just wow.

I'm not the most romantic guy on the planet (as my ex-girlfriends and current girlfriend will happily testify to), but damn. McDonald's? With the folks?

I'm pretty sure that's pretty high on the 'Don'ts' list.

Is this like The Rules but for military personnel? I'd imagine the basic tenents are the same: don't act like yourself, agree with everything the other person has to say and never, ever let them know about your troubles.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:12 AM on February 7, 2006

I saw many young people of both genders make bad decisions when I was in the AF. They get enamored with each other, think they are in love, and get married way too soon, and too young.
Personally, I think the military should institute a no marriage policy for first termers. Women especially. I saw an E-3 when I was in the AF that had 2 kids. You make E-4 at 3 years, which means she wasn't even in that long and already had 2 kids, which is 18 months of pregnancy, and who knows how much time for maternity leave and "my kid is sick" time.
posted by a3matrix at 7:17 AM on February 7, 2006

Is this like The Rules but for military personnel?

Did you read the article, slimepuppy? The program actually sounds very reasonable, and will probably do more good than harm.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:27 AM on February 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

As opposed to The Rules.... which gives me the creeps. Has anyone read "The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing"? That short story sums up perfectly my thoughts on books like The Rules.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:29 AM on February 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

"If the Marine Core wanted to you have a wife..."

"They'd issue you one!"

-- Jarhead
posted by delmoi at 7:35 AM on February 7, 2006

Anything to counter military beer goggles sounds good to me. My dad's nickname while in the navy? 'Octupus'. heh heh.
posted by mk1gti at 7:35 AM on February 7, 2006

Man, a female friend of mine is in a lot of shit right now due to relationship trouble. She went from one abusive dude (a 4 year relationship with a 40 year old, she's 24) to a relationship with a crazy Puerto Rican. The 40 year old hit her a few times in 4 years, and this new dude did the same just recently, except she bit him and then she got arrested for domestic assault. Now she's back staying with the 40 year old while getting things straightened out (thankfully her father came back to town and insisted she get her own apartment).

Anyway, you could have given her this info and she probably would have ignored it. Hopefully this stuff will straighten her out.
posted by delmoi at 7:46 AM on February 7, 2006

Also, isn't 'jerk' pretty much a masculine term? Shouldn't it be "nobitches" Calling a man a bitch is extra insulting, but calling a woman a jerk just sounds weird.
posted by delmoi at 7:48 AM on February 7, 2006

From a purely monetary point of view, this makes tonnes of sense. Marital problems and divorce cost time, make people less effective, all sorts of things. Armed forces people have a high divorce rate, and any program that isn't too costly and reduced that rate should be really helpful to the armed forces bottom line.

Maybe a for armed forces (MARCH!.com?) is in the offing
posted by ykjay at 7:49 AM on February 7, 2006

How about showering them with birth control? I was a military wife, once, and there were people I knew who got married to try to make the best of an accidental pregnancy.
posted by beth at 8:26 AM on February 7, 2006

I dunno, I hate to ruin everyone's fun but it sounds like a well-intentioned program that might help some people. When my husband was in the USCG I met an awful lot of people who seemed to pick their spouses almost at random--that's how little insight they had into a) themselves and b) what makes a successful relationship.
posted by scratch at 8:28 AM on February 7, 2006

It's a good idea. Especially in places like Korea, where people make some spectacularly bad decisions because they're culture-shocked, lonely and really far away from family support structures that might help them put the brakes on a bad decision. A chaplain once told me the divorce rate for soldiers marrying foreign nationals was over 75 percent.

It'd also be good if they'd put a moratorium on marrying in training environments. I went to a 17-week-long AIT course after basic and there were two marriages in our platoon, both of which ended in financial and emotional ruin before the course even ended. Especially when one happy couple came down on orders before getting married, and faced living apart once they graduated in three months.

That sort of policy might not be the best in an absolute, "adults should be allowed to make adult decisions" sense. It makes a ton of sense when you're dealing with people in a high-stress training environment.

There was a recent Marketplace item on sham military marriages designed to get health insurance for the new dependent spouse and boost the pay for the servicemember. That angle is, perhaps, not what this program is designed to go after, but I can see it serving a purpose in that regard, too, especially if it ever became a mandatory part of signing for your benefits.
posted by mph at 8:30 AM on February 7, 2006

On preview: Yeah, Beth, I saw that kind of thing too. It's astounding to me that people still think getting married is the default correct answer to that situation. I know of one shotgun marriage that ended up so badly that the dad kidnapped the kid.
posted by scratch at 8:32 AM on February 7, 2006

I wonder if they took anything from this program
posted by eustatic at 8:43 AM on February 7, 2006

"I can't decide if this is common sense or takes all the fun out of love."

Dated online much?
posted by black8 at 8:45 AM on February 7, 2006

I've always suspect that the US armed services was a secret socialist utopia.

Now I'm sure of it.
posted by ewkpates at 8:50 AM on February 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

PinkSuperhero, yeah, I was being my typical sarcy self. Any actual emotional/psychological support given to troops is a Good Thing in my books.

I suppose it's just that reading about 'The Rules' has permanently destroyed my faith in anybody/thing giving out relationship "advice".
posted by slimepuppy at 8:54 AM on February 7, 2006

Understandable- I'm with you on being very leery of relationship books like The Rules, He's Just Not That Into You, and all the books where the basis is, You're not getting dates because something is wrong with you, so change who you are and you'll find true love! Snort snort.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:20 AM on February 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

"I saw many young people of both genders make bad decisions when I was in the AF. They get enamored with each other, think they are in love, and get married way too soon, and too young."

I too saw alot of this in the AF. It seemed to go something like this: "Gee, I'm a thousand miles from home, lonely and this nice young lady is willing to have sex with me. I think I'll marry her."

Lot's of lonely homesick guys hooking up with girls looking for someone to take them away from Armpit,North Dakota (sorry, Grand Forks), I wonder how many of those guys are still married...
posted by MikeMc at 9:33 AM on February 7, 2006

Let's be fair to mass literature for the lonely-hearted!

Neither The Rules (which was left behind on an airplane for my perusal) or He's Just Not That Into You (which I've been given the gist of) has the theme that women should "change who [they] are." Rather the opposite is true, I think.

The Rules contends that being who you are, and being happy enough with your single self not to pursue fulfillment through a man, is, paradoxically, the best way for a man to see you as the fulfillment he wants for himself.

He's Just Not That Into You contends that men make fast and irrevocable decisions about how much (if at all) they're attracted to a woman, and that it's futile for a woman to try to "solve" a man's lack of interest or commitment (by changing herself, or otherwise).
posted by MattD at 9:45 AM on February 7, 2006

Fair point, MattD.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:08 AM on February 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree with MattD that although there is bad stuff in the Rules, it doesn't say to change who you are. (I expressed my opinion of the Rules more fully here.)

I think this sort of dating counselling is a good idea, just as parenting classes are a good idea. People so often operate from the social/familial relations template they learned in their birth families, and never really realize there are better modus operandi.
posted by orange swan at 10:30 AM on February 7, 2006

Personally, I think it's an enormous leap of faith to believe that there's any logic to relationships at all. Let's face it: most people are just playing the lottery except in this case when they inevitably lose they end up with a bad relationship--which we then try to repackage as "valuable life experience." We should come down hard and teach soldiers (and highschool kids--not that there's often much difference) that marriage is a bad thing for people who are young, poor, and under-educated. These programs would be more effective if they were modelled after the various anti-drug initiatives you show to school children. There should be Before/After photos of young soldiers who got married and people like JB71 should be called up to speak and explain how marriage ruined their life. The army needs to take a hardline anti-marriage/kids policy if it really wants to help these young men and women.
posted by nixerman at 10:57 AM on February 7, 2006

nixerman, you sound like the people arguing we shouldn't educate young people about contraceptives, and should instead preach abstinence.
posted by lbergstr at 11:13 AM on February 7, 2006

Slater, Twistedonion -

Yeah, I was bitter for a while... then I realized two things - it's best to not be interested in women who are looking forward to their mom's "Get Out Of Jail" party (No lie... but I wasn't thinking with my brain, you know?) and that not all women were like that.

I just had to get my head (um, the upper one, thankyewverrymuch) straightened out. A few bad relationships (nowhere NEAR so bad, lol) and a couple of shrinks later (I look on psychotherapy as the equivalent of mental maintenance - fix the problem and get back on the road, don't look at it as a 20+ year lifestyle like some I've heard of) I was doing pretty good at picking out saner women to date.

Met the current Mrs JB in '92, and was very surprised at how easy the relationship was. Got married in '93, and 13 years later it's all good. Feels like we've been married just a few weeks, it's so much fun - and feels like we've been married forever, it's so comfortable. At least the first Mrs JB showed me what I REALLY didn't want in a relationship! The spikey hammer sure as hell hurt at the time, but it taught me a lot.
posted by JB71 at 11:26 AM on February 7, 2006

Few things Viceland does right, "The Vice Guide to Picking up Chicks" is one of them. In so far as giving what seems like good advice (Be Bill Murray in Stripes) while only contradicting itself with seemingly good relationship advice a few bullet points down. Yep rules to relationships are stupid.
posted by geoff. at 1:27 PM on February 7, 2006

I saw a bunch of this. Lots of cheating going on both ways too. Damn shame. Lotsa stories like JB71’s.

I slept with a guy’s wife one time. Interesting situation. I didn’t know she was married.
I didn’t know she was married to a guy I knew. She didn’t know I knew the guy. The guy didn’t know I knew martial arts. I didn’t know someone untrained and that skinny could kick my ass if properly motivated. She didn’t know that even though he kicked my ass, I’d side with him instead of her and testify at a hearing on his behalf ‘cause I still felt guilty as hell. I didn’t know it would turn out to be such a great learning experiance for me that I waited a long while to really get to know someone before I decided on marriage.

It’s tough on military wives though. Or whoever the stay at home person is during deployment. My situation was a bit different. But there should be a homefront medal for anyone who puts up with that kind of stress.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:49 PM on February 7, 2006

I could see where the military would want to discourage their members from entering into bad marriages but doesn't this go against the religious rights agenda. I've always felt that the RR and a lot of people in general believed that marriage was always a good thing as long as it wasn't teh geys getting married.
posted by Justin Case at 3:12 PM on February 7, 2006

Oh, and I'd think if anyone had come up with a reliable model for predicting success of partnerships they'd be out there making millions and not printing booklets for the army.

We've discussed John Gottman before.

We were able to derive a set of nonlinear difference equations for marital interaction as well as physiology and perception. These equations provided parameters, that allowed us to predict, with over 90 percent accuracy, what was going to happen to a relationship over a three-year period. The main advantage of the math modeling was that using these parameters, we are not only be able to predict, but now understand what people are doing when they affected one another. And through the equations we were now really able to build theory. That theory allows us to understand how to intervene and how to change things. And how to know what it is we're affecting, and why the interventions are effective. This is the mathematics of love.

I don't think all relationship counseling is bunk, although quality likely varies wildly. (Gottman has actually researched why this is. It has much to do with the upbringing of the people in the relationship, and the counselor.) I have no idea how Von Epp's "Relationship Attachment Model" fits in with Gottman's peer-reviewed findings, but I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand. These are kids, for the most part -- any advice is probably new and just getting them to think about these things in advance, while in large part the exercise of steering a laden supertanker, could be beneficial.

My brother, for what it's worth, had a seriously bad marriage while in the Navy. His wife was, shall we say, notorious on base. There's a lot of guys who don't know better -- and a lot of guys who don't care.
posted by dhartung at 3:16 PM on February 7, 2006

I just read an article in the Feb 2006 issue of Oprah magazine about the RAM model - I am pretty sure what the military is doing is based on the PREP program, based on research by this guy, Scott Stanley, who is a psychology professor at university of denver. It sounds pretty mainstream to me. And it's probably a good idea. Lots of people could use this program, whether in the military or not.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:15 PM on February 7, 2006

Watch out, this is a sign of the illuminati at work. controlling relationships is the first sign of the coming age. be careful who and how you marry
posted by tranceformer at 8:25 AM on February 9, 2006

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