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Forces sweethearts

Army girlfriend going through first 6 month deployment, UK edition

36 replies

MissTeacup · 14/04/2021 17:25

Hey, hope this is allowed but I’ve been Googling like mad to find some kind of UK military girlfriend support space or stories of people in Britain going through deployment for the first time. All I seem to find is American resources which have a very star-spangled skew (not dumping on their patriotism). The blogs I’m reading feel more like the US has a 'military lifestyle' culture which doesn't really translate in the UK (happy to be corrected if wrong).

My partner, H, was unexpectedly deployed after deferring studies and this whole army thing is completely new to me as when we met he wasn't full-time. For context, we are unmarried, have no children, and were not living together prior to him leaving.

Inspired by another forces girlfriend's helpful blog post linked in this slice of MN on coping with deployment (hey @Survivingasamilitarygf if you're reading! :) ) I thought I’d throw in my two pennies worth of what to expect as an army girlfriend / partner in the UK going through a first deployment. I can’t be the only one desperately scouring the web for a place to help stumble through this bonkers period of my partner's working life.

I don’t know much but I think if you're married to your service person and, or, have a family you might be able to travel with them depending on the operation / have a bit more structure of comfort from the military if you stay at home. Childfree girlfriend and boyfriend relationships don’t seem to be really recognised (have seen the phrase ‘just a girlfriend’ chucked about on some old milspouse forum threads Hmm) in the same way, but from what I understand the MOD is slowly crawling into the 21st century with new cohabiting rules for couples in LTR introduced in 2019.

H and I are close to a month into deployment (six weeks apart because of pre-flight COVID quarantine) but this is what I've picked up so far, in no particular order:

Schedules change all.the.time.
Dates, timings, placements - I have had to dig really deep and go with the flow in terms of plans, which pushes against my overly organised personality! It feels like sometimes the left hand does not talk to the right hand in terms of military operational logistics. Our time together pre-deployment was cut short by two weeks as his leaving date suddenly was moved forward. This felt catastrophic to me as it meant he missed my birthday and instead of 14ish days of making the most of being with each other, it was all crammed into any day we could get. However, this is his current chosen job and the nature of it will always come first, just try not to take a change of plans as a personal affront to your specific wants (a small self-pity wallow is allowed Wink ). For us, the new date happened all so fast which meant I pushed myself not to marinate in my sad disappointment for too long as we felt it was important to focus on creating happy memories before he left. The silver lining from my perspective was the sooner he goes, the sooner he'll come back. Hopefully. Fingers crossed.


The military
I am not from a military family (bar a granddad and a great-granddad serving distant stints in Korea & WW1 that I know of), nor do I live near a military base, have any friends or friends' partners in the forces. My life had been directly untouched by the military until I met my boyfriend. He left the army full-time sevenish months prior to us getting together, but continued as a reservist locally and started a course to help his career beyond the army. I thought "great", in the first flushes of our romance, "I didn't want to date someone who might get posted away from me at the drop of a hat and it's nice he has a hobby.".....Anyway, being with him has really shined a light on my naive ignorance regarding the armed forces. Asking him questions about his job, what he's done, how things works, and what Sandhurst was like has genuinely broadened my limited perspective towards the armed forces. Also, you can look up what deployment operations the MOD is currently running on their publicly available website and learn a little more about it, which I thought was interesting.

You & your own lovely life
I would say this is probably the most vital patch of green grass to water while deployment is going on. I was single for years before H and feel very strongly about curating my own life outside of being in a couple so I find slipping into a 'me' mindset easy, but I know it can be hard for some. Make your life as full and exciting as possible with things to do (lockdown be gone!), setting goals, and looking after you. Brunch with pals? Book it now. Want to get into running? The couch to 5k app is brilliant. That tourist attraction you've always wanted to visit but they didn't? Go see it, moaning partner-free. Feeling brave? I promise you there is nothing that feels more glam and sophisticated than playing the mysterious, but well-dressed, 'table-for-one please' diner eating alone in a busy cool restaurant. Working on you and your life will not only help your separation go by faster as your calendar gets busy, but it gives you stories to talk about with your partner when you catch up, increases confidence in doing stuff alone (very sexy), and you’ll feel happier overall which will make them happier (unless it does the opposite then run. Red flag! Red flag!). With all that being said though, give yourself grace when those feelings of missing them bubble up. Yesterday I did not pine but today has been tough, despite taking my own advice by having a socially distant coffee date with a pal I hadn’t seen since the panny-d started.

Keeping the relationship alive
Bit rich coming from me as we’re only just out of the deployment starting gate, who knows what could happen in three months time! The easy answer here is to get creative and make the most of what technology has to offer in terms of exciting your partner (two-way street though, make sure you are getting yours!). However, the hot and heavy stuff is one facet of a relationship, incorporate other fuzzy coupley things like a virtual date night if possible, sending care packages, and maybe going old school with writing letters to each other. I’ve done two of the things mentioned so far and it’s going okay. Might report back with more ideas.

Communication
Goes without saying to stay in touch. H and I have made a pact to get in contact every day, even if it’s just an emoji (ahh, modern love). I’m busy, he’s busy, we’re on different working schedules (although thankfully only one-hour time difference), and his wifi isn’t always great. I don’t expect to be chatting on the phone with him for hours before bed or constantly messaging throughout the day. At the moment, we’ve struck a communication balance we’re both happy with, chatting every other day on the phone and then every other phone call a video chat. But this could all change further down the line so we’re open to keeping our communication frequency as fluid as possible depending on what we’ve each got on our respective plates. One tip I will impart is to make phone calls over messaging your primary form of communication (sorry to Gen-Z readers recoiling in disgust). Tone of meaning gets lost in text, and hearing your partner’s voice, laugh, sighs, word inflexions, even (non-COVID) coughs will bridge the physical gap just a smidge more. A voice note would be a good compromise if the immediacy of phone chats are too cringe.

Post
I had no idea there’s a British Forces post office until a few weeks ago. Did you?! It’s like a whole hidden world (except it’s not actually hidden) I had no idea existed which transports your beautifully written letters and thoughtful care packages to your service partner on deployment sometimes FOR FREE. Subject to whatever operation they’re on and the size/weight of what you’re posting you can send stuff for nothing. This gov website www.gov.uk/bfpo is really helpful (obvi there are restricted items, take a good look at that), so go get that BFPO number from your honey and treat yourself to a pretty personalised letter set.

Trust & honesty
To be transparent, the trust in our relationship could not have been in a worse place the week before H left for pre-deployment quarantine. Crossed boundaries and lies by omission on his side came to a head literally days away from his departure. I flip-flopped on whether or not to end it with the deployment serving as a clean cut, break it off while he was away while maybe being open to us getting in touch when he came home, or stay together taking each day as it comes and slowly build trust back up again. At the moment I don't regret going for option C but it's early days yet and I could be kicking myself come the other side of summer. It's no secret the military has a reputation for being rife with infidelity on both parts of a couple navigating an armed forces job somewhere in the mix, but a shitty person is a shitty person. An occupation does not define someone’s behaviour IMO, their actions and character do. I’ve chosen to be with H so I am choosing to trust him and vice versa. With that trust comes an expectation of total honesty from each of us to the other, e.g. rationally voicing if we are feeling a little neglected or telling them an ex popped over to say hi while you were out with mates etc. Nonetheless, I get there’s a fine line between honestly expressing stuff going through your head which a partner would hear almost day-to-day and not consistently being a mopey gloom and doom voice on the end of the line every phone call. Also going too far in the opposite direction suppressing feelings with an “I’m finnne” sounding like Maria von Trapp riding a sugar high probably not the best either. I’m waffling now, but point is to trust your partner and be honest to reinforce that trust. As simple as it is, you can’t stop someone from hurting you regardless of relationship seriousness and dealbreakers put in place, so no point worrying about hypothetical what-ifs if they haven’t happened.

I'm probably going to keep adding to this thread as new stuff crops up over the next five months and 1 week. Would love to hear anyone else's tips and advice who has been there and got the many deployment T-shirts!

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GrandmasNightgown · 14/04/2021 18:35

Your partner is H !!

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mpsw · 14/04/2021 18:51

There used to be a site called Rear Party (an offshoot of ArRSe) but it seems to have vanished. Other military sites with chat forums have bits that are for families, so you may well find somewhere to hang out

I've been doing this since this for decades. Back then it was only blueys for staying in touch,

One top tip is never overlook the padre. You don't have to be religious to get support from them, and they're usually a hoot and know everyone

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ChanCK · 15/04/2021 00:41

Hi it's so nice to read your post as I am undergoing something similar and I don't know who I am talk to.

I met a guy let's call him A around 9 months ago, recently he changed to a new department which require him to be deployed for more than 3 months very soon. The place he is going is dangerous.

I told him last year that I really want to settle down and get marry and have baby etc. He told me a few days ago (after he have been told about the deployment) that he won't be able to give me what I want and asked me to reconsider whether we should keep this relationship going. He also told me he don't want to affect anyone because there is a chance that he won't be able to come back.

I was so upset because of this conversation, I really really like him and want to have future with him. I'm very new to this sort of lifestyle as I never dated anyone in the force before.

I dun have any friends around me with similar situation either so I haven't talk to anyone about this. It is so nice to connect with you here and know that someone is also undergoing something similar.

I still haven't make up my mind whether I should break up with him or wait for him...but I really hope I can be still be with him 😔

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Survivingasamilitarygf · 16/04/2021 11:49

Hey @MissTeacup and others!!
It is soooo nice to know that my blog reached somebody in need of a reassuring read! It has kind of pushed me to write more as the pandemic slowed me down a little...
I really hope you gained warmth from reading it. Can I ask where you are all located? I too struggled with finding a UK based support platform, hence the birth of my blog!!
There were so many US forums but I didn't feel like I could relate, personally. I have a couple of friends in the same position as me who could also do with a platform they could turn to where they could vent and talk about any upcoming deployments or difficult events in their military relationships.

@ChanCK I am sorry to hear this. Nobody understands how tough these types of relationships can be unless they have experienced it themselves. Have you decided how you are going to handle the situation yet? We are here for support if you need us!

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Tirathisyou · 16/04/2021 12:06

Hi OP, is he in the Reserves then?

Me and DH have been together for 10 years and married for 3, I did type a long message but it came out more negative than planned so won't post.

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ChanCK · 20/04/2021 23:38

Unfortunately he decided to be distance from me last 2 weeks and it broke my heart, He still call me everyday now and chatted for 10/15 mins but I can feel he is hesitating about continuing this relationship from the way he speaks to me. I think I am going to stop contacting him very soon and perhaps block his telephone number as I couldn't deal with this sort of disengagement from someone I like so much.

I had a deep chat with him 3 days ago about our relationship, he said he dun think it is right for him to start a relationship now as he is going to deployment for a long period of time very soon and he dunno when it will end. I dun mind to wait for him to come back but I am so fed up that he is so reluctant to commit to our relationship now.

I really don't know what to do, I tried my best to not messaging him recently, my heart is sinking 😢

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Flo333 · 05/05/2021 12:25

Hey!
So I have never written on one of these before it's all very new to me!
But I figured I could do with some support of girls going through the same thing.

So me and my boyfriend havnt been together long about 4 months but we are totally in love with each other and its been pretty amazing. We got the news he's going to be deployed and i am lets say a mess. How do you cope being without someone for 6 months who you spend all your time with now and are crazy about. I feel such a bunch of emotions and I'm freaking the hell out 😭😭😭 does it get easier... Damn I know you kind of know what your getting involved with dating someone in the military but i guess you don't expect to have to deal with something like this so soon and the reality of it.

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ChanCK · 07/05/2021 01:58

Hi Flo333,

I'm in the same shoes, I only start dating with him since August last year, and he is going away very soon, the worst thing is he do not even know the length of the deployment 😔 the moment he knew he is going to be deployed last month, he started to distance from me for 2 weeks, then he slowly changed and he always calling me everyday recently. I honestly don't know how I'm gonna cope with it, if you wish to stay connect to have some support, we can talk on WhatsApp or email etc

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Flo333 · 07/05/2021 09:04

Hi ChankCk, I am so sorry its horrible isn't it. Its like OK you kind of no what you are getting yourself involved with but you don't really untill the reality actually hits. Mine is leaving today 😢😢😢 I am a anxious mess 😭 I have been busy making him ' open when cards' yesterday so I'm hoping he will like them.
Yes deffinetly love to chat on WhatsApp or something. I feel we all need as much support through others experiencing this xx

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ChanCK · 07/05/2021 12:58

Hi FIo333

Sure let's chat more, I'm not sure how to send private message in this forum, but my IG is chanchanfiona , please send me message there and we can exchange our WhatsApp number there! Speak to you soon xx

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ChanCK · 10/05/2021 16:04

Hi FIo333

How are you? How's your last 3 days been? Hope you are doing okay xx

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Flo333 · 12/05/2021 11:02

@missteacup your situation sounds so similar to mine!! We also had the whole last min change of dates of him leaving and had 3 days of finding out he's leaving. Which meant hardly any time to actually spend together although we managed to squeeze in what we could. I had the same also with the trust thing too. 😕 It's hard when I guess them going away trust is one of the most important things you need to have between you, well in a relationship in general too. But like me I decided to take the risk and to with it and hope it works out.
How are you doing? You seem like a pretty strong person but we all have our down days and breaking points too.
Sending love to you and every one else going through this xxx

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MissTilly93 · 15/05/2021 08:02

Thank you so much for this, I’m going through something very similar the only difference is we live together but my boyfriend has just gone away for 4 months and it’s been about 3 weeks already (due to covid and self isolation). This is his first deployment and it’s all a bit strange and any information I find online seems to be aimed at America so it’s not been very useful.

So again thank you for this Smile

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mrsnolasco · 15/05/2021 08:17

Morning!
How are you feeling now?
Army wife of 14 years here.
I’m currently 3 months in to a 6 month deployment.
Not our first deployment but am happy to answer any questions you may have.
As for the changes of dates - something you have to get used to I’m afraid. I’ve learned never to pay any attention to dates we get given in advance because 99% of the time they will be changed. It’s not the best way to live life, but it’s the only way you’ll get through it without losing your marbles.
The way I’m thinking about this deployment is at least they have ways of contacting us immediately if we need to. In other tours I’ve only heard from him once a week, whereas on this one we speak daily.
You’ll be fine, it soon flies. Just try to keep busy and think about all the leave they’ll have when they get home.
If you want to message me, I’m happy to chat 🙂

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MissTeacup · 19/05/2021 09:51

@GrandmasNightgown ahh I've just read the post you mean! No not that H. I chose the letter at random

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MissTeacup · 19/05/2021 10:03

@mpsw Thank you for responding! I think I know the one you mean. Came across a familiar-sounding archived forum name on my Google searches. I think the latest posts were from 2011 or something?

Wow, hats off to you for doing this for years! At the moment I feel like things are ok because there's a definite time limit / end to the deployment, then he's back home. Not sure how I'd feel continually doing this, but I suppose I'll just have to cross that bridge if he decides to return to the army full-time after his course.

Yes! Using the BFPO service has been quite fun (sorry I sound like a giant nerd Grin) to send letters and packages. Kind of a slower pace of communication from the calls and WhatsApp messages.

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ChanCK · 19/05/2021 10:29

My man is leaving in a month time, it's my first time experiencing this, I am keen to prepare a gift for him prior his department, something sweet and can remind him of me in London, do you girls have any suggestions? 😁

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MissTeacup · 19/05/2021 11:46

Really sorry for starting this thread and then not revisiting it for a while. I've been hunting for a new job and interviews + doing prep / presentations for them seem to be taking up all my time on top of normal work. Also, I wasn't getting post notifications as the emails were going into my junk. Was only by chance I checked MN today (procrastinating from to-do list Halo).

Thanks so much for everyone's replies and stories. Lovely to know there is support for us all out there.

@Survivingasamilitarygf I'm so pleased you've started writing for your blog again. You've got a great tone of voice, and the bits you've published so far were very helpful. Yes, I think there's a glaring gap for a UK military partner platform! I'm based in Surrey, just the other side of Croydon. What about you?

@Tirathisyou Yes. He was full-time (going from uni, to Sandhurst, to 7/8 years in) until Feb 2020 when he left and but carried on as a reservist for a little extra money and the social side of things. So when we met, I was like cool, interesting hobby - not thinking his military life would become his whole life again. He started doing a course at a uni not far away from me in September 2020. Then by the time the 3rd UK lockdown started, his whole course moved online and he got a bit down in the dumps watching pre-recorded lectures in his bedroom. So he decided to defer a year and applied for an army role at his rank in Surrey to be close to me and his parents. His commanding officer felt he was better placed on an overseas operation. I'm totally open to any and all views and opinions (even if negative!). If you'd rather talk one-on-one I'd be happy to listen xx

@ChanCK I'm so sorry to hear you're having a rough time. How are things now? In the nicest possible way, and going off your posts, I think your chap might not really know what he wants and could be possibly using his upcoming deployment as a way to gently let you down, especially if he's withdrawing from you a bit. Obviously, I have no idea what your relationship is like or what you're both like as people so could be completely off the mark here. If you are trying to stay together I would maybe press him on the length of the deployment. The army can be very disorganised and dates chop and change, but as far as I'm aware they do tend to let their people know roughly how long they will be away for. Even if it's a guesstimate band of 3-6months. It would be unreasonable for those with families and terrible for retention to send people off for undetermined amounts of time. Either he hasn't asked for exact details or he might be feeding you a half-truth. Feel free to reach out privately or on this thread if you want to talk more Flowers xx

@Flo333 Oh Flo! I know your head must've been spinning when you first heard deployment news. Sorry to hear your pre-deployment time got cut short too. Did you at least get to do some nice stuff together? The trust is a tricky one, but if you are with someone you've got to trust them. It's one of those things which are an absolute. You either trust or you don't. You're either alive or you're dead. There are no halves or 'sort ofs' about it. Unfortunately, staying with a partner you don't trust is just going to eat away at your mental health. I've certainly had wobbles about this though, with that trust comes honesty and I've been honest with H re: overthinking niggles. He's patient and very understanding to prove on his side he's committed to reinforcing trust. The honesty thing goes both ways too, so he'll tell me things even if he thinks it might upset me. So far they don't, because I value his effort in offering complete transparency. Buttttt like I said in my OG post, this could blow back in my face and I'm a naive dumb-dumb. I wouldn't say I'm a strong person, more that I'm very comfortable with my own company and like to throw myself into doing stuff for me every day (not possible for everyone's situation I know). Particularly now things are opening up and we can hug again! Have you got anything exciting planned in your diary? How are you doing with deployment so far? A couple of things H and I have done recently is virtual dates. He's very serious and has about as much creativity as a teaspoon so I wasn't sure how this idea would go down but I said would you be open to a couple of virtual date nights. He said he would, so we arranged a time (he shares a room in quite a busy block so not always easy for privacy) and spent nearly 2 hours going through the New York Times questions that lead to love as silly talking points. We've also watched a film together. Both set up a laptop next to our chairs / tv and pressed play on the same film at the same time. Was a fun thing to do! Exploring an online escape room next to try... will report back!

@MissTilly93 Hey! Oh that must be tough. But three weeks in means nearly a month down, then only 3 to go! No doubt you miss him loads, could you make a list of nice stuff you get to do while he's away? e.g. starfish in your bed every night, have the girls round for a boozy sleepover, maybe buy some interior bits he might've raised an eyebrow at if he was around.... haha. I think the first month is a challenge as it's getting used to not seeing that person and finding your groove with a communication routine. How are you doing now? Is there anything fun you've got lined up in the next few weeks?

@mrsnolasco Hello, thank you so much for replying! I feel on the whole ok actually. June will be month 3 and halfway there, so like you say time is flying quickly! Wow, 14 years doing this is incredible. My only question at the moment is reuniting weird? I've seen mountains of US 'homecoming' pictures and posts, but none for UK. I'm assuming it's totally different and depending on where they are flying back to (e.g. Brize or a civilian airport). Is it strange getting used to them again? I feel like I'm either going to be like an excited puppy licking his face or an awkward teenager who can barely make eye contact!
Yes, the dates and timings thing is something I've made my peace with pretty quickly, just expecting the unexpected and even then it will probably change!
I can't imagine how difficult it must've been only having contact once a week, but you sound like the type of person from your post who rolls with it. Agree, very lucky to be able to message and call when we want on this operation. Very much appreciate your kind words xxx

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MissTeacup · 19/05/2021 11:53

Just seen your new post today @ChanCK ! Guessing you and your guy are giving it a go. Try long-life non-perishable bits like sweets (depending on where he's going chocolate might melt), then it doesn't matter if they get crumpled in his bag. (For those that easily cringe from soppiness, stop reading now...) I also sent H a pj t-shirt that smelt like me while he was quarantining in the UK. Was a very well-received present.

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MissTilly93 · 19/05/2021 12:30

@MissTeacup I’ve made a few plans at weekends for various things before he gets back and I’m working 5 days a week so most time is filled but otherwise I’m doing ok we made a plan on how often we can speak or message and so far so good, only 16 weeks to go :)

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mrsnolasco · 20/05/2021 09:59

@MissTeacup yes I think you have to be pretty easygoing in this lifestyle otherwise you’d just tie yourself up in knots.
Homecoming is a weird one to be honest. I’ve never met him at the airport. I have met him at camp tho. He usually comes back from the airport via coach then the wives wait on camp for them. I’m sure it will be different this year due to covid tho. I’ve also never told my kids when he’s due back, just because dates can change quickly so don’t want to get their hopes up just to disappoint them, although I could probably tell my older ones now.
When he came back from Afghan, I picked him up then collected my eldest from school with him. She flew out of her classroom because she wasn’t expecting him. It was very sweet.
Glad you’re doing OK. Once you hit the halfway point it’s downhill from there, the last month is the longest though, I’ve always found.
Hope your soldier is doing ok, too. I don’t know where he is obviously, but I know where DH is, it’s grim.

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Survivingasamilitarygirlfriend · 24/05/2021 11:32

Hi everyone,
I just thought I'd let you know that I have decided to pick up where I left off with my blog. I really want to continue providing any support I can with my own experiences and give others a place to go if they feel they need a little guidance.
There will be more content soon and I have also set up a UK based Facebook group where guidance and support will be available as more of an informal chat and discussion if needed!

You can join here, the more the merrier:)
m.facebook.com/groups/1123867298100055/?tsid=0.29345701251180967&source=result

Xxx

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Survivingasamilitarygf · 26/05/2021 16:12

Hi guys,
New blog post is now live that I think may help some of you xx
Adjusting to life as a military spouse, some things that I would have loved to have known beforehand!
Sophie x
survivingasamilitarygirlfriend.wordpress.com/2021/05/26/adjusting-to-life-as-a-military-spouse/

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careerchange456 · 06/06/2021 21:50

Hello! Found this thread and just reading through all your situations.

DH is currently 3 months into a 10 month deployment. This is his first since we had kids (aged 3 and 5!) so it's pretty tough. They're used to him weekend commuting but don't understand why he still isn't coming back for a weekend.

We've been together 10+ years and I've never had much to do with the military. Weekend commuting seems the norm for most RN but it does mean families seem completely forgotten about and lack of support is a huge issue.

Anyway, fingers crossed he gets some R&R at some point!

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ChanCK · 08/06/2021 01:37

@MissTeacup and other ladies x

Thanks for your follow-up message. His deployment is going to start soon and he told me he will come back when the job is done which is around 2 months but he cannot be 100% sure about the exact date which I understand. He also told me he will be away a lot constantly in the next few years.

2 weeks ago, I asked him very bluntly about his decision on this relationship on Whatsapp, whether it is a yes or a no, he answered I don't know. Then I said let's move on with our life then if this is how you think about us. We haven't spoken for a week, I missed him so much and I messaged him again after 1 week, we chatted on the phone, he told me one more time he couldn't give me what I want as I told him last year I really want to get marry and have kids soon when we first met. After that we started chatting about other things, we sort of leave it like that.

For the last week, we spoke on the phone for 20min - 1.5 hours daily now, I do actually feel that he is making an effort to maintain a relationship with me. I can feel that he also likes me too but due to his 200% work commitment and my huge desire to have family/kids soon, our timing is just wrong. I decided to go with the flow, trying to take it easy, I will also start going on dates with other men (as he already made it clear to me 2 times he thinks it is not right for us to continue as he cannot give me what I want) and I will see how everything goes.

Meanwhile, I will focus on my career and other things to help me to improve to become a better woman for myself.

Can't wait to hear the updates from other Military's wife/girlfriend/date x

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