Mil-to-mil marriages are when one servicemember marries another servicemember. Dual military couples are a lot more common than one might think. They make up about 7% of all active duty military members and about 3% of Reserve/Guard components. Dual military couples can benefit from the shared experience of being in the military together. However, along with these benefits come a set of distinct challenges.
Military life is often referred to as a constant juggling act because the mission comes first. With two active duty members, it might feel like there’s no end in sight to the hoops you have to jump through. Even though the military will treat each servicemember as “independent” when it comes to PCS moves, assignments, and career track plans, dual military couples still have to make decisions together, just like any other couple. Here are some of the essential benefits for dual military couples – and some considerations as well.
Understanding Specific Military Career Paths
Servicemembers have dedicated career paths based on their military occupational specialty, or MOS. And there are specific ways that military career paths play a role in dual military marriages.
Career Management – If two servicemembers belong to different career fields, it might not always be possible for them to be assigned to the same location. While efforts are made, whenever feasible, to collocate families it is not a guarantee and is considered a “good deal.”
Differences in Rank – Servicemembers of different ranks might not have the same common-ground experiences of those who are closer in rank. Additionally, there are strict rules against fraternization that must be followed, regardless of marital status.
Service Branch – Inter-service dual military marriages make the likelihood of being in the same duty station even more difficult because assignments depend on the coordination across all branches and assignment managers.
Benefits for Dual Military Couples
BAH and BAS
Thankfully the military now pays both spouses for their housing and subsistence allowances. Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates depend on location and rank, so the more expensive an area, the higher the BAH you’ll receive.
For dual military couples who have no children, both spouses receive BAH without dependents. If the couple has a child, the higher-ranking servicemember can claim the child as a dependent, and their BAH will increase accordingly. BAH doesn’t increase for more than one child, so four kids or one kid – your BAH is the same. Only one partner can claim the married with dependents BAH rate. You can learn more in our BAH Guide. For dual military couples, each person receives BAH, so a family can build a healthy nest egg.
Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) is an untaxed benefit available to offset the costs of meals. BAS is linked to the overall national average price of food and is evaluated annually. Dual military couples benefit from receiving BAS each month, so unless you plan to eat lavish meals all the time, you’re likely to be able to save some of this allowance.
If both servicemembers have served the required time in service to qualify for a VA home loan, a dual military couple has a distinct advantage over a non-dual military couple. VA loans require that a person has a full VA loan entitlement available for a loan. That means if you’ve never used VA loan benefits, you have 100% of your entitlement available. Dual military couples have the choice between both using their entitlement or using just one entitlement and keeping the other one unused. Ultimately, this can be a great benefit for future VA home loan use.
Other Housing Options
Married military members usually have the highest priority for on-base and off-base privatized military housing. Unmarried servicemembers in the lower ranks are usually required to live in the barracks, while married service members will have the option of living in base housing or living in off-base accommodations.
Considerations for Dual Military Couples
Because there are fewer females in the military, a higher percentage of females are in dual military marriages, making it more likely for females to feel the negative impacts of a dual military marriage.
When servicemembers have children, one spouse often has to step back from pursuing their career. Being in a successful dual military marriage has as much to do with being mission-ready as it does with having open communication with your spouse.
Career Progression and Service-Related Separation
Keep in mind that dual military marriages will likely affect career progression at some point. Generally, one servicemember ultimately elects to separate from the military. This is especially true later into one’s military career because of the added pressure that comes with higher ranks.
Being part of the military community means leaning into a lifestyle of PCS moves, new duty locations, and unforeseen challenges. Many dual military couples choose to take turns on when to pursue a harder, career-boosting position, so that each career gets priority for a specific period.
Dual military couples also face the possibility of long separations. The military treats each servicemember independently, regardless of a dual marriage, as force readiness will always take priority when issuing assignments. This makes it critical for dual military couples to have healthy communication plans and to learn how to best optimize their time together.
Additionally, each branch of the military offers a “Joint Spouse” preference to increase your chances of being stationed together with your partner.
- Air Force Spouse Program
- Marine Corps Dual Military Household Assignment Policy
- Married Army Couples Program
- Navy Military Couple and Single Parent Assignment Program
When Joint Assignments Are Not Possible
Keep in mind that the military makes assignments based on the needs of the specific branch of service, and not always based on the servicemember’s preference. Joint-assignments are not always possible.
If you find yourself separated from your family due to military orders (dual-military couple or not), then you find yourself being eligible for Family Separation Pay.
In order to receive Family Separation Pay as a dual military couple, the following criteria must be met:
- You must be separated from your family for more than 30 days due to your military orders (this includes Temporary Duty Assignments)
- You must have been cohabiting prior to your assignment beginning
- Only the highest-ranking individual will receive the benefit (both members in a dual military couple are not eligible for the same benefit)
Child Care Considerations
Child care is one of the most pressing concerns for military families. This is even more of an issue when both parents are active duty servicemembers. Long work hours, separated from extended family, and deployments can make it incredibly challenging to play an active role in a child’s parenting.
Each servicemember has to set up a family care plan with their branch of service and keep it up-to-date. Since the military lifestyle often requires child care on short notice, it’s essential to plan as much as possible.
Dual military couples are generally favored for enrollment in DoD child development centers (CDC), so explore those options at your local installation. And although many dual-military couples don’t feel like “spouse clubs” are intended to serve them, this is not true. And it is important to establish points of contact within your units’ Family Readiness Group, Family Key Group, or Family Readiness Program.
Being Proactive Is a Key to Success to Dual Military Marriages
Achieving personal and professional goals for dual military couples is much the same for non-dual military couples. To improve the chances of achieving these goals, try to look for joint assignments, have realistic contingency plans in place, and reach out for support when needed. For those who are struggling to make their military marriage work for them, Military OneSource offers free, confidential, non-medical counseling or reach out to your military and family life counselors.