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Letter to a West Point Girlfriend

Dear West Point Girlfriend,

I know what it’s like to be you. I understand your joys, your frustrations, your  excitement, and your disappointment. The journey that you’re on is hard, but it’s also amazing.

I was a West Point girlfriend for four years. I am part of the 2% Club, the few that made it from the start of Beast to graduation day. I may not have all the answers, but I have some. I wish I had someone to give me advice, someone to inspire me, someone to remind me what it’s all about. I hope I can offer that to you. I learned a lot during my time as a West Point girlfriend. These are only some of those lessons, but I hope that my experience can help yours in some small way.

Do not compare your relationship to those of others.

I cannot stress this enough! Comparing yourself to others can lead to some pretty negative emotions anyway, but in this situation it is especially toxic. Your relationship is hard enough without constantly finding reasons that it “isn’t good enough”. There will be some girlfriends that talk to their cadet more than you, that visit their cadet more, get engaged before you, etc. That can be disheartening. But your relationship is unique, and the way you make it work is unique.

If it helps you stay connected to other girlfriends in a similar situation, join the West Point Girlfriends Facebook page. I didn’t. Comparing myself to others has always been a fault of mine, so my husband and I agreed that joining a page where I would constantly be reading about other relationships would do more harm than good. I’m certainly not saying that’s how it is for everyone! Find support however you can! But I feel good about my decision to focus on my own relationship, rather than the relationships I wasn’t in.

Do not blame your cadet for things that are out of his control.

He is busy. Between the intense academic, military, and (often) sport commitments that your cadet has made, it is a wonder that he gets any sleep at night. He missed a phone call or didn’t text you back for hours? I’m sorry if this sounds harsh, but get over it. He is doing the best he can, and he needs your support. He can’t help it if studying takes longer than planned, if his practice leaves him exhausted, or his military duties eat up all his time. If he didn’t text you back, it’s probably because he is busy trying to make it through one of the most difficult college experiences in the country.

So, don’t take it personally. He loves you and he will make time for you when he can! Flexibility is the greatest lesson I learned during Connor’s time at West Point. Trust me, flexibility is one of the best characteristics to have in the military!

Care packages are always a perfect way to remind your cadet how much you love him!

There are so many occasions to send care packages! Some of my favorites were holidays (obviously), when he started complaining about the mess hall food, before TEE’s, and especially when he was sick. Some of my favorite things to include in the care packages were:

Baked goods, cards and letters, Keurig coffee, tea, cans of chicken noodle soup, candles, and pictures.

Your cadet isn’t deployed. He has access to stores, so he can buy the essentials himself. That being said, the purpose of your care package is to show him how much you love and miss him. Include things that let him know you care about what’s going on in his life, and things that mean something to both of you.

Find ways for you and your cadet to connect even though you are miles apart.

One word: Netflix. While chatting on oovoo and talking on the phone are always welcome, it was also important for us to find a way to feel like we were together, even when we were apart. Every weekend we would set aside one night to watch a movie on Netflix together. We would call each other on the phone, find a movie or show that we wanted to watch, press play at the same time, and talk to each other during the movie as if we were watching it on the couch together. This was our favorite night of the week because it made us feel like we could enjoy some of the things that normal couples do.

Plan times for you to talk on the phone or on oovoo.

When we were both busy, we would actually schedule our oovoo dates and movie dates. This way we could plan our schedules around it, and we had something solid to look forward to. Before we started doing this, I would sacrifice a lot of things to make sure I was always available for a phone call. I was usually disappointed because I had expectations that he would call when he just couldn’t. I also missed out on a lot because I was waiting by the phone. Scheduling our calls made everything so much better! It made me feel confident that I could live my own life while knowing the stability of my relationship.

Go back to your kindergarten roots and practice the art of sharing.

I mean this in two ways. Learn how to share your cadet. When Connor came home, everyone wanted to see him. Everyone. Sometimes that was hard for me because, of course, I wanted as much time with him as possible. I had to accept and appreciate the fact that my cadet was loved, and that meant that he had to stretch himself thin when he visited. That just made me appreciate the times that we did have alone. You also need to share your cadet with the army. Seems obvious, but it’s also a lot harder than it sounds. The army determines what they do, where they go, and when. That’s just how it is… and how it always will be as long as he is in the military. Again, accept and appreciate who your cadet is, and enjoy the times when you don’t have to share him with anyone else.

Also, learn how to share your emotions with your cadet. Communication is key! If you’re upset, tell him. If you’re happy, tell him! I have always had a hard time opening up, but keeping open communication is key to any successful relationship. That is only emphasized in long distance relationships. Now, this does not mean that you constantly nag him about how unhappy you are that he is far away. Trust me, he knows that. Reminding him of that really will not help. Instead, share with him what you both can (reasonably) do to make your relationship the best it can be.

You do not need a new dress for each ball.

I love dresses! I buy them whenever I can! But, elegant formal dresses can be seriously expensive. I only had two dresses that I wore during all four years. But I made it through and I don’t think anyone noticed or cared. Why spend your entire paycheck on a dress you only wear once – save that for your wedding gown! I suggest getting a couple gorgeous dresses, wear them multiple times, and save your money for something better… like your next plane ticket to New York!

Remember why your cadet is going to West Point in the first place.

He is doing it because he felt that it was something he had to do, for himself, for his country, and, believe it or not, for you. During his time at West Point, Connor kept telling me that he was there so that he could build a future for us. It was hard for me to understand that at the time. All I wanted was to be with him. Sometimes I felt like he didn’t understand that. But the thing is, he did. He made sacrifices too, and being away from his girlfriend was one of them. But it was worth it. And now he has a career that we both can be proud of, and a future that is secure.

Live your life.

These years are important for your personal growth too! Please don’t waste them away waiting. I had a very difficult freshmen year of college because I was afraid to have my own life. I was so afraid that we would grow apart, that I barely grew at all. I have to say, that made our relationship ten times harder. I was depressed, which put a lot of strain on me and on my relationship.

You will both grow during college. Appreciate that, don’t fear it! This is a time for both of you to work towards becoming the people that you always wanted to be. Balance your relationship with your own

goals. If you work at your relationship the right way, and if it is meant to be, then it will work out! Sure, you do have to make sacrifices when you date a West Point cadet, but your own well-being cannot be one of them.

Enjoy the journey.

Dating a West Point cadet is truly one of the most amazing experiences! The campus is beautiful and full of history, the traditions are humbling, and you experience tremendous pride knowing what your boyfriend is doing for his country. You get to travel to New York, go to dances and balls, stare at your cadet in his uniform, and support him while he’s on this journey of a lifetime.

It’s difficult, but it’s worth it. At the end of it all, nothing is more rewarding than pinning bars on your new Second Lieutenant and remembering the amazing journey that you went on together.

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