Can I Live with My Girlfriend While in the Military? Understanding Rules and Challenges

by | Military Finance | 1 comment

Exploring a relationship while serving in the military can be challenging, especially when it comes to living arrangements. You might be wondering if you can live with your girlfriend while fulfilling your duties. The answer isn’t straightforward and depends on several factors, including your branch of service, rank, and the specific policies of your base.

Understanding the regulations and potential hurdles is crucial to making an well-informed choice. Some bases offer housing options for unmarried couples, while others have strict rules that could complicate cohabitation. By exploring the different possibilities and knowing what to expect, you can better plan your future together.

Understanding Military Housing Policies

Military housing policies play a crucial role in determining your living arrangements. Knowing these policies can help you and your girlfriend navigate potential obstacles and make informed decisions.

Eligibility for On-Base Housing

Eligibility for on-base housing depends on several factors, including your rank and marital status. Generally, unmarried service members aren’t eligible for family housing. But, some bases may offer options to cohabitate through specific programs or allowances. It’s essential to check with your base’s housing office to understand your options. If you’re a higher-ranking officer, you might find more flexibility.

Off-Base Living Options

Off-base living options may be a viable alternative if on-base housing isn’t available or feasible. The military provides Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to cover off-base living expenses, which varies by location, rank, and dependent status. Consider factors like proximity to the base, safety, and cost of living. While exploring civilian rental markets, use resources like the Housing Office or Military OneSource for assistance.

Legal Considerations for Cohabitation

When considering living with your girlfriend while in the military, it’s essential to understand the legal factors involved. Familiarize yourself with both military regulations and local laws to avoid potential issues.

Military Regulations on Cohabitation

Military regulations vary by branch and installation, impacting cohabitation rules. Generally, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) doesn’t expressly forbid cohabitation. But, misconduct rules still apply, so avoid situations that could lead to charges like adultery or fraternization. Each branch’s policy might differ; the Army, for instance, has specific guidelines for living arrangements.

Higher-ranking officers may enjoy more leniency, but they must still adhere to overarching policies. Unmarried couples occasionally face additional scrutiny, particularly if cohabitation affects performance or unit cohesion. Check with your commanding officer or legal advisor for the most accurate information.

State and Local Laws Impact

State and local laws further complicate the cohabitation world. Some states enforce cohabitation laws that might impact your decision. For example, a few jurisdictions have laws against unmarried cohabitation, though they’re rarely enforced.

Local ordinances and landlord policies also play a role, so research community-specific regulations and tenant agreements. If renting off-base housing, clarify cohabitation terms with property managers. Compliance with local laws and military policies ensures peace of mind and avoids legal troubles.

Financial Implications

Living with your girlfriend while in the military has financial implications you can’t ignore. Understanding these aspects helps avoid potential pitfalls.

Housing Allowances and Benefits

Military housing allowances and benefits vary based on rank, location, and whether you’re living on or off-base. The Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) ensures service members get adequate housing. But, if unmarried, your entitlement might differ. On-base housing usually prioritizes married couples but some bases offer housing to unmarried service members.


  1. BAH Rates: A sergeant in San Diego might receive higher BAH compared to one in a rural area, affecting off-base rental options.
  2. Extra Costs: If off-base, you’ll handle utilities, maintenance, and commuting expenses.

Check with your Housing Office to understand your benefits and eligibility accurately.

Managing Finances Jointly

Jointly managing finances while living together requires careful consideration. You and your girlfriend should discuss budgeting, bill payments, and saving plans.

  1. Shared Bills: Decide who pays what, or if expenses like rent and groceries are split evenly.
  2. Savings Goals: Set joint savings goals for emergencies or future plans.

Compare local living expenses to your combined income to ensure financial stability. Military OneSource offers resources to help create a budget that fits your circumstances.

Social and Emotional Factors

Exploring social and emotional factors is critical when considering living arrangements with your girlfriend while in the military. These factors profoundly affect your relationship stability and overall well-being.

Community and Support Structures

Living on-base offers an immediate sense of community. Military families share similar experiences, providing a support system of peers who understand your unique challenges. Plus, base communities often have organized social events, childcare facilities, and recreational centers, making it easier to build relationships and support networks.

But, if you opt to live off-base, integrating into civilian communities might be harder. Your girlfriend’s inclusivity in existing community structures varies, and forming connections might require additional effort. Local support groups and neighborhood associations can ease this transition. Military OneSource provides resources to help service members and their partners find relevant community support.

Dealing with Deployments and Transfers

Military life inevitably involves deployments and transfers, which test any relationship. Being separated for months at a time strains emotional and physical connections. It’s crucial to establish strong communication practices and emotional coping mechanisms before such events occur.

Planning helps immensely. Talk with your girlfriend about expectations during deployments. Use available technology like video calls and social media to maintain consistent contact. Many military families also turn to support groups where partners of deployed service members share experiences and advice, offering emotional support.

Transfers are another common hurdle. Frequent relocations disrupt routines and social connections. Flexibility and preparedness are key—research potential new locations in advance and involve your girlfriend in planning the move. This collaboration ensures both partners feel included and supported.

Maintaining a strong relationship under military conditions is challenging but feasible with proactive strategies, solid communication, and community support.


Exploring cohabitation while in the military involves careful consideration of various factors. Balancing military housing policies, financial implications, and social/emotional needs is crucial. Whether you choose on-base or off-base living, understanding the benefits and challenges of each option will help you make an well-informed choice.

Strong communication and proactive planning are essential to maintain a stable relationship even though deployments and transfers. Use resources like the Housing Office, Military OneSource, and local support groups to navigate these challenges effectively. Ensuring compliance with military regulations and local laws will help you avoid any legal complications.

By taking these steps, you and your partner can create a supportive and fulfilling living arrangement that accommodates the unique demands of military life.


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