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Geo-Bachelor Housing: The Pros and Cons of Living Apart

by Rebecca Alwine - March 30th, 2022

Would you ever choose to live apart from your spouse in different houses? In the military community, this happens more often than you might think. So often, in fact, that there is a term specific to this situation: geographical bachelor, or "geo-bachelor" or "geo-bach" for short.

The military makes being a geo-bachelor hard to do, so it’s not often the best option. But sometimes, and for some families, it is. For those of us who have never done it, we look at those situations with doubt or awe.

A service member becomes a geo-bachelor when they PCS without their family, voluntarily splitting the family into two different locations. This is different from getting unaccompanied orders or going TDY for a training school, because in those situations the family does not have a choice to accompany the service member. 

Common reasons families choose to geo-bach

Choosing to geo-bach is difficult. Families who go this route often don't have another choice. There are a few common reasons that military families will choose to geo-bach:

  • To keep their children in the same school (especially juniors and seniors who want to graduate from their current high school)

  • So the spouse can keep their job

  • To care for ailing parents or other family members

  • Because a custody agreement won’t allow them to move their child

No matter the reason for the geo-bachelor situation, there are several areas of impact that need careful consideration. Most of them come down to money. The military is simply not going to pay for you to stay in one place and your spouse to live somewhere else. Yes, there are exceptions to every rule, but even those exceptions are not going to get you two sets of BAH.

For all of the rules regarding moving, check the Joint Travel Regulation. And keep the ibuprofen handy.

Geo-bachelors: Two households

One of the most complicated elements of a geo-bach is splitting into two separate households. The family will probably stay in the house they currently are in. However, if the family is currently living in base housing, they will need to move off if the active duty member chooses to geo-bach. (Cha-ching, expense!). Your service member may or may not be authorized a room in the barracks. If not, the service member will need to rent or buy housing off base (Cha-ching, another expense).

During a geo-bach situation, you’re looking at two housing payments with one fixed BAH amount. At this point, many geo-bachelors look for a roommate to share a furnished apartment. This is often the best financial decision when looking at a separation of this kind. There are many apartments available close to military installations, but they are not all created equal.

Geo-bachelor BAH and expenses

One of the most commonly-asked questions about being a geo-bachelor is how BAH works for service members and their families. As mentioned earlier, geo-baching is a choice. The military will not pay for two households. The family will receive BAH for the service member's new location only. (Use our BAH calculator to find the most updated BAH).

That said, you will likely have two housing payments, but one BAH.

In addition to the double housing payments, you’ll also have double the costs for utilities and food. Then, you'll have to factor in increased travel costs as you’ll want to see your spouse as often as possible. You may also have additional childcare or pet care costs. If you’re used to one spouse taking on the lawn care, you may need to hire someone to do that.

Common challenges of the geo-bach

Living apart comes with its challenges. Military families who geo-bach can expect to encounter some difficult times. Common challenges include:

  • Marital and parenting challenges due to geographic separation

  • Financial issues, including paying for two houses (you will only receive one BAH, based on the duty's member's current location)

  • Finding furniture and household items to furnish two households

  • Being physically apart. Every military family knows how tough it is to be separated during a deployment or TDY. But geo-baching is a separation by choice, adding a layer of complexity.

The bottom line is that, while there are situations where being a geo-bachelor makes the most sense, it's not designed to be easy. Or cheap. Geo-baching is hard on families, inevitably impacting the service member's focus on the mission. The military does not want this to become the norm.

PCSgrades is here to help

PCSgrades makes it easy to learn about housing options, no matter where you live. From apartments in town to housing on the installation, you can see reviews from other military families who have been in your situation. Pay it forward by leaving a review on your past apartments, base housing, or neighborhoods.

Rebecca Alwine

Rebecca Alwine is an Army wife, mother of three and lover of her adorable pirate dog. Over the past 15 years, she’s discovered she enjoys coffee, lifting weights and most of the menial tasks of motherhood. Her days consist of working out in her garage gym, audiobooks and pretending to cook while her Instant Pot and Air Fryer do all the work. Her motto: work smarter, not harder.