Let me start off by saying, any spouse who supports his or her service member in any branch of service – I salute you (Wait, can I do that?)!
If you are one of the lovely women or men who fell in love with your spouse before they joined the service – congratulations! You’ve both made it through so much! You are rock stars. You actually did (in a roundabout way) sign up for this, ON PURPOSE. Go you!
However, if we’re being really honest, is it possible that you just adore that man or woman by your side, who just happened to serve? I sure hope so because this military spouse business ain’t for the faint of heart.
Now, to address all of the mean people who just can’t stop uttering the phrase,“This is the life you chose” :
I mean it.
It’s cruel, and quite honestly, it isn’t true. People don’t marry positions, they marry people. The problem with this mindset is that it places rank over love. We don’t choose who we love. If we did, we’d all marry superheroes, movie stars, Jesus, and the like. We just sort of fall in love and think, maybe we can do this together…FOREVER…no matter what this is.
Now to you, yes you, the mother of two who married a school teacher, and then many years into your marriage, joined this military spouse club — I’m talking to you now.
Dear disillusioned, confused, how the heck did I get here, somewhat seasoned spouse,
Remember that time you were comfortable in life? You were in the place where your entire extended family grew up, in that house that Jack built? Well forget it, that’s way behind you, sister. But there is a lot of good ahead, too. If you look too longingly back at what was, you might just miss what is or what’s yet to come.
I was doing laundry yesterday (I assume you were, too, because it’s the antagonist of our story: laundry, dishes, bills, homework, school lunches, and that letter to the teacher because he’s terrified to act in the school play because “the mask is stinky and everyone is going to laugh at me.”) Anyway, while I was day-dreaming about my Cinderella story, wondering how I ended up in this 5 X 9 laundry room box … again, I was able to squash a destructive thought.
I am the world’s worst thought-squasher, and honestly, I have a pretty good life. I am tired of looking back at what wasn’t (I feel strikingly like Riley’s mom in Pixar’s Inside Out, daydreaming about the Brazilian helicopter pilot she let slip by).
But that stupid thought keeps me distracted with what may have been when what’s becoming is beautifully blooming under this large pile of laundry. There is something so beautiful about what is becoming.
I haven’t always wanted this life. I still don’t always want to be a military spouse. But, truth be told, I want this life, with this man, even if it has to be in these circumstances.
So, dear friend if you are struggling with a case of the what ifs as a military spouse, to you I say, you’re doing so much better than you think. Don’t let the mean girls get you down. You were made for this!
In the interim, here are some tips to help you push through the hard, in the most ungraceful way (as I have done).
1. Stop beating yourself up.
You’ve endured a lot of change as a military spouse. Give yourself some time to grieve and cut your losses and allow some fun in your life for goodness sake…as uncomfortable as that is going to be.
2. You did not give up on that career, you chose to support your service member.
Your spouse made a brave sacrifice to serve his or her country, and you made a brave sacrifice to love and serve your spouse. You supported him or her in that new endeavor. That’s no small task. In a world that screams, “you do you,” you’re choosing to do “us,” and that comes at a high cost.
3. Work through it, not around it.
It is going to be tempting to avoid yourself in this season. If there are any lingering uncertainties of self, they are going to show their ugly heads (all of them..like a freaking three-headed beast). Engage the hard things about you that you’ve been running from for decades. I promise you, it will be worth it on the other side.
4. Love those kids harder.
With a constant traveling spouse, you will be keenly aware of what your kids are missing out on. I literally schedule time in my day to snuggle my kids when daddy is away. Sad, I know, but if I don’t, I know they are getting hugged less than when daddy is here. I refuse for them to physically feel the void of their dad any more than they have to (and if I am being honest it is absolutely the best way to end my day.).
5. You matter.
Working, not working; studying not studying; homemaking not homemaking. Your value is not defined by what you do. Stop thinking like that.
You are not defined by what you do but by who you are.
Choose to be someone worthwhile in whatever circles you’re in, but don’t for a second think you don’t add value. You very much do.
6. You’ll figure it out.
That big, gaping hole that’s left you feeling alone and empty …it will go away and you will start to find ‘her’ again; that free-spirited girl you buried deep down when you married and had kids. She’s still in there and this adventure is the very thing that is going to help draw her out again.
7. Last but not least, you are going to appreciate that service member spouse of yours.
When he or she comes home from that TDY or deployment, you are going to love him or her in ways you didn’t even know still existed in you, and he or she will do the same. Distance really does make the heart grow fonder and there is no greater reunion than a hot, sexy reintegration (if you catch my drift). The pride you will feel for your spouse, it’s unparalleled.
So, here’s to you disillusioned, confused, how the heck did I get here, somewhat seasoned spouse. This is just the kind of place you shine, welcome to the murky middle of military spousehood!
We’ve been waiting for you.