My husband and I have just celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary and I’ve, naturally, been reflecting on my first decade as a military spouse. I started thinking what I would tell my pre-military spouse self if I had a chance…
What would I start with?
‘You’re braver than you think.’
Being a military spouse has taught me a lot about what I’m capable of doing. Growing up, I was shy and would never put myself at the centre of attention. I would avoid talking to people I didn’t know at all costs. The thought of moving to a new city, let alone a new country would have terrified me. But you learn a lot about yourself when you have no choice but to get on with it, right?
During my first decade as a military spouse, I’ve dealt with solo-parenting for months, moving overseas (twice), making new friends and starting a new career, to name a few. Any one of those things would have felt unsurmountable and like ‘something I couldn’t do’ before I married my sailor. Now they are all things I am proud to have achieved.
Yes, I had to summon up a lot of bravery to do them but after each major event, I learned that I could do hard things. And each time I had to do something else I found difficult, it was a little easier because I had already proven myself capable of more than I thought.
‘Nothing is forever’
For better or worse, no circumstance you find yourself in will last forever, especially in military life. We spent the first 5 years of our married life living in our own home, surrounded by friends and family. It was wonderful but I’m not sure I appreciated how good it was until we moved over 3,000 miles across the Atlantic.
Knowing that the good times won’t last forever isn’t as pessimistic as it sounds. It makes you savour those moments more. Hug those family members a little closer when you can. If we learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that you never know what obstacles life might throw in your way so make the most of life right now.
This decade as a military spouse has also helped me learn that the bad times won’t last forever. One day you’ll look back and just feel proud you persevered. The first six-month deployment we went through was incredibly hard – more so because I hadn’t dealt with an absence as long as that previously. Once I had that under my belt, each absence since has been slightly easier. That half of a year was a finite period of time and once it was behind us, I felt so proud we had gotten through it.
‘Find your people’
When I first started out as a military spouse, I had ‘my people’ and didn’t think I needed any more. I was wrong. What I needed (in addition to the support of existing friends and family) was to connect with people who understood the demands of military life.
During that first deployment, I hadn’t yet started my Instagram page. I set this up towards the end when we were about to move to the USA because I thought the move would be interesting. However, what I found when I started connecting with other military spouse accounts, was that there was a community of people who fully understood what I was going through, without me explaining anything. That felt like such a relief. I just wish I’d made those connections earlier in the deployment. They would have been such a great support when I was finding it tough and didn’t know how to vocalize my rollercoaster of emotions.
Now, even more so, I appreciate the support of other military spouses in my life. We currently live in a military neighbourhood so almost everyone I live close to is in the same situation as me. They have partners who often have to leave on short notice or are working away during the week or for months at a time. We help each other out, even if it is just providing moral support at the playground after school.
‘Putting yourself out there is worth it’
I didn’t really feel like a military spouse at first, not while we were living in my hometown and nothing had really changed. When we moved to America there was no denying it though and I had to start putting myself out there.
I realized that if I didn’t, I’d have no friends apart from my husband and no life to speak of without him. So I put myself out there. I went to bookclubs where I didn’t know anyone, I met strangers for coffee and went to activities with my kids where I chatted to other parents for the first time. I realized the more I did it, the less daunting it became. And I made new friends into the bargain. Result!
Putting myself out there has also helped me start a new career and follow a passion for writing. I’m no longer afraid to go after things that I want and I have my experiences over my first decade as a military spouse to thank for that.
What would you tell your younger self to help navigate military spouse life?