Earlier this week I shared with you how I wanted to branch into writing about my experiences as a military spouse.
So with that in mind, today I want to write to my fellow military spouses—my friends and kindred spirits scattered across the globe—and share with you all just a few things I’ve learned along the way.
1. Being a military spouse will give you the choice to show up to life or check out.
As a military spouse every time you move, it will be on you to rebuild your life—whether that be finding new friends, finding a new job, finding new volunteer work, or finding new friends and activities for your family.
How quickly this happens is on you.
There will always be a variety of services, agencies, and spouse networks on base doing their best to reach out to you and to help you with that process, but it is on you to say yes or no. And if they don’t catch you as a newcomer, it is on you to go looking for those same networks and resources and to ask for help.
Believe me, you will get overwhelmed and frustrated and lonely at first, but I promise it will get better.
After a move, you will want to hide away in your house at some point. The stack of unpacked boxes and the pictures you put on your fridge of all your friends far away will inevitably lead you to binge watch some netflix. Or maybe that’s just me. 🙂
Change is not easy and we all need some time to adjust, but don’t give in to checking out for too long.
Know that settling in and rebuilding takes time. Friendliness and a willingness to keep reaching out go a long way.
Some great tips I have found for finding some of these are:
- being willing to host a get-together (just offer wine and they will come running 😉 )
- check out the parks if you have kids or the doggy park if you have a pet — be willing to say hi and make a new friend
- check out the base family services center for all the base newcomer services and agencies. They are an invaluable resource with all the local information from job openings to everything else the local community has to offer, both on and off base.
- connect with your new squadron/unit spouses group to meet other spouses who will know the area and lifestyle of the new unit you are joining such as the ops tempo, deployment cycles, TDY rates, etc.
- connect with other spouse organizations on base to find volunteer work
2. Being a military spouse, one of your greatest enemies will be comparison.
Given the military determines where we live, when we move, and often what our daily schedule revolves around there will always be something to be unhappy or anxious about.
You will get stationed at bases you love, bases you feel indifferent about, and bases you could care less to stay at.
You will love a base once you finally get settled, but then either feel ashamed to admit it or unashamedly become obsessed half way through your assignment with thinking about where and what is next down the road. At bases you hate, all you will be tempted to do is compare it to other locations and note to yourself repeatedly all the ways that it falls short.
Realize that this will happen, and then do your best to dig for the gold.
Each base experience will be what you make of it. Even in the most remote of places, where you find yourself frustrated and struggling at what you can’t find or don’t have —there are still friendships and memories to be made that will make your time there.
Do not miss out on what you already have right now by getting lost in what you wish could be, what you used to have, or what you hope to have in the future.
The other face of comparison that you will find yourself being sucked in by, is the tendency to compare yourself to every other military spouse.
Whether its your marriage, your clothes, your body, your job, your lack of a job, your children, your lack of children, your desire for no children, your faith, your lack of faith, your different faith, your spouse’s rank, your spouse’s job, your volunteer work, your lack of volunteer work, your love for the base, your hatred of the base — you will feel pressure at some point in some way to measure one or all of those aspects of your lives to the other spouses around you, even your friends.
Fight that as hard as you can.
Try to remember that everyone is different and everyone is at different places and in different seasons of their lives. Some will be more like you and others will provide a different perspective.
Learn how to appreciate both the similarities and the differences.
Realize that comparison is an impossible measuring stick that will never tell the truth, nor will it ever be satisfied. It will only exhaust you and steal your joy.
3. Being a military spouse means learning to go the distance.
Whether you and your significant other are separated for a deployment, TDY, or by choice for your work or school or family—geographical separation in your marriage is going to happen, probably on multiple occasions.
Thus starts the journey of making a marriage work even when a part, whether through the phone, texts, emails, FaceTime, Skype, pictures, letters, or care packages. All the above will never replace him/her, but you will find what works for you both.
Try to learn how to make the most of your time apart by giving each other the grace and space to find your own separate and individual purposes again.
Build togetherness out of sharing milestones from those individual times with each other.
Learn to be each other’s best long distance cheerleader.
Everyone who has ever married into the military though knows well in advance that you and your family will probably have to endure a deployment or more.
What they don’t tell you is that you will be learning how to deal with “distance” in all your relationships from that point forward.
You will have to work at handling the difficulties of distance not only in your immediate family, but also in many of your closest friendships and relationships.
Living overseas or moving to a different location away from where you have established roots means you will be far away from the family and friends you love.
You will miss birthdays and weddings and funerals and everything in between.
You will find many outside the military move on with their lives in ways that makes you feel forgotten or replaceable.
When this feels overwhelming, trust that time will show you which people, family or friends have it in them to go the distance.
Find a way to have grace for those who do not, and invest in those treasured ones who do.
Realize that there will always be those people who only work well in proximity, meaning they might be the best and closest to you right now as they interact with you on a daily or weekly basis. But in the future, military or not, those same people are the ones who will probably only keep up with you via social media, christmas cards, and random messages in the future.
This is not a judgement of them or a failure of yours — this is life and this is because distance is hard and we all have a limited amount of time to invest in others, especially those we can’t see.
Again find the precious few that make an effort to go the distance with you, know they are the people in your corner, and never let them go.
Whatever your military life looks like, wherever it may find you, know that being a part of this community is an experience worth treasuring.
No matter the sacrifices or difficulties involved, it has proven itself again and again to me to be a life worth living, both in the strength it builds and the value it continually adds to my life.
I hope that those of you reading this from within the military community, whether you are a seasoned military spouse or brand new one, active duty member or retired, that you are reminded again of the treasures this life holds.
For those of you readers who are not military, but may know family or friends in the community, I hope you find a way to reach out to them with a new level of understanding and support of the life they lead. Know that while these friends or family members may not always be near by that they will always love and appreciate you for opening up your life to them anyways, whether it is while they are around or from far away.
- What are some things you wish someone had told you coming into the military life?
- What aspects of your military life have been the best and what has been the most difficult to deal with?
- For those of you not in the military, what of this surprised you or what are some ways you have found to support those you know who are in?