To my fellow military spouses,
The ones who keep their families stable and grounded while their spouse deploys, often neglecting themselves in the process.
The ones who attend every official event, despite only getting a few hours of sleep the night before because the baby was up all night.
The ones who juggle, and sometimes sacrifice, their careers for the sake of their families, and decide to put their spouse’s career first.
The ones who listen when their spouse is having a hard time at work, doing their best to hold in their frustration that they can’t do anything else but listen and give emotional support.
The ones who hear, “Suck it up, buttercup!” and, “This is what you signed up for,” when they try to vent to others about the hardships of military life.
I see you. I’ve been you.
I AM you.
My husband has been in the military for 15 1/2 years. I would be lying if I said I held it together this whole time without breaking down or wanting to rip someone’s head off. I’ve dealt with every scenario you can possibly imagine involving disappointment, frustration, sadness, anger, or even joy in the military. You name it, I’ve (likely) been through it, or know someone who has. I’ve had well-meaning friends and family say the colorful phrases mentioned above when I’ve shared my pain with them..
There is an unspoken expectation of military spouses to be like military members and simply “shut up and color.” At least, that’s how it feels. What we say and post on social media gets as much scrutiny as a member. Unfortunately, our active duty spouses end up paying the price if their leadership catches wind and doesn’t approve.
We are caught between a rock and a hard place; do we express our feelings, or keep them in and let them fester for the sake of saving face?
Most people would say “just be quiet and deal with it like the rest of us.” This statement is problematic on many fronts, but the biggest of these is that it says we should all get used to being gaslit. I’ve stayed silent in the past mostly because I knew my feelings couldn’t possibly help the situation, but doing this over and over comes at a high cost. The highest cost of silence was almost my marriage. And with recent studies linking military life to major depressive disorder and suicide rampant among spouses and family members, we need to do more to make spouses feel seen and heard.
So, how do we, the spouses, express ourselves without having repercussions land on our spouses, the military members?