This article is, by far, the most difficult article I have ever written. This topic hits very close to home – literally. Despite my urge to run away and stick my head in the sand, I feel compelled to open the floor to real conversation since it affects all spouses regardless of age, parenting status, educational background, social interests, branch, or our spouse’s rank. If we can have a sincere conversation about our needs then we can move forward in the right direction. Are combined spouse clubs the answer? I started this research project with a strong opinion that combined clubs are the only way to go and now I am thinking very differently…
Roll Back 12 Years… The New “Independent” Spouse
Prior to marrying my husband, I knew very little about military life. It took me over a year to decide if I could marry him. I just didn’t know if I could be a military spouse. I am very independent. I am a progressive gal. I like to change things if they don’t work and I love making things better. I had many concerns about military culture and the longstanding traditions and expectations of spouses. My soon-to-be mother-in-law was a 20-year Marine spouse so she counseled me to just accept some of the things I cannot change but she also gave me comfort that some of the things I balked at (like white gloves and hosting formal teas) were a thing of the past. However, I wasn’t signing up to accompany my husband on business trips or lead spouse groups simply because it was expected of me. I decided that I could marry into this life if I maintained my own identity separate from my husband’s career. This perspective shaped my view of other spouses. The rank of my friends’ spouses never entered our conversations or affected our friendships. In my world, spouses were separate from the hierarchy of the military.
The Distant Spouse
As the years went by, I viewed myself as an outsider spouse. I still took meals to families with new babies and occasionally attended spouse functions but we always lived off base. I kept my distance. I needed an identity beyond my role as a spouse. I struggled with the hardships and relied on friends. Once we had children, the challenges got harder and it became more difficult to make friends, especially ones that could relate, at all, to our situation. With time, I found that I needed the support that can only come from other military spouses.