Being on the arm of someone who wears this country’s uniform of service is an experience. The pride that you feel knowing they willingly raise their right hand to defend and serve is awe inspiring. But once you make the choice to stand beside them forever and get assigned the title “dependent” by the government, everything changes.
You won’t come first
Military service members are of course human beings just like the civilian public, but their responsibilities go so much deeper and they are essentially owned by the government after their hand raising. The military doesn’t care that its your date night, anniversary or birthday. Having a baby and want them home with you? It may not happen. This is one thing you need to accept before you say “I do,” because the mission will always come first.
Not only will many of your moments with your service member be stolen, but a lot of them will be late too. Their job doesn’t come with set hours or days and things can change on a moment’s notice. This is where some of the beauty of being a military spouse comes into play. Build your circle with people that are positive, encouraging and will lift you when you need it. For many of you, this will be other military spouses who deeply understand and empathize with your journey.
Military spouses will often hear from friends in the civilian world that they could never live like we do, that it takes a special person. It doesn’t, but it does take unwavering commitment. See, you may not be risking your life for your country but you’ll be holding their world together so they can. It’s a role that is pride filled, beautiful, heavy and heartbreaking all at the same time. They don’t want to miss out on those special and important things with you, but they will.
Deployment is a reality
Separation will test your marriage, its inevitable. The most important thing to remember is to communicate openly and honestly. If you establish a strong foundation based on respect, love, and mutual encouragement, you’ll breeze through this season of your relationship. It will still be hard, but will eventually just be another page in your story and will make you a more resilient person in spite of it.
Learn to do the things you rely on them for. The first time you restring the weed wacker will rock your world! Discover new hobbies and spend this time doing things that challenge you. Not only will it help make the time pass faster, but you’ll have so much to share with them when you do get to talk. Don’t pause your life because they are gone, it will only lead to resentment and heartache. Instead, choose to make your glass fuller.
Studies have found that military spouses experience higher rates of anxiety, depression and substance abuse than their civilian counterparts. Deployment is a season that can lead to all of these things. If you find yourself struggling, ask for help. Ensuring your wellbeing will not impact their career, in fact – military leaders highly encourage seeking mental health resources. Military One Source is free and easily accessible, reach out if you need it.
You’ll be starting over, all the time
You will move and often. The biggest piece of advice you will hear from seasoned spouses is this: get involved. Find things that bring you joy and build a temporary community around you which will help you shoulder this life. Many spouses will take their first year at a duty station to play tourist and say “yes.” You can be upset that you are in a brand new space without roots or you can plant them yourself. This season in your life can be absolutely incredible! You have the opportunity to see the world and experience things that many of the public only dream of doing. Choose to dive in, you won’t look back.
The biggest and most important lesson for a potential military spouse is never to put yourself second. You absolutely matter and your goals are important. The biggest mistake you could make is to say, “It’ll be my turn when they finish serving.” No, your time is right now.
Things can be challenging to accomplish, especially once children come along, but it won’t be impossible. The military spouse has never been more supported with resources for education or employment. The saying “you only live once” may be cliché, but it’s never been truer for the military spouse. You cannot press hold on your aspirations simply because they are serving their country. When you honor yourself, you’ll have a stronger marriage and become even more resilient.
Although military life is hard, it’s also a joyful adventure that will change your life for the better – if you embrace it. Walk into this journey with your eyes, mind and heart completely open, you’ll never regret it.