This year has been a reflective one in my life, full of milestones. I celebrated my 40th birthday, along with hitting a very interesting military milestone.
I have been a military spouse for the same amount of time that I served on active duty myself.
In so many ways, I feel as if I’ve had two military lives – with each side comprising one half of a whole.
And both lives have been full-tilt crazy, with a heady mix of controlled chaos at times, punctuated by the gamut of emotions that accompanies a lifestyle unlike any other.
I am so proud of both. Being on each side of the military fence has been invaluable in developing an understanding of lifestyle and communication differences, mentorship, and insights.
And pausing this year to evaluate both lifestyles, I’m grateful to share some of the unique perspective I’ve gained.
Spouse or Soldier – Communication is Everything
No matter what side of the uniform you find yourself on – wearing it, or supporting it, one of the keys that has made military life easier, or harder, is communication.
Much has been written about the critical importance of effective communication, particularly figuring out what “kind” of communicator you are, within the “Five Love Languages” matrix. And I have found it to be a very useful tool. Being able to pinpoint the communication methods you gravitate to, are invaluable tools in a relationship.
When I was on active duty, I took for granted the fact that my husband and I could “talk shop.” I knew every acronym he did, the intricate details of mission problems, and the stress of preparing for inspections, TDYs – you name it. We didn’t have a communication “style” to speak of, and unwittingly, we had begun to talk to each other, as the military talked to us.
Which is why I will never forget one particular evening, after several, long hard weeks working on a particular mission, we both declared “no shop talk” for the evening.
And then we proceeded to stare awkwardly at each other for the next half hour.
It can be very hard for an active duty member to maintain anything remotely resembling perspective and balance. We are drilled, then drilled, and re-drilled some more that the mission must be accomplished at all costs. We will not fail, we cannot fail. It doesn’t take long for the military to become all-consuming.
Yet, spouses also face the tough challenges of being forced to be independent – we have to, (to survive!) that it can be just as hard to turn off that sink or swim mentality too.
- There will always be “big” things to talk about.
- But make time to talk about the small things too – they matter more than you realize.
Both Sides are Hard. And Positivity can Really go a Long Way
Military life is hard. Like really hard.
Life lived on the military road is far from easy. From employment and career challenges, managing family demands through deployments, lengthy TDYs, housing and PCS horrors, to difficulties with friendships and relationships – there are no shortages of problems, to juggle as a military spouse.