Some days, it’s hard to believe I’ve been a military spouse for over ten years – and a significant other for longer.
One minute, I was a brand-new military spouse in her early twenties, excited and optimistic for the adventures that lay ahead with the man I have loved since high school. Now, I’m in my early thirties. My husband is set to retire from the military in four years, and I find myself surrounded by young spouses with the same bright-eyed optimism I had all those years ago. If I’m being honest, I find myself feeling less optimistic about military life these days, and wishing I could feel the way they do again.
Man, life came at me fast.
I look at these younger spouses, the ones who are experiencing that unmistakable mixture of anxiety, excitement, and a healthy fear of the unknown – and I wonder to myself, “When did I become so cynical?” Was it after being stuck at our last duty station for eight years? Or maybe it was after my husband got stuck working 18 hour days during his stint at our first station. Between all of the deployments, work stress, less-than-desirable bouts with different leadership, etc., I can’t remember for sure, but none of those situations helped the matter. While I had great support systems at each place, I wished I had a more experienced spouse to turn to when things got hard.
I know the encouragement and advice I would have gotten from them would have helped carry me through some of the harder times. Every time I see a brand new spouse ask a question on our local spouse’s Facebook page about housing, Tricare, our duty station, and/or what to expect from military life, I not only want to answer their questions, but I want to encourage them. When I married my husband, I didn’t have an experienced spouse to go to when things got hard. I had to figure a lot of things out on my own, or side by side with other new spouses. None of us knew what the heck we were doing, but we muddled through it all and rolled with the punches together.
Aside from my own desire to be an encouraging presence in their lives, these new spouses have taught me something, too: it’s okay to still be optimistic about military life.
One of my best friends at our current station is a young spouse. She is in her early twenties, has two young children, and she and her husband live right down the street from us on base. She is so down to earth, and I love the approach she takes toward military life. Last year, both of our spouses were deployed together, and she reminded me everyday that, even though it was exceptionally hard (the pandemic was just starting to hit the U.S.), we were strong enough to handle it. This was her FIRST deployment, and here she was, reminding me of MY strength! Her friendship has been a light in some of the darkest times I’ve gone through in military life. She’s taught me more about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel than any other spouse I have met.
If there is one piece of wisdom I can impart on the younger generation of spouses, it is to never forget your optimism. There are going to be plenty of times where you will feel like the world is crashing down on you, but I promise you, it does get better. Plus, you never know who may benefit from it! You may end up reminding a more seasoned spouse that they are strong enough to handle whatever is thrown at them when they need the reminder the most.