The Military Spouse Life…
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It was our 5th anniversary. I woke up that morning and something was different, something was off. We had spent our 1st anniversary on a weekend getaway, our 2nd, 3rd and 4th we had a nice dinner together. But this was number 5. That’s a big deal when you are newly married. 5 years is longer than high school or college and gives you enough time to look back on where you have been. But this anniversary was going to be different. He was deployed. He was in Iraq and we would not be spending it together.
I knew that in order to have a good day I would have to make it so. We would not be going on any trips or going out to dinner. We wouldn’t be going to the movies or a play or even just spending the day together. No, this anniversary would be different.
I decided to order a steak dinner from a local restaurant and have the food delivered after my little boys went to bed. I ate the dinner sitting in front of the computer waiting for my husband to come online. Celebrating your anniversary this way is normal for a military spouse.
Anniversaries are there to celebrate your marriage. You celebrate the time you have had together. To look at the past and look forward to the future. Celebrating your marriage is important. Whether you have only been married a year or for fifty years.
But how do you celebrate your marriage when they are deployed or away at a training? How do you celebrate when your heart aches for them? What can you do to feel closer?
1. Write love letters- Love letters are the best. You could write your husband a love letter about how much you celebrate your marriage. Talk about when you first got married and your hopes for the future. You can pour out your heart on pretty stationary and mail it off to him. You can send him a series of letters or even a funny card.
2. Make a scrapbook- There is nothing better than going through old photos and looking back on previous memories during your marriage. You can take some time and put together a scrapbook for your deployed spouse. You could keep it simple and just put photos in an album or you could use stickers, cute paper and add a bit of journaling to the book. You could also make a book on a website like Shutterfly.
3. Send a care package- Put together a special anniversary care package. You can decorate the box however you want and include some of your favorite items. Think about what your spouse would love to see in a love themed package from you.
4. Have a Skype date- Planning when they will be online might be difficult but if you can plan for a special Skype date on your anniversary, go for it. You could sit and talk over dinner. You could plan to watch the same movie at the same time or just enjoy being able to see each other on the video. You could also do this over the phone instead. This is not going to replace a real date but it’s the best way to spend time together when you are miles apart.
5. Make plans for after the deployment- If you can’t celebrate your marriage during the deployment, make plans to do so after. You could plan a special trip or even just a meal at a nice restaurant. You can always celebrate your anniversary later. There is no rule that it has to be on that day. We have been able to celebrate our anniversaries months later by making a plan for a getaway when we were able to after a deployment.
Whatever situation you are in or whatever situation you have been in, you did have to make the decision to become a military spouse. You had to decide that YES, you wanted to spend your life with someone who is in the military. That YES, you wanted to become his wife or her husband which meant becoming a military spouse and everything that would include.
So, what does being married to someone in the military mean? What would life be like to marry your boyfriend who is now a soldier? What does it mean when your husband of five years wants to join the Marines? What would it mean to marry the person you are in love with knowing that marrying them meant moving across the country and living as a military spouse?
Here are some things you need to think about when trying to make this decision:
Saying Goodbye Will Be A Part Of Your Life
No matter who you are or what type of military spouse you are, you will have to say goodbye and often. You will have to sleep alone. You will have to wait for orders and your future. This is all a part of military life. How long they are gone and how often they will go can vary but the truth is, you will have to say goodbye to your spouse on a regular basis. If you can’t even imagine that being a part of your life, you are going to have a difficult time as a military spouse.
You Will Have To Be Away From Home
If your spouse is going to be going Active duty, you most likely will have to move away from home. In some cases, you can try to stay if your home is near a military installation or if your spouse does some type of duty that allows him to live close by to where you are from. However, in most cases, you will not be able to stay there for their entire career and you will have to move away. You could end up across the country, across the world or just the next state over. You never really know and sometimes you don’t get a say, especially as they move up in rank.
The Kid Thing
Ahh, kids. When you are thinking about the future and having kids, do you think about how your spouse might not be there? It’s a sad reality that they might miss your pregnancy, the birth and the 1st year. They could miss the terrible 2s or kindergarten. They could miss out on so much and sometimes there is nothing you can do about that but accept that. Can you handle that? Some people don’t think they can. I thought I could and it was harder than I could have ever imagined. For some military couples, they don’t plan to have kids while in the military. Their plan is to have them later on in life and that is an option as well. However, a lot of people don’t want to wait on kids and many military families have them during those years when the service member might not always be home. You need to be prepared for that.
The “D” Word
Your spouse might deploy for just a few months at a time. They might deploy for a year. They might have to deploy too often or get frustrated that they are not able to go and do their job. Deployments are rough. From the pre-deployment stage to after they come home and everyone tries to get back to normal life. If there are no deployments there will be trainings or other reasons they have to go away for weeks or months at a time. There is no way around that.
I have talked about the hard parts of military life. The parts that make it difficult to want to commit to this life. The reasons some people get out of the military before they thought they would. But what about the good things about military life? The community of military spouses that you will become a part of. The thing is, as hard as life gets, you won’t be alone in going through them. Many other spouses would have gone through what you are going to have to go through. Many spouses get that and can offer a listening ear. You will make some of your closest friends as military spouses. Friends that will help you through solo parenting, deployments, pcsing and even retirement.
Is It Worth It?
Is military life worth it? Is your love worth it? Only you can answer that. Only you know what you can handle and what you can’t. I will tell you that if in your heart of hearts that you know you should be with this person, you should be with them whether that includes military life or not. That is a special kind of love and you don’t want to walk away from it because you are scared of the future or what military life is really going to be like.
Military cuts are in the news these days and they sting when they hit close to home. Sometimes I get really angry about it. From my limited understanding and after being a military spouse for the last ten years it seems like there are other places they could cut. I wonder why they even go after programs that can help military families? We are the ones that are supporting our service member. We are the ones waiting back at home while they complete their mission. If you send them to war, why do you think it is okay to cut our benefits?
If it was up to me I would ensure that every military family has what they need. When it comes to the people I want to vote for, I look for those that want these things too. They are important to me as a military spouse and I think they are important to you too.
Good Medical Care
I know how hard it can be to find good and affordable health insurance but one of the benefits of being in the Military is that you do get healthcare for you and your family and for good reason. If you are off in a war zone, you want to know your family is going to be taken care of. The problem is, cuts always seem to come to Tricare and they hurt. Currently, they want to cut ABA. Not good. We used ABA for our son and we were so thankful for that care. I hate that people think they should be cutting those services. It’s also frustrating to hear when people have trouble getting help for their kids or care for themselves because of different cuts that have been happening. Military families should not have to worry about healthcare.
All military children should have access to good schools. Whether this means on post or off post. If the schools in the area around post are not a good place to send a child, there should be a way for parents to take their children to the on post schools. I think parents should feel good about the schools their kids are able to go to. On post schools should be very aware of who their students are. Switching zoning around every year is simply not a good idea. Military kids move often anyway, why make them change schools in between a tour? I have heard stories of situations happening in on post schools and it doesn’t make a lot of sense why they are doing what they do. Our experience with off post schools has been good overall here but that isn’t always the case with military families. Having a lot of resources that can help military families find the right school is a good thing.
Hearing that services like the MWR or ACS are being cut makes me sad. Military spouses and families need extra support, especially during deployments. We need access to events to pass the time, places to learn and childcare. That can help the spouse get through a challenging time as well as providing a place to make new friends. While there are other ways to make friends and find support in the military community, it is a good thing to have these services for spouses and I hate to see them being cut because of lack of funds. This makes me think that those who are in charge of what is being cut have no idea what these services can do for military spouses.
All military families should be able to live in safe and affordable housing. It doesn’t have to be brand new or really big, it just needs to be safe and a good place for people to raise their families. Each family usually has a choice about if they want to live on post or off post. This is something to really think about. There are positives and negatives to both. The military does have some checks for finding places off post. Some rentals are blacklisted which is helpful for knowing who to stay away from when looking for a place to rent. There have been horror stories of on post living where people have gotten sick or have been put in run down housing that has not been taken care of. This is not okay. Military families should always have a comfortable place to live.
When I think of what our family has gone through and what other families have gone through I know that this military life is full of stressful situations. I know that sending someone to war is a challenging and emotional thing to have to do and that benefits make such a big difference to the morale of the families. I just hope that if the military does need to make cuts it will not be at the expense of the military family.
5 years ago this week I said goodbye to one of the best friends I ever had. We went through so much together. A deployment, a space-A trip, we talked about everything and our children were the best of friends. But then it was time for us to PCS. To leave and to move on.
In just a couple of months, I will have to say goodbye to another friend. Someone I don’t want to say goodbye to. But it is time. Her husband has orders for somewhere else and she has to go. Our sons are the best of friends and so are we.
One of the hardest things to do is to say goodbye to a best friend. There is no easy way to do it. You go through a lot of emotions…
They tell you they have a move out date. Then it feels real. You think you need to spend more time together because those 4 years went by way too fast. You wonder what you will do after they are gone. You worry that you will never have another local best friend again. And then they have to go and you have to say goodbye and it stings. Because that chapter of your story together will be over. And no matter how long it was, it will never ever seem like long enough.
You think you need to spend more time together because those 4 years went by way too fast. You wonder what you will do after they are gone. You worry that you will never have another local best friend again. And then they have to go and you have to say goodbye and it stings. Because that chapter of your story together will be over. And no matter how long it was, it will never ever seem like long enough.
She is someone who will always be special in your life in the ways that make her who she is. You will always have your memories, your inside jokes, and your history. Your relationship will have to change. Instead of getting together every week, you will spend your time together texting or on Facebook. No, it isn’t the same but it is your new normal. Time will go on and maybe you will get to visit each other.
When you do, you will notice the little differences that have taken place since you were last together. But at the same time, you will connect just like no time has passed. You will make other best friends, so will she. But you will always have your time together.
You will always have those memories and when you are old and grey and look back on the years you had on earth, she will always come to mind as one of the special ones. One of the people who made you the person you are. And you will always be thankful for that.
The friendship you had with her will give you hope. Because you remember how it felt when you had to say goodbye to your last friendship and then you met her and everything was okay again. And so it will be in the future. There are always new people to meet. There are always new friendships to be had. And sweet memories to keep with us for all time.
Friends!!! We all need them and it has been such a great thing to have been able to make friends with so many other Military wives over the years. They have helped me to see that I am not alone and that other wives have gone through similar situations over the years. They can be a huge support on a bad deployment day or a great way to get out and have some fun together without the kids. Thanks to Facebook I have been able to stay in touch with so many of them over the years.
1) They understand what it is like to have a husband away for long periods of time. They get it. One to two days away is nothing. They understand what it is like to be the only adult in the house for a period of time.
2) They understand what it is like to be both mom and dad for long periods of time. They get the solo parenting and how hard it can be. It isn’t easy and it is nice to be able to vent to others about it that truly understand.
3) They get how the military is. That sometimes what we think might happen will change at the last-minute and we have to be ok with that. That we can’t plan. That we have to wait and wait and wait.
4) When we are having bad days, they might be having good ones but can remember what the bad days are like and can encourage us. When it is reversed, we can step in and be the shoulder for them to cry on instead.
5) We can spend the holidays together if we are both going to be without our husbands. We can make fun plans with our kids on the weekends when the rest of the world is having family time. This is great because it can be hard to be the only one without a spouse on the weekend or over the holidays. Knowing you can spend it with someone else can really make life a little bit easier.
6) We can vent about all the ways the army is annoying us and they get it and probably vented about those things as well. We can get annoyed that our husband is going to miss another birthday and they get it. We can get mad about housing and they have been there.
7) Because we move around a lot, there is always the chance of running into an old friend or a friend of a friend at any new place we might go to. The Army world is small and the infantry world is even smaller. I love seeing new friends again and knowing that because we live by an Army post, there is always a chance that an old friend might move here someday too.
The Military spouse community truly is a sisterhood. From those you meet locally to the Military Spouse blogger community. We support each other and help each other make it through.
What would you add to this list?
“I could never do what you do”
“I couldn’t be a Military wife”
“I don’t know how you guys do it being without your husband for that long.”
We have all heard people say these things to us. I used to think that anyone could be a Military spouse. All they would have to do is love their spouse enough to stick by him or her.
But now, I am not so sure.
What about the spouses that walk away?
What about the service members that voluntarily leave the Military because deployments became too much?
What about the spouse that suffers from anxiety or depression and thinks the idea of one more separation is too much?
And when we talk about Military spouses, we are talking about people who stood by their husband or wife for a couple of years and those that stood by for 20+. Some people serve longer than others. When it is time to leave the Military, you can have a feeling of just being done. You can’t seem to imagine going through another deployment. I know I can’t. I feel like I have hit my limit.
However, what if my husband didn’t want to leave the Army? What if he wanted to stay and do 20-30 years? What if this was his life long dream? Would that make a difference? I think for me it would.
I think if my husband wanted to stay in it would be a little easier to handle more deployments. If he had a clear plan. If this is what he wanted.
So what does it take to make it as a Military Spouse? We all come from different places, with different personalities and different ways of seeing the world. What do we all have in common that allows us to do what we need to do to support our spouse?
I think in the end it is about commitment. Commitment to your spouse, to his or her work, to the life you must live when you decided to marry them. Commitment to the two of you and whatever path you are going to walk together. Commitment to the family you have created and the life that you are living together.
If you have commitment to each other, you can get through most of what life throws at you. And that is what it takes to make it in this Military life.
Here is the thing about Military Spouses, we are not all the same. We come from different backgrounds and different places. We have different likes and dislikes. Some of us are older and some of us are younger. There is not just one type of military spouse. The community is made up of different personalities and different ways of looking at life.
Here are some of the most common myths people have about military spouses.
1) We are all Christians and go to church. There are Military spouses of every religion. I know there seems to be a lot of Christians and there are. I am one of them but there are also a lot of people who are not. I love talking about religion with people. I find it so fascinating. And I like that we are not all the same. We can teach each other things we have learned from our own faith and I find that really valuable, especially in a community with a lot of stressful situations going on. Don’t ever assume that everyone has the same faith that you do.
2) We are all Republicans. A lot of the Military Community lean to the right politically, but we are not all Republicans. We all support the troops but we might see other topics really differently. Some of us are liberal, some of us just don’t have a side. There is a big range of people with all types of different political beliefs that are married to members of the military.
3) We all want to have children. There are so many Military children but not every Military spouse wants to be a mom. Some are waiting until after their husband is out of the Military and others are fine without never having children. There are also many spouses that want children and cannot have them. This can get hard when it comes to planning FRG events as some are really geared towards children and others are not. I have also heard that it can be hard to make friends on a Military post when you don’t have children.
4) We are all SAHMs or SAHWs. There are a lot of SAHMs in the Military world. That does not mean that everyone who is married to someone in the Military wants to be one. Some people have their own careers, others wish they could have a career but are unable to do so because of where they are currently living. It can be quite difficult to keep up your career when you have to move every few years. Some spouses are going to school. Some spouses have a college degree. Some plan to work once their spouse retires.
5) We can get through anything with a smile on our face. We are not always happy. We can’t be. Life gets rough sometimes. We need to vent. We get frustrated and we need to figure out how to get through whatever stressful situation we have to go through. We simply can’t be happy all the time. We can try to be positive but the reality is it isn’t always easy to keep a smile on your face 24/7. This is okay. Do your best to get through whatever challenge you need to get there.
So…who has trouble coming up with the right homecoming outfit? I always do! I want to look pretty and cute but never really know the best way to do that. A lot of wives spend hours if not days searching for the perfect outfit. The secret is, it really doesn’t matter what you wear because your husband will be so happy to see you and you will be so happy to see him. However, spending the time to find the outfit passes deployment days and getting ready for the event passes the hours right before you get to go pick them up.
Here are some ideas 🙂
I also have a board on Pinterest all about this! You can visit and see some great ideas of outfits you might like. Some will be for you, others for your child. Some are very fancy and others are more casual. Go with your own style, what you will feel comfortable with and have fun with it 🙂
My next guest post is by a friend of mine, Jess. She was the very first Army wife I met when we started this Army adventure. She was also my FRG leader. I asked her to write about advice she would give someone who was getting ready for their first deployment. Our first deployment was in 2006 and Jess was there to tell me a little bit of what to expect so I just knew this would be a great post! Thank you Jess 🙂
Stressed? Emotional? Perhaps even a bit stand-offish? Sounds like you’ve got a deployment coming up. The bad news is your Soldier is leaving. The good news is you aren’t alone!
There is no specific way to handle a deployment, especially your first deployment. Some people take it all in stride and seem to brush off the hardship. Others seem to physically break down the second their Soldier marches away. Still others seem to change entirely and don’t seem to return to normal until their Soldier is back in their arms again. No matter which category you find yourself falling into, remember this: You are STRONG. You are CAPABLE. You CAN do this!
Just as parenting a child has no actual guidebook, deployments don’t come with magic spouse field manuals. However, let’s not speak that phrase too loudly. I’ve seen some pretty crazy things put into FM’s before. The greatest way to make it through the hardships of a deployment are to simply listen to your heart, listen to other’s advice and pray. If you feel overwhelmed, talk to someone! Believe me, there are a lot of us out there who are willing to listen and lend a hand (or a shoulder) when necessary. Don’t be afraid to ask.
One of the greatest things you can do for yourself is to set personal goals.. You don’t have to get crazy with it; the point of a goal is to be able to accomplish it. Set mini-milestones throughout to ensure you stay focused and on-target. A big favorite that I’ve seen is weight-loss/healthier lifestyles. Say you set a goal to lose 25 pounds throughout the year. Remember to start off in small increments, and celebrate each 5 pounds you are able to lose. This is a great way to have something realistic to look forward to in a relatively short time! The greatest part is-IT’S ALL YOURS! It’s very easy to lose yourself in the constant stress during a deployment. Don’t forget that your Soldier still needs you just as much as you need him/her. Take care of yourself, even while supporting your deployed loved one.
If I could offer just one last bit of advice, it would be to stay busy and not forget that the world is still going round. It’s very common to feel bad about going out and having fun while your loved one is away, but remember, you need your personal time as well. It’s ok to go catch a movie with the girls, or secure a babysitter for a few hours of pampering at the salon every now and again. You are HouseHold 6. You keep the home fires burning. You can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself first. Make yourself a priority, especially while your loved one is away. Don’t lose yourself to the chaos and stress, and always reach out if you need help. You follow a long legacy of the Silent Ranks. You can do this!