Military spouses have a tough life, it’s true. We make many sacrifices for the service members—moving often, enduring long deployments with limited communication, and restarting careers and friendships every time we move. We leave our families behind to follow our spouse around the world. It is a lifestyle where nothing is ever certain, plans are often cancelled, and we have no idea where we will be in 5 years.
But sometimes I think military spouses spend too much time wallowing in our own hardships. No matter how bad life is, there is always someone whose life is worse. It’s not in my nature to dwell on negative challenges. Instead, I always look for the silver lining. So, in honor of the month of November and a spirit of Thanksgiving, here are some of the people I am thankful NOT to be.
13 people whose life is harder than a military spouse’s:
#1 World War II Military Spouses- They didn’t see their loved ones for 3 years or more. Talk about an extended deployment! And their communication options were limited to letters that could take months to be delivered. I’ll stick with Skype, thank you!
#2 Civil War Spouses- The war was fought in their backyards and home towns. Some women who stayed behind found their homes turned into military headquarters or hospitals. They learned to care for soldiers from both sides of the conflict. I’m grateful that our current wars are fought overseas and I can raise my children in relative peace.
#3 Spouses of Truckers- Truck drivers spend almost half their time away from home, so these spouses spend plenty of time as solo parents. But there is no community network of trucker spouses to support each other, and no government programs designed specifically to assist them. They make military bases look like paradise.
#4 Spouses of Police Officers- At least when my military husband goes to war, I only have to worry about the bad guys shooting him. Police spouses have to worry every single shift, every day. You never know how other citizens feel about your spouse doing their job. As a military spouse, people shake my hand and thank me in public. Police families can only dream of that kind of support.
#5 Military Widows- Next time you want to complain about your spouse being gone, remember this—there are some whose spouse never came home. I almost lost my fiance when we were 21. I know women who became war widows in their 20’s. They will carry that love and heartache with them for the rest of their lives.
#6 Military Parents- As a spouse, I expect my service member to call me and keep in touch whenever he can. Moms and Dads don’t always get that benefit. Service members are often too busy to keep in touch with their parents or make the effort to visit. Each military spouse loves their service member, but I guarantee that a mom loves her child just as much.
#7 Any Christian in the Roman Empire- Military spouses may complain about how civilians ask stupid questions and don’t understand the military lifestyle. But come on, early Christians were literally eaten by lions, burned alive, and torn into pieces! I think I can handle a few awkward questions about my spouse’s job.
#8 People in Concentration Camps- Maybe base housing is a little cramped and dated. Maybe the water on base isn’t always pure. And sometimes the water treatment plant smells horrible. Right? But hey, think about all the freedoms that military spouses enjoy. We aren’t being systematically slaughtered or worked to death because of our religion or skin color.
#9 Pretty much anyone from the Middle Ages- Between the Black Plague, sewage in the streets, the crowded living conditions, famines, and the Hundred Years’ War, there isn’t a lot of romantic appeal to the 14th century. Even though all our modern appliances and vehicles seem to break whenever the military member deploys, I have learned that I really love microwaves and cars and washing machines.
#10 Immigrants- My ancestors came to America from Europe during pretty desperate times. They said goodbye to their families and neighbors, knowing they would probably never see them again. When I think about that, suddenly our duty stations don’t seem as far from home. My family is always just a plane ride away.
#11 Anyone in 3rd World Countries- There are plenty of places in the world where people are truly oppressed, even enslaved. Many families live on less than $1 per day, and have no idea where to find their next meal. Military families have low salaries for America, but housing and healthcare are always provided, and there should always be enough for food. Perspective can keep up from getting caught up in ‘1st World Problems.’
#12 Civilians in boring marriages-So many articles try to tell people how to keep the spark alive in a marriage, or how to break out of boring routines. You know, because seeing your spouse every night can become boring. Military marriages rarely have that problem. All the distance and time apart is a huge strain, but it also helps military couples love more deeply, communicate better, and truly appreciate all their time together.
#13 The Service Member- I do not ever want to trade places with my husband. I don’t ever want to kill people or be shot. I am proud of all he has done, but I am very grateful to be the one who stays home.
I think it’s clear that military spouses don’t have a monopoly on suffering. But we should also remember that there is no competition for whose life is the hardest. Every war is hard–no matter what century it is fought in. Every deployment is hard for the spouse left behind–no matter what military branch or rank. We should never judge the perceived sufferings of others, or how they seem to be handling life’s challenges. You never know the burden another person carries. And if you think yours is heavy, look around and realize that many military spouses and significant others are all carrying the same burden as you. The more we focus on relieving the sufferings of others, the easier we will find our own.