You might get called a dependa if…

by | Mar 24, 2017 | Memes and Military Humor, Military Life, New Military Spouse | 14 comments

What is a dependa? ‘Dependa’ is a horrible insult mainly used by military spouses to put each other down. Every military spouse is a dependent (unless they are active duty), but to be a dependa infers that someone is useless or stupid. The stereotypical dependa is an overweight woman who sits at home all day doing absolutely nothing to contribute to her family, while causing drama and complaining about all that she is entitled to because of her husband’s rank.

Milsos and milspouses, let's all avoid the term dependa in the military community!

There are entire Facebook pages dedicated to finding pictures and posts of military spouses and mocking them for being a dependa. Sooner or later, you may find yourself on one of them. Apparently, there are unspoken rules in the military spouse community about what makes someone a dependa. Break any of these rules and you can become the brunt of jokes on large Facebook pages. Is it fair? No. Is it kind? Not at all. I hate the term and get frustrated any time the military spouse community decides to attack each other rather than build each other up. But apparently, dependa mocking isn’t going away any time soon.

So I think it’s only fair to discuss the rules. I mean, how do I know I’m not a dependa? What about a new wife who just married into the military– how is she supposed to know if she is crossing a line? Shouldn’t there be a warning before taking a screenshot of someone’s sincere question and tearing them to pieces with hundreds of comments? I think there needs to be a list, so we can all agree on unacceptable dependa behavior. For your viewing pleasure, here it is.

Here's how to avoid being called a dependa, #milspouse. Click To Tweet

How to avoid being a dependa:

  1. Don’t act like your spouse’s job makes you entitled to anything. A spouse does not have rank, medals, ribbons, or special privileges (unless they are active duty as well.) They have not earned the same things their service member has. Never say you deserve certain treatment or benefits because of your spouse’s rank. This includes expecting the gate guards to salute the officer sticker on your car.
  2. Don’t focus on benefits. Yes, spouses get health insurance (Tricare), housing options on base, and the “privilege” of shopping at the Commissary and Exchange. But don’t whine about it or demand anything extra. All military spouses have the same crappy benefits and there isn’t a lot of patience for those who think they deserve better.
  3. Don’t wear your spouse’s uniform. It might seem like a cute idea for an engagement photo shoot or for wedding pictures, but just don’t do it. Uniforms are not costumes to be used as props. They were earned by the service member, not the spouse.
  4. Don’t start drama. You will soon learn that the military is a really small community. Online spouse pages probably will include a previous neighbor or someone who worked with your spouse before. Especially if you live in base housing, you are never anonymous. So think twice before posting that passive/aggressive message about your neighbor’s dog.
  5. Don’t brag. No one likes a know-it-all. The military has a huge learning curve, so a spouse who has been married for 1 or 2 years will know a lot more than a brand new spouse. However, bragging about her experience and her husband being promoted to E-3 will just make her look foolish to all the spouses who are a lot older and wiser. I call myself “The Seasoned Spouse,” but I am always aware that there are military spouses out there who have been through more than me. I’m not here to lecture anyone. I want to learn from the older ones! Stay humble and you will learn a lot more.
  6. Do something with your time. If you are a stay at home mom with babies or toddlers, you are doing something. Trust me, I know how exhausting that job is! But if you aren’t busy with kids, there are numerous ways to contribute to your household. Yes, military spouses have obstacles getting a new job at every duty station. But there are still many ways to create a portable career or work from home. Or you can take advantage of the MyCAA scholarship to continue your education. Or you can volunteer with any organization on base, including your spouse’s unit. There is no single ‘right way’ to be a military spouse. But if you are spending all day trolling the base’s spouse Facebook page instead of living your life… well, you might get called a dependa.
  7. Try to solve your problems before asking for help. In general, military spouses can be very welcoming and helpful to anyone in need, especially if you are new to the base and don’t know your way around. However, the flip side of this generosity is that military spouses have no patience for someone who expects help when they haven’t taken the first steps themselves. Every base has tons of resources for spouses. Try to use them! Contact those offices directly to learn more about each program. People get tired of answering questions that could be found with a simple Google search. Also, spouses don’t trust someone who asks for donations of groceries or new baby clothes while simultaneously bragging about a new electronic purchase. If you are truly in need, military spouses will help you. But if you cry wolf every time something goes wrong, you are going to find yourself on a dependa blacklist.

I can’t promise that this will make the name-calling go away. But if you can avoid these major offenses in the military spouse community, then you should be able to make it through without being labeled a dependa. Tell a friend. Share with a new spouse. But please don’t carry on the terrible tradition of mocking other military spouses!

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  1. sarahm

    The term dependa is offensive and giving people advice as to how not to be labeled as one is perpetuating bullying behavior by legitimizing the term. Stop it. Please stop putting other military spouses down based on some subjective set of behaviors you and others deem off-putting–like speaking up about bad housing, services, or health care. We need more spouses to speak up when things are not up to code (like in our housing units–lead in the water in Germany and the US on posts for example). Or when services do not support our needs like when we only have ONE pediatric psychiatrist for the entire country of Germany. Or when there is only ONE adult psychiatrist for a returning group of 3000 soldiers from a 15 month deployment. WE need more informed and vocal spouses and fewer messages to keep our heads down and our mouths shut. –Sarah Murray, Phd, RN, veteran, and military spouse of 25 years and counting.

    • Lizann

      I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t think those are quite the situations I was discussing in this article. Absolutely we need spouses to speak up when there are problems! It is only by advocating for the community that we will ever be able to bring about meaningful change. However, this article was focused more on brand new spouses, and was encouraging them to learn more about military life and find out what is “normal” before over-reacting to something, going straight to the unit leadership, or causing a scene. There are situations (like the ones you mentioned) where it is important to speak up and advance a concern. But you have years of experience and knowledge regarding those problems. A military spouse who feels like her service member isn’t getting “the housing he deserves” or is being made to work too many hours might not want to complain directly to unit leadership before first learning more about the problem. Unfortunately, this happens all too often, people get laughed at or mocked for it, and then they are afraid to speak up in future situations. I think we all deserve better than that– new and seasoned spouses alike!

    • Erin

      I agree, Sarah. The author titled the list “How to avoid being a dependa.” I’m thinking that’s probably not a bad gig. All the outcast dependas are the “real” people. The best friends and best well intentioned people. I’d gladly chose that over the Military Spouse Judgey Clique!

    • Christina P

      I agree with you. I’ve never heard of such a thing, but now I’m asking myself aren’t all of the military people grown adults? Lol this is ridiculous. Like a highschool game.

    • Maria Rodriquez

      “Dependas” are real and I’ve had to deal with them on many occasions. To ignore the truth about this phenomenon is to place your head squarely in the sand. The author is trying to help younger individuals avoid becoming a problem or issue.

  2. John Taylor

    Guess that online posting rule didn’t stick lol. Everones offended by something!

  3. Jenn

    Why you gotta use “she” and “her”?

    • Lizann

      Well, because ‘dependa’ is a female term, probably left over from the days when most military spouses were females.
      I’ve never heard a dude called a dependa, even if he was a dependent. Maybe the Male version would be dependo. But I really don’t think we need to invent any new terms mocking military spouses!

  4. Jason

    Only dependas would be offended by this article. It’s literally teaching you to avoid bad behavior classic of the dependa stereotype. It screams entitlement which is what most spouses and the general military community gripe with you about: your entitlement. You dependas are up in arms about this article because the shoe fits. Just stop it. It makes you look bad, it’s embarrassing for your spouse for you to be acting like that.

  5. Cassie

    Just live your life and be you. People are going to talk how they are going to talk. I would not change my life decisions just to keep from being labeled by ignorant people.

    • Lizann

      I think that’s good advice! It sounds like you are confident and comfortable in your own skin. But not all young spouses have that inner strength. I wrote this for new young spouses who may experience online bullying and not know why they were being mocked. You have to know the unwritten “rules” before you choose whether or not to follow them, right?

  6. Bill kinsella

    This is a very accurate and insightful article. I’ve passed it along to those spouses skirting the dependa label.

  7. Jasmine

    How to milspouse

    Step 1. Leave your career behind, for your husbands career

    Step 2. Never be able to get a decent career again because places dont want to hire or promote the girl who will just move anyway

    Step 3. Be called a dependa after losing everything in your life for your husband and his career (family, friends, home, job)

    Step 4. Listen to the military leadership tell your husband that your marriage and spouse are worthless because it wont last, even though you gave up your family, career and any lasting friendships.

    Step 5. Listen to other women who tell you that you cant look at the only positive to what you now call life (getting the priveledge to shop at the commissary, discounts and tricare)… you literally have nothing else…but do not by any means think you deserve to shop there… it doesn’t matter that you no longer get to have a life… even though you never signed anything

    Step 6. Get bullied and say nothing

    Step 7. Have all of your items broken, damaged… you literally have nothing else.. but now you don’t have anything you own either

    Step 8. Solitude. Your husband is gone for months, you sit with a tv dinner and watch the months pass

    Step 9. Learn your place, you are insignificant. Most spouses at this point have depression, anxiety and are now seeing therapists where they never had to before.

    Step 10. Lose your right to post online. Anything you post, your husbands leadership sees and that makes your home life that much tougher

    Step 11. Look at programs for single soldiers and wonder and wish you could join the programs, just for a sense of community and belonging

    Repeat step 4. You will be told that you are worthless in some way because you did not sign the paper to join, you have uprooted your whole life for their cause and again and again you will be told that you are no one and the military tells you that if your husband abandons you in this world after what you gave up, they do not care. You could be left homeless and without a job in some random city (ladies make sure you know who you are marrying.. know them well.. because you will give up your life for this man). Listen to them call you a dependa as your depression takes over or you have a kid and cant get a job. Other spouses are just as miserable and they will bully you too, especially if one of them manages to find the unicorn in the job world and doesnt have to stay home with the child. In the old world, it was expected that the woman would stay with the kids and pay was acceptable for that, in this new world, without the upgrades and help of the military.. you are expected to work… but the problem lies in the fact that you are expected to do this while you have no one to watch the soldiers kids.. the moment your husband deploys.. goodbye again to work.. because childcare will cost more than you make…then if you don’t have a job.. you are a dependa and you will barely scrape by. Remember you are a worthless dependa who has no job, you deserve no special privileges and your husband will be told your marriage means nothing.

    • AlexS

      Let’s not lose our heads here.

      Step 1. You may or may not need to leave a career behind. There aren’t too many careers that are location specific. If you have a career (which usually means skills and experience – not just a ‘job’ you can drop anywhere) then it’s entirely possible to vary your career across locations and contexts. Some may see this as strengthening your career, given the work opportunities are there for you of course.

      Step 2. If you actually havea ‘career’ and you’re skilled, you will be able to maintain a career. It may not be easy given your chosen career path, i.e. demand and niche.

      Step 3. May be called a dependa depending on your behaviour. Try not to be overdramatic.

      Step 4. Listen to your husband tell you that military leadership told them something? Well okay, be that as it may.

      Step 5. I’m not sure I understand this – apparently you will be told other girls (using your own reference to being ‘the girl’ earlier) you cannot be thankful for Tricare and discounts. This is a weird one, but okay.

      Step 6. On a case-by-case basis, as with people not involved in the military, get bullied and deal with it appropriately.

      Step 7. Somehow have all of your items broken (what?)

      Step 8. You will most likely be alone for months but try to avoid TV dinners. Learn how to cook food that is nice and easy. Don’t eat ‘tv dinners’, they have poor nutrition and you should somehow find the time to throw something better together (it’s really not hard – you can have a nice home-cooked meal for one from start to finish in 30 minutes).

      Step 9. If you suffer from poor mental health, look for appropriate support.

      Step 10. Try not to be controversial online if it will reflect poorly on those around you.

      Step 11. Do your best to involve yourself in social activities and groups.



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