You might get called a dependa if…

by | Mar 24, 2017 | Military Life, Memes and Military Humor, New Military Spouse | 26 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.

    • Jody

      I agree. I love military wives, it is rotten to call you spouses these slurs. Thank you for your service

    • Jennifer

      I totally agree with you on the silly list of do’ and don’t. I this it’s totally ridiculous there is a list of how us military spouses can avoid idiotic bullying. How about put the blame on the bully! I was just called this name by a total stranger once they found out my husband was in the Army. I did absolutely nothing to provoke this name calling and even if I had there is no excuse for that! Until you have been alone for a year waiting every single day to hear your husband is alive. Meanwhile, looking at your 3 year old telling him daddy will be home soon buddy. He has to work extra long right now. Trying to raise this 3 year old and a 4 month old who has no idea who his daddy is! When you have done these things then make your stupid list! I’m a proud Army wife and I’m not ashamed to scream that! We spouses don’t have it very easy! So basically shut up on the do and don’t list!

    • Hannah Silverman

      I agreed with you until you listed reasons on how to avoid being called a dependa. Who cares if you brag about your spouse or you’re a stay at home mom? The issue is systemic misogyny and the term is used to women down. You could do all of the items that you listed to not be a dependa and you will still get called one. We should start with teaching people how to uplift each other rather than use these toxic insults. You listing how to avoid being called one is just as bad.

      • Lizann

        That’s fair, I appreciate your perspective. I believe we can do both: teach people to uplift instead of bullying AND ALSO help women feel more confident and independent, so they won’t be as hurt if other people judge or call names.

  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!

    • Jennifer


  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.

    • Heather Rowe

      I hear you Jasmine. I fully sympathize with what you said. You are not alone.

  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.

      • Ruth

        Step 7 refers to things being broken in moves or things that go missing in moves. It happens. It’s a learning curve. A missing heirloom is always a bummer. I don’t see any reason to minimize someone else’s experience or how it is threatening or making others near to this person look bad in an anonymous post. There is a grieving process in letting go of family and friends which is natural for anyone and it doesn’t make it better to be bullied by other spouses. If you don’t want your spouses to gain weight don’t have children. The body takes time to recover and everyone handles child bearing years differently. Some stay at home parents are offering their children a strong sense of stability while their partners are deployed and would rather not pay strangers to raise their children or it makes more fiscal sense to stay home rather than pay for childcare- it’s unfortunate that the role of caregiver, being a stay at home mom is looked down on in our culture because some children benefit from that strong source of support, and sometimes it’s not always a priority to maintain a career in all circumstances. Some spouses have a calling, a career they love, and want to work and that’s great, too. There’s always a compromise in every situation and no one needs to be shamed for it. Most of the time the husband isn’t calling the wife a dependa. I found most people are kind, down to earth.
        But I have seen bullying, it’s always ugly. And to the girl pouring her heart out, sharing her grief and frustration, I hope you find a safe place to be real in and get away from the assholes bashing you. This dependa slur is childish, destructive, counter productive. It’s pathetic that milspouses are tearing each other down, and in some cases service members. The people making the military look bad are the ones delighting in the suffering of others and exploiting their vulnerability by publicly posting their pictures, without permission. Why not write an article about what service members uniforms mean to them without perpetuating the stereotype if you are afraid it will be disrespected? No one should feel pressured to make decisions on what’s best for their family out of fear of being ostracized. Some people want to stay home with their kids and be home at night when their husband is home, the family life can be a calling, too. I don’t understand why it’s anyone else’s job to judge and label another human being, everyone is doing the best they can and know how to do.

    • TG Brown

      My Marine Corps son married his high school sweetheart. She is a brilliant young lady who started and continued college while they were stationed in other states and even while he was deployed. She is working for a Veterinarian and well on her way to becoming one herself. Marrying a service member doesn’t define who you are, unless you let it.

  8. Janet

    Now imagine having a very medically complex child maybe even in life support equipment and you can’t work because he’s hospitalized so much or has so many appointments that you can’t maintain one. You’re exhausted form the 24/7 care they require and your house may not always be spotless or you may not cook every day. Right away you will be labeled a dependa or a gold digger. You have to fight to get that child services, and the help they need, so you’re labeled dramatic, because you fight to keep your child alive. You ask for discounts but not because you think you deserve the privilege but because your child’s care is so expensive that you any savings is need. Yes tricare covers medical bills but there are so many other expenses. You get seen wearing leggings and a hoodie with a messy bun because you just spend all night in the ER with your child and are getting medicines, you’re seen this way and right away your labeled lazy, slob, etc. the bullying is much more prevalent in the military towards wives, it’s ridiculous.

    • Lizann

      You’re right, that sounds horrible, and no one should judge someone just on appearance because we never know what challenges someone else is dealing with.

  9. Steel Simmons

    This definitely sounds like something written to someone that buys into idea of certain stereotypes and ends up being a military spouse thinking it’s all about the benefits.
    I’ve noticed they typically haven’t had more than 2 kids, been through combat zone deployment, or grew up with extended family that requires bargaining.
    What’s stated are similar unwritten rules I remember learning as kid.
    How ever the rank issue can come out in combat deployment and certain responsibilities that still fall on a spouse related to rank.
    Sadly, even working part time in engineering and raising 3 kids, I have got taunted by certain family members and people that talk so pro-military in public, but have accused me of being a “dependa” . They were usually divorced multiple times and/or wouldn’t even know how make near 6 figures on their own.
    That’s why I either put them in their place if I have to deal with them or avoid them if possible.

  10. Anthony Ernst

    Although some of this in good info, it’s really just stereotypical and written really hostilely for some reason – probably by someone who isn’t a dependent and doesn’t need to comment on it.



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