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.
How to avoid being a dependa:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!