This week, my husband and I will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary! That’s a long time, folks. More than 1/3 of my life I’ve been a military spouse. Prior to being a military wife, I dated my husband long-distance for seven years. Six of those he was in the military. That brings us to a total of 20 years on this wild military adventure! Two decades, wow! Over those years, I have learned a lot about military life. The trials and challenges have made me what I am today– The Seasoned Spouse. Today, I will take a look back and share some of that seasoned wisdom with you. Whether you are new to your journey as a military spouse, or nearing the age of retirement from military life, I think you will agree with these military spouse lessons.
8 Military spouse lessons from two decades of military life
1. Military life is a roller coaster. At our wedding, the priest compared married life to a roller coaster. He said that of course there will be ups and downs, and sometimes you may feel caught in a loop or suspended upside down. Through it all, the important thing is that you and your spouse are on the ride together. It doesn’t matter what the track holds–what matters most is who is in the car with you. Although he was not a military chaplain, I now know that this priest perfectly and accurately described military life. We have experienced plenty of ups and downs, lots of surprises, and a few disappointments. My husband and I have gone through it all together. We are here for each other. That is a military marriage.
2. The time before deployment is often harder than deployment itself. I learned this early in our marriage, when my husband had back-to-back deployments to Afghanistan and I was pregnant with our 2nd, then our 3rd child. Planning for deployment is stressful enough. Being pregnant just before a deployment puts a lot more emotional strain on both of you. There were days when I was angry, bitter, frustrated, or just exhausted. It was a strain on our relationship. I wanted to simultaneously treasure every moment together, yet also speed time up so we could get it over with already. Then, deployment would begin. I would get into my routine, do my online classes, take care of my children, deliver our baby all alone in the hospital, and finish paining our house. I found my way. I learned that we are all much stronger than we imagine, and it sometimes takes a deployment to teach us that. Our love is truly deployment strong.
“We are all much stronger than we imagine, and it sometimes takes a deployment to teach us that.” ~The Seasoned Spouse
3. Always get the travel insurance. Because seriously, nothing is ever set in stone. Leave can always be changed or revoked. We have had to change plans for weather reasons (when the base was on emergency standby for a hurricane), for personal reasons (some guy needed to trade duty dates), and for political reasons (the attack on Benghazi put a damper on our overseas excursions for a while). Insurance is much cheaper than plane tickets, so just invest in it!
4. Moving is tough, but also an adventure. When he joined the military, he wanted to see the world. Now, he has been to several continents and most of the seven seas. And I’ve been along for the ride. Because of the military, I have lived on the East Coast, the West Coast, the deep South, and even overseas in Europe. Each time we uproot the family, it is months of turmoil and paperwork and cleaning and getting lost in strange new towns. Yet once we settle, I realize what an opportunity we have to re-start our lives and redefine our marriage. We can break bad habits and start new traditions. Each place we live changes us a little, but it also brings us closer together as a stronger team.
5. Military spouses can be your best friends. Before our marriage, I had only met two of my husband’s married friends. Milso Twitter didn’t exist then, so I didn’t have a support system at our new base or know what to expect from military couples. 14 years later, I can happily say that I have become friends with hundreds of military spouses, and they are some truly incredible people. Military spouses and fellow MilSOs understand the challenges of my life without me having to explain everything. They have been there for me when I had a new baby, needed to return home for a funeral, couldn’t find a job, or just had a bad deployment day. Yes, there are always tales of military wife drama and gossip, but it is possible to avoid all that and make some amazing friendships.
6. Holidays can be rescheduled. Yes, my children and I have missed a lot of holidays with my husband. Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Father’s Day– you name it, and he has missed it because of deployments or training. And of course those holidays are a little lonely and depressing. However, we have learned that the calendar dates don’t matter. The time we have together is always a celebration. So yes, we have celebrated Christmas in February and Father’s Day in September. And they were fun. All that mattered was that we were together.
7. The kids will be okay. Oy, the kids. We have five now, ages 13, 11, 10, 7, and almost 2. You can spend an entire military career worrying about your military kids and how you are scarring them for life. After doing that for the first year or so, I gave up on worrying and instead decided to focus on the positive. During deployments, I make sure to spend quality time with my kids– we go to the park, have dinner with friends, and take trips together. They talk openly about how hard it is to change schools… but they have also admitted that they feel really strong and confident when they get to stay at the same school, because they know how much easier it will be. Our kids will be unique. They have lived in foreign countries and cultures. But because my husband and I surround them with love and patience, I know that they are going to become strong and amazing adults. Don’t worry about your kids. Just do your best and love them. That’s all you really can do!
“Don’t worry about your military kids. Just do your best and love them.” ~The Seasoned Spouse
8. You have a right to be proud. Every single military spouse and family member has a right to be proud of their service member. Every service member has volunteered their life for the country. They work hard every day, making sacrifices that I personally do not feel like making. When I see my husband in dress blues–damn right I’m proud! I’m also proud of him in nasty dirty cammies, or when he’s sleeping in after a long field operation. That pride and respect goes a long way in our marriage, especially during those weeks without any phone calls. So don’t listen to nay-sayers who don’t respect the military. You know who you married, and you can be proud of them and respect them every day!
How many years are you celebrating as a military spouse?