Being a military spouse is a unique experience, ripe with its own challenges and victories. Here’s a list of 6 things you’ll learn as you adjust to your new life on a military base.
You’ll truly start seeing each duty station as temporary (and not necessarily in a bad way)
I remember the first time we PCS’d and time felt like it stopped. We were adjusting to being away from family for the first time, and so much of those first months were spent counting down to when we would be going to visit them. Until we really started to realize we liked where we were, and when it came time to leave, we didn’t want to say goodbye.
By the nature of a PCS, you’ll only spend a handful of years at a duty station before you’ll have to move again. This can be great if you end up somewhere that just really isn’t your speed, but it’s also an invitation to see how much of that area you can really explore and enjoy. There hasn’t been a single duty station we have been to that we truly didn’t like, and all for very different reasons. Sure, we’ve loved some more than others (New Orleans has become our second home) but we’ve embraced this lifestyle and always find things we love about where we are.
It’s also a natural progression of the military family to start thinking about your next duty station, even if your spouse has just checked-in to this one. You get used to thinking about the future in smaller, bite sized pieces. It’s exciting, easier to predict and manage, and at the very least, helps you figure out if you should really unpack that box, or just leave it taped up in the garage for next time.
Communication is key
As it is with all successful relationships, communication is going to be a top priority. Whether it’s during a deployment, TAD trip, range training or drill weekend, there will be a considerable time where you and your spouse are not together. Depending on the circumstances, there will inevitably be times where communication is limited, so it’s important to make the most of the time you’ve got.
It goes beyond being separated as well. Communication is an integral part of the teamwork and decision making that goes into making a military marriage work. It means having honest conversations about how important it is to visit family throughout the year or go home for the holidays. It means talking about the implications and expectations of your spouse’s job requirements in the military, and how that affects you. It means an open dialogue when it comes time for your spouse to decide if they are going to re-enlist.
This is not an easy life to live, and it comes with a lot of factors that civilian life typically does not. You and your partner need to be each other’s biggest support system, and that comes from being able to have frank discussions.
You’ll surprise yourself at your ability to adapt and overcome
The most predictable thing about being a military spouse is that much of this life is unpredictable. It can be really intimidating and frustrating at first, feeling like there are no straight answers until it’s time to act, but after a while, you develop an “it is what it is” mentality.
That’s not to say you can’t still get overwhelmed with plans changing at the last minute (or the minute after that), it just means that you’ll be well versed in anticipating the unknown, and developing contingency plans. Curve balls become straight shots as the years go by, and navigating it all becomes an artform in and of itself.
There is ALWAYS someone here who can help you
Being a military spouse is not easy, whether you’ve been married for 2 months or 20 years, there are always times where reaching out is a better alternative than trying to brave the storm alone. A natural outlet is always friends and family back home. They can offer a lot of support and comfort from a more familiar place.
Sometimes, however, talking to someone who really “gets it” is what we need more. Throughout the years, I’ve met a lot of amazing military spouses who have helped me when I needed it. From your first PCS to your spouse’s retirement, MilSpouses have seen it all first hand and, unsurprisingly, offer some of the best advice and insight. There are plenty of organized spouse groups, as well programs such as the Army Community Services, Marine and Family Programs, Fleet and Family Program and Airman and Family Readiness. Military OneSource is an amazing resource for a lot of things, support services being among some of the highlights.
There’s a lot to enjoy
While some of the hardships of the military are much more apparent, there are a lot of bright sides and experiences unique to this life. From the ability to travel more than the average person, to having built in support systems everywhere you go, you’re able to experience things in a special way.
One of the most beautiful things about the military community is seeing unwavering support for one another, even if we don’t know each other personally. Military members and their spouses will do whatever they can to support each other, and ultimately these strangers become friends, and these friends become family.
I would also be remiss not to mention annual military balls, which is arguably the best version of prom for adults. That’s not to take away from the true meaning of the night, there are ceremonial proceedings and the whole evening is organized to celebrate your given service, but it’s also a means for people to come together for the sake of comradery and appreciation. It’s the best reason to dress up and have a fun night out with your spouse and friends. Especially for those of us with kids, it might be one of the few–or only–times during the year we really get to dress to the nines and turn it up to 11.
There is nothing else like this
Being a military spouse is an emotional roller coaster ride. It will be hard, there will be times where you feel like things can’t get any more complicated (spoiler alert, they can and they often will) but I personally wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m overwhelmingly proud of my husband for his service and dedication, as I am of our marriage and the life and family we have built over the years.
As much as I thought I knew what I was getting into when I married him, it’s been ten years and I still feel like I’m learning new things all the time. It’s okay to be nervous, curious or downright overwhelmed. It’s also more than okay to ask questions, reach out and talk to your spouse or another support about how you’re feeling. It takes a very strong and special person to commit to this life, but that doesn’t mean we won’t all need some help along the way.