Since marrying into the military lifestyle, I’ve witnessed a lot of really interesting ideas and stereotypes about, well, me. Sometimes it comes from within our community, other times it’s from the outside.
What, exactly, is the typical military spouse like?
It’s a question that often is at the back of a lot of the assumptions that we (and others) make about us. I’ve compiled just a few of the biggest misconceptions about milspouses (and rebuttals, of course!).
…are in it for the benefits
To be quite honest, if you’re marrying the average military member for benefits, you’re a pretty bad gold digger. Consider a different get-rich-quick scheme. You know this if you’ve ever had to sit through frustrating phone calls with Tricare or have had to go to the ER to be seen by a doctor in a timely manner.
While I’m thankful for the benefits we do have, they’re nothing to create a wily scheme over. And when you consider that according to some figures, roughly 25% of all military households seek food assistance and 2% of active duty military families use food stamps to make ends meet, you can see how quickly this gold digger stereotype buries itself.
While it’s true that the majority of military spouses are women, there is a growing population of male milspouses. Chalk it up to the increasing opportunities for women in the military, the acceptance of LBGT families and service members in the Armed Forces and changing gender roles and norms. We’ve got a long, long way to go when it comes to gender parity among military spouses, though, with male spouses just in the single digits.
…get a “say”
Sure, maybe we get the chance to voice our opinion with our partner when orders come up or when we’re trying to decide whether or not to geo-bach. But the truth?
Uncle Sam cares exactly zero about what we think, want or dream about. We don’t get a say in deployments or even where we’ll schlep our stuff to for 2 to 3 years. We have no input when it comes to ship schedules or our partners’ work hours. We just pick up when the announcement comes down and keep on keeping on.
…could get jobs if they wanted
Let me drop a truth-bomb:
90% of military spouses are underemployed based on their experience and their education.
Those who are employed, have an almost $16,000 average yearly gap between their pay and that of an average civilian who is not affiliated with the military. Many others are unable to have a job outside the home because of high child care costs, PCSes, deployments, separations and work schedules. It’s hard to have a career when your partner’s gets to call the shots. All. The. Time
…are too proud to ask for help
Truthfully? Most of us are to untethered to our communities or are too embarrassed to ask for help, especially from people who “don’t get what it’s like.”
And as a group, we seem to have a depreciating attitude toward the struggles we face. We know that other military families have it worse than we do. And then when we’re getting messaging to suck it up and put on our big girl panties, many of us shrink back further.
We think we should be able to deal with the stress of being a military family alone, when the truth is, the situations and obstacles we face are hard for anyone.
…are very young
There’s nothing wrong with being a very young military spouse—you know, the married-right-out-of-high-school-kind that everyone thinks of when they hear the phrase “military spouse”–but the truth of this stereotype is that 24% of military spouses are in their late twenties with the average spouse in their early thirties.
Here’s one final truth-bomb: military spouses come from all walks of life.
We are high school dropouts, Ph.Ds and every shade of education under the sun. We are straight and gay, lesbian and bisexual. We come from every state in the U.S. (and from many, many countries as well). We speak English and Spanish, Vietnamese and sign language. We vote for liberals and conservatives and independents…and some don’t vote at all.
Some of us are naturalized citizens and some have been born here. Some have dealt with no deployments, some don’t have enough fingers and toes on which to count them all. Some have kids, some don’t. Some of us love country music while others would rather pump some Iggy Azalea.
Just like their partners, the members of the military, milspouses are just as diverse.
What unites us is our common experience of loving someone who has signed on a dotted line in defense of their country. The rest is so trivial in the face of that signature.