Let’s talk about a family tribal dynamic that is not often discussed: military spouses who are also family members. You couldn’t ask for a better milspouse friend. And if you’re stationed at the same base…perfect! One less person you have to court and hope you’ll become friends and you already have the most supportive person for your tribe. It sounds like a dream to have a family member become a milspouse, so are we drawing attention to it?
Seasoned spouse versus newbie spouse.
I recently had the honor of congratulating a family member on becoming a military spouse; then later found out that she would be moving to the same base I am at. YES! Family nearby, finally! But as Grandma and Grandpa were telling me this joyous news and other bits of information that my newbie military spouse/family member was saying, I could feel my eye twitch. You know that twitch you get as an old salty spouse when a new spouse is running her mouth out of excitement and so much of what’s being said is wrong and you just want to yell, “STOP!”
Yep, I couldn’t help myself. She wasn’t even there and I was correcting what she was telling our family. Not a good way to start this new relationship. So I put myself into timeout for creating a “she said/she said” situation and I began to think of ways to keep peace in the family.
5 Ways Seasoned Spouses Can Keep the Family Peace with Newbies
Keep Your Salty Mouth Closed
If it’s not life-threatening or dangerous, keep your mouth shut. I learned that the hard way. After hearing that my cousin was getting married spur of the moment to her service member “because he’ll get more money when he deploys,” my BS alarm went off. I couldn’t stop myself from telling everyone my opinion. While that reasoning isn’t completely bogus, it’s not entirely true. You get more money being deployed anyway…see, here I go again. This is the easiest way to start a “she said/she said” issue, and within families, that can be devastating. If the word your relative/newbie milspouse is spreading isn’t harmful, then shut up.
Let them experience the joys of early military service without you poisoning the well. Just because you had the on-base neighbors from hell doesn’t mean they will. Just because your forced family fun events are as solemn as a funeral doesn’t mean that theirs will be the same.
If you feel you absolutely must correct what has been said, pull the spouse aside and clarify the information. Then offer your knowledge to her whenever she is unsure about something in the future.
Be a Sympathetic Seasoned Spouse
Remember, you were a new spouse too at one point in time. Remember how you felt moving away from home for the first time, living among strangers and feeling so proud of your new hubby. Remember the loneliness and empty feeling you felt the first time your spouse left for a field op? It sucked! Now here you are, 4 deployments later, monthly field ops and frequent out-of-state schooling; you’re a pro at this being alone thing. In fact, you look forward to your time alone.
A new spouse might not see the sunny side of her spouse being gone though. When she is having a hard time with a week away from her service member, be there to listen to her concerns rather than telling her to suck it up and get used to it or that she should have known what she was getting into since she’s heard your deployment stories a hundred times. Instead, think back to your newbie experiences and how you felt, then use sympathetic stories to comfort her.
Let Them Experience Military Life
After so many years, we’ve been there, done that and have seen it all. But the newlyweds haven’t. They haven’t experienced living on base, PCSing and all the joys of a military move, forced family fun and the commissary on a pay day. Let them experience the joys of early military service without you poisoning the well. Just because you had the on-base neighbors from hell doesn’t mean they will. Just because your forced family fun events are as solemn as a funeral doesn’t mean that theirs will be the same.
Take a step back and let them do their thing. Although, it wouldn’t hurt for you to mention to avoid the commissary on paydays.
It’s Not About You
The military is constantly evolving. Each generation of service members experiences a different military, or as my husband puts it, the Marine Corps is turning into the Soft Corps. This is especially true if you have service members from different branches in the same family. When your cousin starts talking about her spouse’s combat training, don’t interrupt by saying, “well when Jim went through that…blah, blah, blah.” As spouses, we are eager to share and compare our experiences, but when you constantly turn the conversations to focus on you and your experiences, you’ll cause a rift in the family. Not only are you making your family member feel that her experiences aren’t valid, she probably won’t want to share with you anymore. Instead, share similar experiences when appropriate or when asked.
Are you getting the hint? Listen and only give advice when asked, seasoned spouses.
It’s Not About Rank
I get it, you’re the seasoned spouse and they are the new spouse. You’re older, wiser, more experienced and your spouse is a higher rank. It’s not about rank, it’s about family. There are already enough issues with spouses who wear their husband’s rank, it doesn’t need to be brought to the family reunion. You are milspouses, both of you. Seasoned spouses, you are the ones who have been perfectly marinated with salt and pepper to taste, so act like it! It’s your job to facilitate a loving, supportive and noncompetitive bond.
It’s a delicate balance to support newbie spouses and maintain a close family bond, but with the life-balancing skills you’ve learned over the years, it’s nothing you can’t handle.