As a blogger, I receive emails from young military significant others and spouses asking for advice. They find military life daunting, intimidating and – truth be told – scary. They don’t know if they “have what it takes.” They see military spouses who have it together and question whether they could ever be that confident.
Often, they want the recipe for military spouse success.
I have to break it to them: there really isn’t a recipe. There isn’t one, perfect way to military spouse. (It’s not a verb? Too bad – I’m making it into one!) There isn’t an equation.
But there are certain characteristics that thriving military spouses seem to possess. These characteristics help spouses navigate the never-ending roller coaster that is military life. Here are those 7 important traits:
To Military Spouse Like a Boss, You Need….
1. A Sense of Humor
My grandfather once told me that he sometimes lies in bed and thinks of the adventures he and my late grandmother had together and finds himself laughing. Of course, this confession makes me tear up (even now writing this!), but it also reminds me that life is fleeting, precious and wonderful.
Military life can be hard sometimes, often for reasons we were never expecting.
Being able to see the humor in life, in ourselves, in our situation can lighten the load. After all – this is your life. Going through it upset and miserable isn’t the best way to spend it.
I want to have a collection of memories to look back on when I’m 88. I want to be laughing into the darkness.
There’s a scene in one of my favorite movies, Cool Hand Luke, that always gets me.
Luke is bested by a man who is bigger and a better boxer than him. Time after time, he’s punched and seemingly down for the count, and time after time, he gets up, even when people are pleading with him just to say down. Even the man fighting him doesn’t want to keep pounding the living daylights out of him…because Luke just doggedly gets up again and again because he’s unwilling to give up.
The military spouses I see thriving in military life are the ones who take a (metaphorical) one-two punch, gather themselves, and then stand up again. And I admire them even more for it.
Ooh boy. Flexibility is a tough one for me…and for a lot of the Type-A milspouses out there. The past 4 years (2 as a military significant other and 2 as a spouse) have been hard as I’ve learned how to be flexible with whatever the military throws at us. I’m not going to lie – sometimes I take it like a champ.
And other times, well, other times I’m less able to deal.
It’s a process, right?
I’m getting the hang of rolling with the punches and finding ways to see joy in the messiness that comes from military life.
Commitment is important for many reasons and in many forms for military spouses. There’s commitment to being true to your relationship with your spouse, commitment to keeping your family going during tough times, commitment to your dreams when obstacles present themselves. The ability to see what’s important and stick to it, to refuse to be derailed, is precious.
5. Organizational Skills
You’ve got to have organizational skills if for only one reason: PCSes.
But if I were to say more, I’d point out that military spouses who are entrepreneurs and freelancers need to be exceptionally organized. So do those who are students, professionals, stay-at-home parents or juggling the medical conditions of their families. After all, there’s so much to keep track of in military life – it can be mind-boggling if you’re not organized.
6. The Ability to Advocate
From making sure that the LES is correct during deployment to navigating the intricacies of Tricare, military spouses who thrive know how to advocate on behalf of themselves and their families. Knowing how to talk to people, network and find answers is exceptionally important for effecting change – both for your family and for the wider community.
Can I possibly overestimate the necessity of empathy as a military spouse? Especially in our overexposed, critical, rage-driven, jump-to-conclusions cycle of social media, the ability to slow down, step back and examine life from others’ points of view is exceptionally important.
The most successful military spouses I know are ones who are inclusive, kind and gracious.
They come from both sides of the political aisle and from all kinds of backgrounds and careers. But they have one thing in common: instead of being judgmental or cold, they’re welcoming and warm. They are coalition builders and they teach their communities and families how to be all of those things too.
Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list. That’s where you come in.