by Carolann Chambers, Guest Contributor
I absolutely love being a military spouse. I love the friendships, the excitement of homecomings, the ability to live in so many different places.
I can’t imagine any other life.
But there are also a lot of challenges, a lot of things I never expected when I signed up for this. I’ll be honest: sometimes the challenges make me want to curl up into a ball.
But as military spouses, we usually don’t have that option. We’ve got to make it work.
It all comes down to this: I do what works best for me and for my spouse.
Sometimes, that means doing things that other people disagree with.
It always means remembering that there is no one way to be a military spouse.
Here are 10 things that work best for me when it comes to keeping my sanity as a military spouse:
1. I let myself feel all of the emotions.
I don’t pretend that everything’s OK when it’s not. When my spouse goes on a deployment or when we get news we weren’t expecting, l let myself go through all of the emotions – good, bad and ugly.
I throw myself a pity party, but then I pick myself up and tackle whatever it is that had me down. I’ve developed my strength not by pretending that I’m OK, but by allowing myself to become OK on my own terms.
2. I have a budget.
Big expenses come up unexpectedly when your spouse is in the military. Things like moving, buying new uniforms, hosting friends who come to visit and last-minute plane tickets from Hawaii to New York when we found out we could go home for Christmas at the last minute — these are all expenses that we need to factor into our budget, that we try to budget for before they even happen.
3. I set expectations with our families.
Our families always know what kind of job my spouse has, how much time he is allowed to take off (if any) and how much free time he has. I tell them if it is easier for them to come visit us. I will even tell them the best time to visit.
I’ve also made it very clear that right after a deployment is not the time to come visit.
Of course, we don’t always know these kinds of things in advance, but I try to be as open as possible so that there are fewer disappointments.
4. I set expectations with my spouse.
My spouse has had many different jobs over his career. They all have required different shifts, hours, levels of responsibility and levels of stress.
Whenever he starts a new job, we reevaluate what this will mean for time together, vacations and visiting family. It’s still hard when he goes through a period of extra business, but at least I can prepare myself for it.
5. I’m flexible.
There is power in knowing that I can reinvent myself anywhere I live. There’s power in knowing that no matter where the military sends us, I can be happy.
Knowing that I can adapt to any situation has given me enormous self-confidence and has made me unafraid of unexpected changes.
6. I make the most of every single minute I have with my spouse.
Fancy night out on a Tuesday night because that’s the only night we both have free?
If my spouse gets out early one day or suddenly gets a last-minute day off, you better believe we are going to make the most of it, whether we hit the town or just stay home hanging out on the couch. Unplugging is key to this.
7. I thrive on my independence.
The first time I fixed my toilet by myself, I felt like I could take on the world. Anytime I learn something new about the car or do something I normally would have had my spouse do, I feel empowered. Military spouses really can do anything.
8. I do my own thing.
I make time to take care of myself. I could easily make my life all about the military and all about my spouse, waiting for him to get home or counting down the days until he gets back from a deployment.
But I don’t.
I started my own blog and I have my own life.
I’ll visit my family by myself for a few weeks if I feel homesick or something big is going on in my family. While I am always there to support him, my whole life can’t be about him.
9. I always look for the good.
A fellow military spouse once told me that you can always find more good than bad no matter where you live. That advice has come to frame my state of mind with everything military-related. When we move somewhere new, I spend time finding all of the quirky local places and looking for things to love about my new home.
It takes work to get there, but I think that if you try to be optimistic, you can find things you like about anywhere you live or any situation the military throws at you.
10. I combat stereotypes and misconceptions. I ignore them when I have to.
When people make comments to me that stereotype military spouses, I try to explain how difficult and complicated things are when your spouse is in the military. When people can’t seem to understand this, I ignore the rude comments and just live my life in a way that I know combats these stereotypes.
We’re all doing the best we can to find our way as military spouses. Do what works best with you, keep the lines of communication open and, above all, always stay true to yourself.
How do you keep your sanity as a military spouse?
Carolann Chambers is a Navy wife, writer and blogger currently stationed in Connecticut with her husband. She’s lived in Hawaii and New York and thrives on living different places and exploring new cities. She blogs about her journey as a military spouse and making the most out of life at www.findingithaka.com.