We marry into the military knowing full well that it will be challenging and stressful. But we can never anticipate the extent of the stress or how formidable the challenges will be.
Military life can be scary; that’s just par for the course.
As the years go on, there are always new things we find that we’re afraid of. Our families grow, our professional and personal lives develop, and our goals evolve and with each new change comes a little bit of fear.
Will I lose my job? Will my kids hate their new school? How can we start a family if my service member’s always gone?
These are just a few of the questions we ask ourselves as time goes on and new fears about military life surface. But it’s important that we remember we aren’t alone. There are a lot of very common fears most military spouses experience, work through and ultimately overcome. Here are just a few:
1. You’ll lose your sense of “self.”
If your career takes a backseat to your spouse’s, you spend countless hours as a solo parent and people on base introduce you as Major Smith’s wife, you may start to feel like you’re just the supporting actor to your spouse’s leading role.
The service member will thank you for all you do for them and all the sacrifices you make, which is great. But then that fear creeps in. You’ve made sacrifices for them to achieve their goals, but what have you done? What dreams have you fulfilled?
You may feel like you’ve given up so much that you’ve been left with nothing. This is, 9 times out of 10, wholly untrue.Whether you’re a successful lawyer or an amazing stay-at-home parent, you’re still uniquely you.
It’s easy to forget that who you are doesn’t derive from what you do for a living, who you’re married to or even your successes and shortcomings as a parent.
Try to remember that your identity doesn’t come from anything external, but from your kindness, your passions in life and the joy you bring to your friends, your family and yourself.
2. Frequent moves will harm your kids.
Many of us grew up living in only a few places or perhaps never leaving our hometowns. We think about how poorly new kids are treated in schools and we’re inclined to think our military kids will have the same experiences.
New schools and new homes don’t need to be scarring to your children. You may fear that they won’t be able to handle it and change might be hard for them at first, but military children have this experience all the time and grow up to be well adjusted, happy adults.
This is an opportunity to see what frequent moves can actually do for your children. Talk to an adult who grew up as a military brat and you may find that they loved seeing the world. Perhaps they’ve become very friendly and sociable individuals because of their experiences constantly making new friends.
3. You will never feel settled.
You’ve probably spoken to your service member about your “forever home,” and you’ve likely both fantasized about where you will one day settle down. You do it to feel grounded in some way, because continual moving is unsettling.
If you see home as a physical place, it’s true–as long as your spouse is in the military, you never will feel settled.
If you see “home” in the abstract, as the place where your spouse is located or where you and your children are, it’ll be much easier to feel settled.
There’s a reason so many military spouses love that classic sign, “Home Is Where the Military Sends Us.”
4. You’re going to lose out on having lifelong friendships.
You miss your friends and family and you’re scared to lose any new friends you make when you move. As a military spouse, this is such a realistic fear. The thing is, the truly meaningful and fulfilling friendships probably will endure. You’ll be less likely to sustain any casual friendship or friendship that isn’t rooted in a deep emotional connection. But the ones that enrich you and that make your life better will probably survive any number of moves.
You have the phone, you have the computer and you have airplanes. It’s easier than ever to stay in touch.
Also, don’t forget, it’s a small military! You never know when you’ll run into that military spouse you befriended years ago. He or she may be your new neighbor on base.
5. You will always play “second fiddle” to the military.
Your service member may have told you countless times, “Service before self,” or “I have to do this–needs of the military.”
You may have heard this every time you complained about an unexpected deployment or a last-minute TDY. The service member believes it and you’ve started to, as well.
Then that fear creeps in. Does he/she love the military more than me? Is it really true–the military is the other woman?
This is, of course, one way to look at it. The military will always play a role in your marriage. That’s why military spouses are so distinct from civilian spouses. The service member’s career inevitably defines your personal life as well. There’s no escaping it until they leave military service or retire.
When the experience of having the “needs of the military” trump yours gets you down, try to remember one key thing:
your spouse didn’t marry the military.
If they truly wanted to devote themselves exclusively to the military, they would probably have stayed single. Instead, they married you because having you was (and is) important. It may seem like the military always wins out over you, but you may not know all the times your spouse has turned down an opportunity, left an event, or said “no” to travel in order to stay with you.
There will be times the military seems to “win,” but there will also be times that you win. Try not to forget that and to remember that you’re serving your country every time you support your spouse as they give their time, energy and devotion to the military’s mission.