Have you said or heard another military spouse say any of the following statements?
“It’s not my career, it’s his career.”
“She’s the one who signed up. I’m not required to do anything.”
“I refuse to be like all of those other military spouses. I’m no dependa.”
Not only have I heard it, I’m guilty of either thinking it or saying it myself and I know why– fear.
I was afraid (and still am) of finding myself defined by my relationship to someone else. I am my own person thankyouverymuch and I am content with being me. I didn’t get married because I felt I had to or wanted to belong to someone. I wanted a partner to share life with, not to lose myself in.
When you’re in a committed relationship with a military member, it’s very easy to feel like you live in someone’s shadow. So much of your life becomes attached to your spouse’s identity, hell, you even start forgetting your own Social Security number because nobody ever asks for it!
But let’s be real. My fear of losing myself in the mists and mystery of being a military spouse wasn’t totally unfounded. My career aspirations, my expectations for my relationship, my carefully crafted life timeline–no matter how naive it all seems in retrospect– just fell apart, or so it seemed.
I pushed out the idea that I would ever enjoy being a military spouse. I’m not joining clubs or playgroups or holding hands and singing mandatory Kumbayah with anyone because I don’t have ANYTHING in common other with military spouses anyway.
Ouch. I’m cringing after writing that. I’d like to chalk up all of that resistance to age and naiveté, but what it really was is plain ignorance and fear. What I realized is that being “me” and being a “military spouse” is not mutually exclusive; I define what it means to be a military spouse by the choices I make and by owning and embracing my military-spouseness (Yeah, I made that up. Go forth and use it).
How to Embrace Your Military Spouseness
You Have a Name, Don’t Be Afraid to Use It
You know what? I’m gonna be known as so-and-so’s spouse for the next however many years Homeskillet stays in the Air Force, but that doesn’t mean I can’t switch the game. I often encourage his co-workers to address me by my first name and ask for their first names, too! I love being on a first name basis (when appropriate) with his officemates and it makes me feel less formal and comfy…much more me.
Take Time to Learn About Your Partner’s Chosen Career
I know this one seems a bit fuzzy as to how it helps you embrace your milspouseness, but stick with me. Knowing more about what your wife or husband does and how it fits in to the big picture can give you a great appreciation for military life as a whole.
Keep Your Career, Educational, and Personal Dreams Alive
Being a military spouse doesn’t mean that your personal aspirations are automatically going to be derailed or lost forever. It’s not going to be easy to keep your dreams on track; you’re going to have to hustle and flow to make it all happen. There are going to be times when you’re going to want to wave the white flag in surrender and just throw in the towel on your dreams. Don’t. You’ll regret it and it will eat you alive.
There are plenty of military spouses who have figured out how to keep their careers going or work towards their educational goals in the most exciting and creative ways. Connect with other military spouses who are doing it and “get” what you’re going through.
Don’t Be Too Good for Your Base Community
There is nothing wrong with shopping at the commissary or price challenging at the Exchange. Nor is there anything wrong with stopping by the community picnic or <gasp> keeping a open mind and positive attitude about “mandatory fun” events.
Know that You’re Not as Unique as You Think You Are (And That’s Good!)
You’re not the only career-minded/stay-at-home-mom/non-breeding/uber-political/stickin’-it-to-the-man/homeschooling military spouse out there and that’s a good thing! Military spouses come in all sorts of flavors and have all sorts of twists.
Don’t believe me? Check out groups like the Military Spouse CEO Experience or the awesome LGBT advocates at AMPA, connect with other dudes at Macho Spouse, or the career-minded military spouses networking through local In Gear Career chapters, or the hardcore politically-minded military spouses ramping up Homefront Rising.
It’s a big ole wide world out there and none more diverse than the military spouse world. Stop fighting what is and welcome to the club. You’re already a member, you might as well enjoy the benefits.