The 5 Phases of Military Spouse Guilt

5 Phases of MilSpouse Guilt and How We Can Kick It to the Curb

by Rebecca Alwine, Guest Contributor

Guilt comes in all shapes and sizes and it hits us in the oddest moments and ways.

When I reached out to the military spouse community to talk about milspouse guilt, I was truly surprised at how many spouses felt guilt directly related to their spouse’s career choice.

At first I was skeptical, I’ll admit. I feel mom guilt. I feel financial guilt. I feel marital guilt, but I never thought about milspouse guilt. These military spouses changed my mind on the topic.

Milspouse guilt is real, it is here and now that we have identified what causes it, we can overcome it.

5 Phases of Military Spouse Guilt and How We Can Kick It to the Curb

5 Phases of MilSpouse Guilt and How We Can Kick It to the Curb


Milspouses across the globe find themselves apologizing for things that are frequently out of their control.

“I’m sorry Grandma; I just can’t make it back for your 75th birthday this year,” is a really hard thing to say. But really, what can you do? You certainly can’t run “home” each time a loved one has a special occasion. It’s not feasible.

“I feel guilty that my kids don’t grow up close to family and that they have to move all the time,” admitted Courtney Cochran.

Army spouse Amanda Sanders agreed. “I feel guilt that when we are home visiting, there isn’t enough time to see everyone. One of the grandparents always gets less time with the kids.”

I’m sure we’ve all had to apologize for not having enough time to see everyone. I’ll admit, there are times I’d just rather not plan a trip “home” because I feel like I’ll spend more time trying to see everyone and have no time to actually enjoy a visit.

Becoming Defensive

If only someone could understand! Why can’t anyone else understand it? How about the spouse who feels like she has to defend her decision to stay home with the kids? Alison Sigler had 12 years of experience as a child and family therapist when her husband joined the Army. Now with her husband in residency and kids at home, she feels snubbed by professional colleagues because she chooses to stay home.

“Is it better to hire someone else to raise my kids so that I can work? I think it’s better that they have at least one parent home with them,” she explained.

Making Excuses

This is the biggest one. I spend more time making excuses for the Army and its decisions than I care to. I feel frustrated having to explain that no, we cannot come home for Christmas this year because my husband was refused leave. Some feel guilt over the size of their house or their spouse’s position.

Barb Ashley, wife of Major General Ashley, often feels that people make her feel guilty because of her husband’s rank. “I am proud of his accomplishments; he has worked hard. I don’t have rank and I just want to be friends!” she said.


We shouldn’t be made to feel guilty because of something our spouse does or has. We have no control over that, we shouldn’t dwell on it.

Another senior Army spouse revealed that she feels guilty that she and her husband live in a huge house with more than enough room for the two of them. She remembers the years when her family of six was crowded into small quarters like so many families are now.


Often we forget things, important things. We forget how much it actually costs to buy a gallon of milk at a civilian grocery store. We forget how much a trip to the doctor’s office for a fever costs. How much did you have to pay to have that baby? Thank you Tricare!

Sometimes we feel guilt when we do forget.

I had 2 babies in Germany and the most expensive part of that experience was paying for parking at each doctor’s appointment.

An Army spouse shared her feelings of guilt mixed with gratefulness. “I had 2 babies with all costs covered, and recently I had what some may call optional or cosmetic surgery. It wasn’t a matter of life or death, for me it was about my mental health and happiness. Our health insurance covered a $20,000+ bariatric surgery. Did the military force me to eat and get fat? No. But I do feel a little guilty that military insurance picked up the bill for that.”

Related: Give Up the Guilt of Rehoming Your Pet

Is forgetting how fortunate we are when it comes to some of the benefits, our house, health care, seeing the world on the government’s dime a form of guilt?

Forgiving Yourself

Ultimately, the only way to get past all of this is to forgive yourself. Milspouses go through a lot of unique situations and shouldn’t feel guilty for making the decision to spend their life with their service member.

Yes, we travel the world and leave our family behind.

Yes, we have to make hard decisions about what to make a priority.

Yes, our children often grow up without grandparents and cousins close by.

Yes, we move our kids more times in their childhood than they can count.

But do we really ever regret it? Do we think, if I had chosen not to marry my spouse would I have no regrets? You never know what the future is might bring or where other choices may have led you.

Forgive yourself, forgive your spouse, forgive the military and enjoy this wild ride we call milspouse life.

rebecca alwineRebecca Alwine has been a military spouse for over 8 years, traveling the world and learning about herself. She’s discovered she enjoys running, loves lifting weights, is a voracious reader, and actually enjoys most of the menial tasks of motherhood. She is an avid volunteer, most recently as President of the Fort Huachuca Community Spouses’ Club and works as a career counselor for transitioning service members. She has a Masters in Emergency Management from American Military University and a Bachelor of Arts in Geography from the University of Mary Washington. Her writing has been published both in AUSA’s ARMY Magazine, Military Spouse Magazine, and multiple digital magazines and blogs. You can follow her on Twitter and at her personal blog.



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