I struggle with my identity as a military spouse. I have never been much of “join-er” so that might be part of the issue or it might be that I was nearly 28 when I married my husband and had a well developed identity outside of a military lifestyle. At the same time, I often find I need to connect with the military spouse community as my lifestyle is quite a bit different than that of friends with no military connection.
I struggle with the assumptions that come with the term military spouse. What do we call the civilian husband of an active duty female? Usually, I hear the term “male spouse.” When I meet stay at home dads of working females in the civilian world, they are simply called “husband” or “stay at home dad.” The automatic assumption that a military spouse is female is bothersome to me. That does not even scratch the surface as other assumptions are made: that a military spouse does not work, that the military spouse makes less money than the military member, or that the marriage is heterosexual are other assumptions.
I struggle with my identity as a military spouse because the military lifestyle is all consuming. I have civilian friends that move for a job, but the company often helps them with the sale of their house and they certainly do not move every 2 years. I have friends with husbands that travel frequently, some even are gone more than my husband. These friends live near family so they have help and do not have frequent moves. The military controls many of my husband’s choices from hair cut to types of glasses and watches he can wear to how often he exercises. It goes beyond that because many of my choices are limited just due to being married to him. The reminder of that is sometimes suffocating to me, and I feel the need to separate myself from the military spouse community as a reminder that I am my own person.
I struggle with the term “military spouse” because it feels like I am defined by who I married rather than who I am as a person. The term military spouse puts the emphasis on the active duty member and takes the emphasis off the spouse. I love my husband and am proud of his service to the country.
I obviously still do identify as a military spouse. I am happy to advocate for military families, especially those with special needs. I aspire to advocate for military and veterans to receive all pay and benefits promised to them. I enjoy having friends who are also military spouses, as well as female friends who happen to be active duty military. I find balance by also having civilian friends in each area we live. My family always lives off base so that the military lifestyle does not feel all consuming.