What They Don’t Tell You About Being a Military Spouse
How to Be a Better Wife
If you are reading this, chances are you have heard something along the lines of “well you signed up for this” or everyone’s favorite, “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Cute quotes, albeit truthful, offer little to no comfort at all when you are dreading the days or months you will spend away from your spouse. Hearing variations of these same phrases repeatedly by people, even our loved ones, can come across as insensitive. The truth is, other military spouses in similar situations won’t know exactly what you are going through either because everyone’s experience is unique. No two spouses will have the exact same experience whether it be the different levels of risk our significant others are exposed to, the lengths of deployments, and certainly, there can be a difference in where you are at in regards to your mental health. What our loved ones sometimes fail to realize is, that we don’t necessarily need to hear words that sound pleasant or meaningful but rather we need understanding, acceptance, and someone to listen to while we vent our frustrations without judgment.
If you can incorporate these practices into your life, you will see that with the right mindset anyone can be the wife they desire to be or the best version of themselves…
Try to be Selfless
We are reminded daily of the sacrifices our military members make but often society overlooks the bigger picture. Military families are also making sacrifices, especially military spouses who lay awake late at night worrying about their spouse just to wake up next to the cold part of the sheets where their husband should be. I want to first acknowledge and thank all of the spouses who are reading this. I know firsthand the sacrifices you might have had to make. Some of us did not get to have the big dream wedding we had envisioned as little girls. Most of us had to start over and move somewhere away from our friends and family. We left behind our jobs and preconceived timelines for when we would start having children. Our hopes and dreams might have been put on hold. No one will ever know the extent of your sacrifices or the loneliness you felt when you moved all the way across the country only for your husband to leave a few days later. Still, I urge you to make the sacrifice and have faith that you will still find a way to make your dreams true. Being selfless shows a great deal of bravery and courage. Not everyone is cut out for this lifestyle. Some days are going to be harder than others. There are no guarantees that everything will work out, but I guarantee you’ll learn about yourself, how much compassion you have for others, and about your strengths and weaknesses.
2. Have a Positive Outlook
Easier said than done, however, I can attest to if you don’t have a positive outlook on your current situation, you probably will feel depressed and lack motivation. The art of positivity is a slow and gradual process but eventually you will master it. You will have some bad days where you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Some days taking a shower or brushing your teeth will seem like a chore. Perhaps, you might have an out-of-character emotional breakdown after a bad day at work. Only to go home to an empty home with no one there to comfort you like in a normal relationship. It’s hard to be positive when you miss home and your family. Life has a weird way of trapping you when you’re an adult. There will be times when you want to just fly home for a few weeks but flights are expensive or you have other responsibilities that prevent you from being able to get away. You have to change your mindset. Say the words out loud “I will have a great day” and say them multiple times a day until it starts working. Take the time to do something nice for yourself like a spa day at home or get a donut on your way to work. Find the silver lining and make the most of your time. Wishing time away is another form of just letting life pass you by. You only live once so make each day count.
3. Remain Resilient
By definition, being resilient means being able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. I’m not saying you should be fine the day, week, or even month after your spouse leaves. Being resilient means being strong enough to overcome disappointment. You might think your spouse will return in 3 months only to find out later that their mission has been extended for another 3 months causing your spouse to miss a holiday, birthday, or anniversary. On those important days, you might be at your lowest. This is why it is vital to have a strong support system that you can call or text to get you through difficult times. It might seem silly but celebrate whatever you missed when your spouse returns home. Change your mindset from how many days you’ve spent apart to being excited for their return home. Plan an elaborate or simple homecoming for your spouse to occupy your time. If you are struggling to find work after relocating or took a pay cut to start a new job, be resilient. Find something you like about your new job or use your time being unemployed to brush up on technical skills. Pursue your dream job by furthering your education until you get a job that you love. Don’t give up and use all the resources available to you. The military offers all kinds of assistance to military families and if you don’t know where to look reach out to your Ombudsman or Family Readiness Group.
4. Find Yourself
It is important to have an identity for yourself outside of your marriage. Be a part of your community by doing volunteer work, joining a sports league to make friends, or by trying a book club. Put yourself out there as much as you can. Growth does not come from comfort or from being stagnant so do things to put yourself out there that make you uncomfortable. Set personal goals and discover hobbies that you might not have had time for before. Join groups for military spouses where you can vent your frustrations or share your excitement for when your spouse returns.
5. Take Care of Your Mental/Physical Health
Above all else, please take care of yourself both mentally and physically. Remember to eat, get enough sleep, and get some exercise. If you are struggling with mental health call Tricare and ask them to refer you to a therapist. Being a dependent you can go on base to use the gym even if you live off base. If the gym isn’t your thing take walks and go to parks. Try to leave the house at least once a day, especially on days when you don’t want to. Adopt a pet like a cat or a dog for emotional support. If you can’t have pets get plants so have something to look after and take care of. It might remind you that you too need sunlight, food, and water.
Truthfully, they aren’t completely wrong when they say you signed up for this. You signed up for a life with the person you love and that includes both the good and bad times. There are lots of benefits of being a military spouse like getting to live somewhere new and meeting new people. Maybe at the time, you thought you would be able to handle long-distance or deployments but now you’re unsure. If the roles were reversed, you would want your spouse to support you too, one day they might have to return the favor. Remind yourself why you and your significant other are making the sacrifices and where we would be without them. Sure, it gets lonely and sometimes the end seems nowhere in sight but take it day by day and use the time away to benefit yourself and your marriage. Have faith that your sacrifices will be worth it and will make you stronger as a person. Embrace new experiences and challenges with open arms. Take the time to reflect and learn to forgive yourself and others, let go of the things you can’t control, and cope with issues you have by getting the help you need. Learn so much about yourself that you’ll be introducing a new version of yourself to your husband when he returns home, someone full of new ideas, hobbies, and new friends.
So, to simply put it, in order to be the best wife you can be you must first take care of your mental and physical health, create your own identity that goes beyond being a good wife, and try to keep a positive perspective not only during deployments but also throughout the course of your marriage. Don’t let anyone invalidate your feelings, being in a military relationship is a lot of hard work and sacrifice on both ends. This unique type of relationship will also reward you by teaching you how to value time, how to be selfless, and how to remain resilient in the face of adversity. These valuable characteristics will stay with you for a lifetime and will prepare you for anything that lies ahead of your future outside of the military.