Ah, the comfort zone. That safe place where the only feelings you feel are warm and fuzzy. If you suddenly find yourself married to a service member you will know that your comfort zone is all but a distant memory. A place, that once in your life was a certainty until you became a military spouse.
I grew up in Ireland, totally ignorant to the culture that comes with a large scale military. When I met my husband, I saw him as any other normal guy but it didn’t take me long to realize that as well as the cultural differences associated with our places of birth – I was also dunked without warning into the vastly complicated world of the US Army and earned the title ‘military spouse’.
The Most Overwhelming Aspects Of Military Life For The New Military Spouse
Your childhood garage once housed tools and bicycles but yours now contains tough boxes and over-flowing rucksacks stacked to the ceiling.
His closet is filled with dress uniforms, covers, camouflage uniforms, tan t-shirts, PTs and huge muddy boots. Then he comes home and announces that there’s a new uniform coming out. Enter more of the above and expect to find the old stuff crammed into every spare space in your home/garage.
There’s a box somewhere that should be full of name tapes, patches, awards and the ruler to make sure his dress uniform meets regulation. That darn ruler is always missing.
He’ll text you to say that he “has to do a brief at the Motor Pool with the CSM at sixteen hundred”. WHAT? Or life changing conversations like “After he attends CCC you will PCS to Fort X to take command”. Again, WHAT?
I must’ve been with my husband for four years when I still found myself asking him what he even does all day. (I have since found out, sort of!)
The terminology is difficult to get used to but I assure you, you will learn. Have patience (both of you!), it takes time. Ask your partner to explain the acronyms, rank and general structure of the military. There’s an awful lot but it’s not to difficult to understand. See it as an opportunity to learn a new language of sorts.
I love this guide to common Army terms!
This one comes back to the structure. There’s a basic split: Enlisted and Officers and within each of them are many different ranks. Learn about the ranks and their symbols here. Like with anything in the Army there are certain rules attached with who can be associated with who, socially. Fortunately for spouses there is no rank!
Whether it’s stopping what you are doing (to include driving) to face the flag at retreat, walking on his left side while in uniform to allow him to salute if needed or not wearing a piece of his uniform – all military spouses should be familiar with the dos and don’ts of military etiquette.
The word all military families fear most, deployment. Anywhere from a few months to a year, your spouse could be deployed oversees and you will be left to take the reins on everything. He could miss birthdays, holidays and even the birth of babies. Unfortunately it’s a real and present part of being an active-duty service member. Read about our long distance story, here. There are many resources online that serve as guides and support for coping with deployment. I personally like Jo, My Gosh! blog.
We all know that the key to a good marriage is honesty and communication. Unfortunately in the military, your significant other may not be able to share everything about his job with you. This can be frustrating. Don’t take it personally he probably feels immense pressure just from not being able to tell you.
He makes many just by choosing a career in the military but boy, oh, boy will you make sacrifices! You first give up your home and family to be by your S/O’s side and more often than not you will also give up your own career in order to move around. Of course it isn’t the end of your career if you don’t want it to be. Many military spouses own their own ‘portable’ businesses and many are homemakers and home schoolers. The list and opportunities are endless. It is entirely up to you. For someone like me with a mechanical engineering degree, it is difficult to manage a full-time career when your location is so ‘disposable’. We’re all just figuring it out!
To put abruptly – you don’t! Plans are for missions. Your home life however, tends to be up in the air until the last minute. Military life changes as quickly as the Irish weather! Learning to be a little more spontaneous will do wonders for your sanity.
Difficult people are everywhere. Not just in military communities. There are certain stereotypes associated with military spouses. Some more derogatory than others. Gossip and drama persists at a rampant pace. Toxic people don’t belong in your life. Steer clear of people who exist only to make others’ lives miserable. This is not a community in which we should tear one another down. Support is key among military spouses and contrary to some stories you might hear, you will make some of the best friends you will ever meet on your military journey.
Realizing How Strong You Are
I don’t give myself enough credit for how strong I am in this whirlwind life. Nor do other friends I know. It is probably because half the time you are on the verge of tears, biting your lip to stop from FREAKING OUT about the latest piece of information he has brought home. It’s hard to feel strong when you’re drained inside from wondering how you’ll cope the next time he leaves. But when he does, you surprise yourself with how much of a bad a** you are!
The best and most frightening thing to comprehend is that being forced out of your comfort zone makes you realize what a resilient and resourceful, strong person you truly are!
So I guess I owe that much to the Army.