I’ve officially been a Navy spouse for almost 6 years. I grew up in a college town, and didn’t come into contact with anyone in the military world until I moved to Northern Virginia. Being a single, college-aged girl in Virginia, I met my fair share of military affiliated men (hey, if you turn around with a stick in the DC area, you will hit one, I swear!), and against my better judgement, ended up falling head-over-heels for one of them. I never could have imagined that I would marry someone in the military, or that the fact that I married a military member would shape the course of my life, but…here I am. Here’s some of what I’ve learned so far:
1. When it comes to stuff, you (or your spouse) are always thinking about the next move. Let’s put it this way: there is a packrat in every couple – the person who wants to keep every glass from every military ball, or every 5K t-shirt. Hi husband, that person would be YOU in our family – love
you! As a military spouse, I know that every item we bring into our home will soon need to be packed and unpacked, and for some reason, unpacking the same item I haven’t used once in the past 3 moves just kills me a little every time. So, if we haven’t used it during our most current stay (minus sentimental objects), I toss it before it gets packed (and before my husband can dig through the trash).
2. When it comes to your career — you have to be flexible or be miserable. I know spouses who have great jobs, and choose to stay in one location with the kids while the military member is stationed various other places. If that works for you, more power to you. For most families I know, however, the family moves with the service member, and is forced to be more creative with their career or life passions. If you end up somewhere where earning money with your passion or specialized education is not possible in the traditional sense, you have to get creative. Like…trying something completely new (like I’m doing with this Blog) or volunteering your expertise. I have no idea where Blogging will take me, but I know that learning about how to build a website and how to internet market are both valuable skills that will be able to travel with me wherever we go. Plus, I can enjoy my daughter at home right now, which is important to me. Embrace something new, what do you have to lose?
3. If you aren’t already, you will become fiercely independent. Your spouse most likely doesn’t work 9-5 with weekends and holidays off. It’s more like: “Hey honey, we are moving to Japan in a few months, and as soon as we get there I’m going to be deployed for X amount of time.” As someone
who was taking public transportation and taxi cabs to various after-school activities as a 3rd grader, I haven’t been afraid to explore and figure things out on my own wherever the Navy has taken us. That being said, I will fully admit to having ‘small’ breakdowns in Guam AND Japan when we first moved there. It was so far away from home, my husband went right to work when we got there, and there I was, sitting amidst partially unpacked boxes on a freezing tatami mat wondering what the hell I was thinking. It takes time, but you adjust, your comfort level rises, and you become a better person for it — then, you do it all again in a couple years.
4. The Navy is small. This is mostly a wonderful thing. You will run into people that you have been stationed with somewhere in the past. It is going to happen again and again and again. Just remember that when you are saying goodbye to your friends — and your “friends” Luckily, we’ve only had really positive experiences, but a senior spouse once gave me this tip on our first tour, and I can now understand what she was talking about – you run into everyone again – especially the ones you least suspect!
5. You will embrace, be thankful for, and be proud of the many wonderful aspects of being a military spouse. The healthcare, travel opportunities, dear friends across the world, dressing-up-for-fancy-balls-way-more-than-the-average-person, cool discounts, support from fellow spouses, awesome MWR programs (especially overseas), and the knowledge that your spouse has chosen an admirable career in serving their country — and you are supporting them, which is a hell of a job and a sacrifice.
I hope you could identify with some of my military spouse life realities. What are some of yours? If you aren’t affiliated with the military, what are your thoughts on the lives of military spouses? Please share in the comments, I’d love to hear your perspective.