As a military wife we’ve all discovered things about ourselves, about our friends, and about our husbands that were not previously known beforehand. We’ve learned through experience, we’ve learned through struggle and through joy. Most of us probably weren’t expecting to uncover some of these truths and others of us are still learning all the ropes and roles of a military wife. It’s hard to narrow down just a few things that I wasn’t told. When I thought further on it, the five I came up with were ones I grasped in hindsight, after the lesson had already been taught. However, these 5 are ones I would have wished for the knowledge of beforehand.
1) Family Support Groups are run by the Senior Ranking Wives (But why that shouldn’t scare us away)
Groups such as the Army’s FRG or other less formal clubs, roasters, etc. all usually fall under the direction of those whose husbands are upper ranking. This is the way it should be, obviously we all know with rank comes privilege and obligation. However, this caught me off guard initially and made me leery of becoming involved. I felt awkward when I was just the new wife; meeting women who were married to names like First Sergeant and Major. I held back my questions; thinking they were trivial to these women who knew so much, had seen so much. All in all, what I had failed to understand is that each one started out in my shoes. They all were new wives once. They had learned the ropes through their own experience and from those women willing to offer support who had already done it. The wives in charge of these groups know where you are and have become a support specifically to offer wisdom and understanding to the vast second language the military sometimes is. I would always encourage you to seek answers from your husband first if you can and then reach out to the women in charge. You have to learn and more often than not, understanding will be your key to being a successful military wife.
2) Military Wives are Protective over their Time (And how that can hurt you and others)
The military is often bitterly demanding over our husband’s schedules. In turn that makes the wives bitterly protective over the time we receive. Family time should always be priority but it becomes very easily to forget how to practice balance. I remember becoming friends with wives on other units (therefore our husbands were on different schedules) and being caught off guard on how one day we could be talking, then a week going by and not. Husbands would return from the field or deployment and suddenly I was secondary to the point of ignorance. When my husband began spending more time away, I realized I did much of the same thing. If you end up on the receiving end, don’t be easily offended, it’s not personal or purposeful. Unfortunately this can be more hurtful to our civilian friends than fellow military. They don’t always have understanding of something they’ve never lived.
Maybe you’re thinking, you don’t do this. Ask yourself if you’ve ever started a sentence this way; “Well, my husband will be home…” Then ask yourself if you’ve done this multiple times to the same person? Our limited time with our husbands is important but by being overly protective of our time we are cutting the strings of support and also smothering our spouses. Men will always need their own time among their fellow comrades as women need theirs. Count your days together as priceless, yes, also be open in sharing your time with family and friends as well as respectfully giving each other required space.
3) Simplify Your Life (You’ll thank me later)
We move all the time! On base, off base, every 3 years, once a year, etc. Even though the military will pay to move you and even provide professional packers; it is an exhausting undertaking. You don’t always know where you’ll end up once you get there, just like you don’t always know where you’ll be moving to next and for how long. My advice to you is simplify, simplify now, before you begin a move. Organize your paperwork, children’s art projects, etc. as they come, not when there is a monstrous stack. Find a place for everything and if it doesn’t fit, get rid of it. There are some new books out there right now about this exact thing and how removing the clutter can bring joy to your home. I believe it definitely helps. The military is ever changing and always surprising there might be a time when you’re pregnant and your husbands gone but you are moving today! Take the time needed with a dedicated plan to make your home settled in its simplicity so your life can be smoothly transitioned wherever you go.
4) You’ve never met your new BFF’s husband (Yet!)
Because of deployments over and over in this exhausting war and of course the protectiveness over our couple time; we’ve met many a wife without ever meeting her husband. You become close, like sisters. Bonding over your unique but common shared experience and then spend endless time supporting and keeping each other company. Talking about our husbands is only natural so you do and by the time a deployment’s end approaches you feel as though you’ve already met your friend’s spouse and know everything there is to know. This has happened to me more than a few times. I bond with this girlfriend and we fill each others deployment schedules but we get to know each other almost as single women. It’s like getting to meet someone all over again when our spouses come home. You’ve built a relationship with someone and now have to mix in two other people, manly your husbands. It’s a common event among our military community and one that can take you by surprise. You might not get along with her husband or your husbands might not get along but at the end of the day you’ve made a friend when a friend was needed. Don’t hesitate to continue enjoying the fellowship that was gained. It might be a relationship that’s put on hold till you both need one another again and that’s okay. It’s not personal it’s just the funny circumstances a military life can bring at times.
5) You Detach (Why you shouldn’t)
Lastly, as a military wife you detach from people. This happens as you begin you’re moving process, which often times can still be a year away. You pull away from those friends you’ve made, it’s almost a natural instinct to protect yourself from the hurt and heartache you know will come. You might draw back from signing up kids for an activity because you suspect they won’t be there for the fulfillment. It’s so easy to do but also dangerous. With detachment you lose your support and the normal aspects of life. The military is perfect at changing their minds or complicating things and you should almost never plan for anything until its happening. Even though your orders say in three months, it could change. Even though your moving away from this base, you’ll be back again in a year. You just never know what kind of curve ball you’ll get thrown. Also, I’ve seen women who detach themselves before they’ve ever attached themselves. After six moves, why bother getting involved. You’ll only be here a year, no need to expand the energy. Life isn’t guaranteed and so we have to make the most of today which includes building relationships, participating in events or organizations and laying down roots in each place we go. We will always leave behind something in our stops around the world but it’s our choice if we take something with us.
Enjoy your time as a Military Wife and be encouraged when you face something new. You’re learning many unique lessons, ones that will serve you well into the future.