Ask Amy: What is it like to be a military wife?
This is a loaded question but a good one.
I’m sure if you were to ask this question across the board you would get a lot of different answers but I can only speak from my experience and I haven’t been a military spouse for very long (about 21 months in at the time of writing this) but I can definitely dive right on in.
When Eddie and I were dating I found myself just barely thinking of the military aspect of our relationship, then when we got engaged I found myself becoming more and more thoughtful on how that would play into marriage/life. I had an idea of what it would look like: change, moving, making new friends, finding new jobs, getting out of my comfort zone, him not being home all the time, still needing to be independent . . . but I really didn’t know until it all happened.
Being a military wife, and in my case a submariners wife, means you’ve got a whole lot of unknowns.
Schedules CONSTANTLY CHANGE.
I’m meaning you hear something on a Monday and by Friday it could have changed 3 times. I always plan for Eddie to just not be able to attend something and at the last minute if he is able to go I make those changes. Making plans is always a struggle, especially if it’s for a “vacation”, which he doesn’t really get vacation days or if he does they have to get approved. This has been SUPER hard for me as I’m Type-A and like to control and have a list….the Navy laughs at this. BUT this is challenging me to become a better person and work through my struggles on control.
You can make some amazing friends.
I’ve become super close to some women I never, ever, would have met if not for the Navy. Not only are they an amazing support system to explore a new area, but they get what I’m going through. My family & friends back home have a small understanding (like I said above) of what my life can look like but these ladies just GET IT without me having to explain it. It’s refreshing and comforting. They also have the same outlook of get-out-and-explore-while-you-can attitude that makes each place enjoyable! Let me also put the other side in here – making friendships as an adult in a place you don’t know let alone know anyone is HARD. So hard that it can take some practicing / getting used to and figuring out where to meet people. I actually could write a whole other post on making friends as an adult.
I MUST be independent.
I know this is one of the reasons I got married later in my twenties, God knew I needed to be self sufficient. Eddie is gone, A LOT, and I’m having to entertain myself. This isn’t like a husband going on a business trip that you can text/facetime/talk to; this is my husband is gone and there is only an email here and there to communicate, if that at all. I still have to do all the things I did before I was married to be self sufficient and I’m happy I know how to do them. It’s still a challenge to when you start getting over a week mark and you’ve kind of exhausted all your normal go-to things and you kind of stare at the wall for a bit, but I’m learning how to fill that down time.
There is no such thing as “off”.
It can be 3 in the morning, while we’re in a different state on a rare leave trip, or on a Saturday and he will get a phone call. It could mean that he just walks them through whatever they need or he may need to go in to work to deal with it. Then add in the stress of the job and their position in the military and that could mean that even if they haven’t gotten a phone call they are thinking about it. I’ve had to learn when to let Eddie just walk through things in his mind and leave him alone vs distract him and go do something. It’s definitely hard to walk through this if you struggle with comparison and see other families get weekends off / go on vacations knowing that isn’t your life and won’t be your norma life for many years.
I experience a lot!
I’ve told Eddie how thankful I am that I’m able to see as much of the country as I’ve been able to in the last year and a half. Maine, Connecticut, San Diego & a Cross-Country Road Trip! I probably would have never done that if I just lived in Charleston my whole life. I’m able to live in different cultures, climates, seasons and experience all the weirdness that comes with that. I feel like my immune system is going through the ringer with each move but that must be making me stronger right? There have just been so many opportunities that I’ve been able to have since knowing Eddie.
Keeping the spark is hard.
I debating writing this part but y’all it’s the truth. Like I said earlier sometimes we only are able to communicate via email (and he can be gone X weeks/months) and those get read by others sooooo I can’t be to sessy with my husband via words. Then when he does come home he is normally exhausted from a super busy underway and we have to get used to being around each other again. Throw in more underways, stress, feminine issues, life events, etc and it can be really hard to have the physical intimacy part of our marriage be a top priority. THEN add in the emotional intimacy! I normally keep a list on my phone of “All the things to talk to Eddie about” so that when he gets home I can bombard him (ha!) with all the things that are important, but it’s also choosing that right time. It’s picking the battles of is this important enough to bring up if it could cause more than an easy discussion or should it just wait until later. It’s re-learning how to be in each others company when you haven’t talked for days/weeks with them being gone. I once took a COMPASS class for the Navy and they talked about there being a “deployment stage” and with how often then come and go I find myself walking through all of these weird random feelings at different times; happiness, frustration, grief, isolation, etc. Even recently Eddie has said he notices I begin to pull back emotionally and put a guard up (a personal flaw) a few days before he is scheduled to leave again. SOOO I have to fight those feelings and continue to communicate with my husband.
You just never know.
Where you’re going to be shipped to next (duty stations), what the job market will look like, the cost of living, the people, the churches, etc. You don’t know what the finances will look like all the time so you’ve go to budget accordingly. You don’t know if things will break while they are gone (normally yes!) or if it will just be an easy trip. . . honestly you just never really know anything!
OPSEC / PERSEC
Operational Security & Personal Security are BIG DEALS.
I’m a super open person, especially with my family, so learning that I couldn’t share certain things (like dates/locations) with those I’m close to was really hard. You can’t hint at anything over text, phone calls, social media, facetime/skype, etc. You’ve got to be SUPER careful with what all you put out there, especially if your husband is a submariner, to keep them and yourself safe. I don’t announce when Eddie comes and goes for many reasons but mostly I need to make sure that he is safe and I am safe. This takes a lot of learning and sometimes making mistakes and getting called out on it which has definitely happened.
It is what you make of it.
You can either have a REALLY good time with some down moments or you can just have an all around BAD time with some good moments. Perspective, perspective, perspective. For example I heard so many people in the military call Groton, Connecticut “Rotten Groton” because they said it was a horrible place to live with nothing to do. Eddie and I lived in Norwich, CT which was about a 30 minute drive to base for him and we had a blast! I loved the new england fall, all the hiking trails, the cute shops, and the small town feel. I chose to put myself out there and meet some new people and get involved with some local community and made the best out of what was a completely foreign situation. A stark contrast from Maine (which I loved!) where I moved and lived there during the winter, knew absolutely no one, went to stores for social interaction, and felt really isolated. You can choose to move somewhere and have a piss-poor attitude or make it something amazing. Again, PERSPECTIVE!
This is just a small snip into what could turn into a multi-post conversation.
I’m still learning so much about what it means to support my husband in his military career, how to keep growing my own character through all the changes, and the dos and don’ts of being associated with the military. It’s a whole different world walking into this after living a non-military associated life for 28 years. All in all, It’s been really good.
Q: Have questions for me?