Finding yourself isn’t just for teenagers and young twentysomethings anymore. As a military spouse, a majority of your day-to-day life is
often spent catering to the needs of your soldier: planning or attending
events, preparing meals, doing laundry or playing the role of two parents while
he or she works long hours. Putting it on paper like that makes it look like a
1950s version of marriage; and for many couples, it is that way. And prior to falling in love with and marrying a soldier, no Tinker Bell type fairy or Jiminy Cricket comes to your ear to ask you if you can really handle military life—the deployments, the paperwork, the uncertainty, the PCSs, the time away from family.
Unless you were the child of a military family, becoming
part of the chaotic, sometimes confusing lifestyle can be overwhelming. Many
spouses, myself included, go through bouts of confusion, high stress and
sometimes—extreme annoyance or frustration with the military’s method of
managing different situations. Spending days on the phone to get one piece of
paper sorted out? Totally normal. It is easy to lose your sense of self and
quickly become "just another Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine wife" and start
blending into the background, often leading to depression, substance abuse and an
increasing divorce rate.
Don’t do it. Don’t let it happen.
While knowing yourself and having a strong sense of your
identity as an individual won't make the hard parts of military life disappear,
it will make them easier to navigate. If you don’t know who you are when your
spouse is in garrison, what will you do once he is deployed, in training or
otherwise unavailable? While lounging
around and eating bonbons is fine some of the time, there are often kids to
care for and lives to lead. Not everyone will want to dive into a career, but
finding interests outside of your marriage and seeking strength from other
experiences will help give spouses a sense of self beyond the roles of wife and
Life as a military spouse is more about creating the life you dream of than waiting for it to fall in your lap.
Some spouses have launched successful businesses, built
careers in areas that are not office-specific, like journalism,
sales, consulting, design and other service professions. Others still launch
and manage small product businesses through Etsy and other craft sites.
Blogging has created a whole new industry for home-based writers to
communicate with businesses, keep in touch with family, share experiences and
If a career path isn’t a good fit, a simple inventory of
interests can help find activities and passions as well. Take art classes, volunteer on post, or with organizations in
your local community or even go back to school. Many military spouses—particularly of enlisted soldiers—have not attended or finished college; and
there are so many different opportunities for military families to complete
courses online or in increments at posts’ education centers. Even quality
graduate degrees are getting easier to find and complete online, or while
stationed near universities. There are great resources in the education center
and across the Internet for those looking to take advantage. There are even
tuition incentives for military spouses like the use of GI bills, special
scholarships and discounted fees.
as a military spouse is more about creating the life you dream of than waiting
for it to fall in your lap. There are so many different resources at military
installations that almost any aspiration is possible. Getting started is the
hardest part, so talk to friends and don’t hesitate to reach out to other
military spouses to learn about their experiences. Even across service branches
(and occasionally ranks) spouses can provide a great deal of insight into
creating or leveraging interests into careers, long-term projects or even just a fun experience.