Transitioning from civilian life to military life can be a complete change for a person. Whether you are a man or woman who recently married someone in the military, you can expect the same hurdles and challenges that come with transitioning to your new life. Although these hurdles may seem extremely painful and confusing, there will always be rewards in the end. It takes a lot of courage and inner strength to become a military spouse, so don’t sell yourself short. With time and a lot of patience, you will learn the patterns, structures, and beauty in the lifestyle.
Learn to Say Goodbye to Friends and Family, But Not Forever
One of the hardest things you’ll ever do is say goodbye to your family and friends when your spouse gets their first duty station and the moving trucks arrive at your front door. This PCS (permanent change of station), is your first official move. When they take you to the airport, there will be many hugs and tears. Shortly after, you may feel scared and instantly regret the decision. It is important to remember that you will be with the one you love in a safe environment, and your friends and family will only be a phone call away. Some places you will be sent will only be a short flight or drive from your hometown, and others can be on the opposite side of the world. Time changes make communication difficult, but it can be done.
Plans Change, and You Have to be Flexible
In military life, nothing is certain. One day, your spouse could work a 12 hour shift and the next only six hours. Their schedules seem to obnoxiously always change, sometimes multiple times a month. One week they will be working a night shift, and the next week they will be on day shifts. In only a days’ notice, your husband or wife will be packing their bags and going on a trip for a few weeks. If you make solid traveling plans or appointments, keep in your mind that things may change in an instant. You will learn over time to become more accepting that this is part of the package deal. It is definitely frustrating at first, but becoming patient with everything is one of the first steps to cope with military life.
Deployments Do, and Will, Happen
This is the hardest topic to cover, and the hardest goodbye. We all have that date marked on our calendar. That day. That day that you will feel out of control. Your emotions will be everywhere. You try to look away from it, but days keep passing and the day comes closer and closer. Depending on what branch your spouse is in, deployments can be anywhere from three months to a year, and potentially longer. Whatever you do, don’t write down the date he/she will return because it is always unknown. And if they don’t make it back that day and you discover they have to stay an extra month, you can feel crushed. You will be able to talk to your spouse on their deployment, and you will be able to see their face. These “Skype dates,” as we like to call them, will be the most exciting part of your day, and will help you push through it all. Don’t stay in the house. Wherever you may be, get out and explore. Keep busy with friends and find a job, or plan a trip home while they are gone. This seems to always make the time fly by.
Don’t Seclude Yourself
Staying in your home and never reaching out will only isolate you and make you feel incredibly lonely. Your spouse works long hours, and when they come home they just want to eat and sleep. Once again, you are alone. If you are naturally an introvert and shy when it comes to meeting new people, it is almost guaranteed that there is a Facebook group for military spouse support in your area. If you are social and ready to mingle, get out there and start making friends. Neighbors and others in your neighborhood will be there for you in your roughest times. Being in the military is much like being in a big family. You are all in the same boat and working through every day with new bumps in the road.
Don’t Expect to Live in a Fancy House
Base housing is difficult. When you first get married and start dreaming about your perfect home, lower your expectations. Many military bases all over the world have beautiful homes and a lot of space, but these are for the bigger families. Don’t be surprised if you and your spouse share a wall in a duplex or multiplex with your neighbors, and you only have one bathroom in your house. Everywhere is different, but being realistic with the potentially cramped and bland house you get is better than getting your hopes up.
Learn to Live with Family and Friends Always Asking Questions
Quite honestly, it can become very frustrating when you’re constantly being badgered by your family and friends back home. You will be asked countless times when you are coming home, where you will be next, when will you find out where you’re going next, and when does your spouse get home. You try to be polite, but in your mind you just want to shout “I DON’T KNOW!” Kindly explain to your friends that there is no set schedule for anything. They are curious and they don’t know how the military functions, and that’s okay.
There Will Be Toxic People
One of the hardest things to deal with when you become a military spouse is not only finding genuine friends, but finding ones that are not toxic to your life or marriage. Many military spouses can be vindictive and spread rumors, only because they are bored and have nothing better to do. It is easy to figure out who these people are. Drama doesn’t just follow them; it rides on their back. Figure out who is a genuinely caring friend or coworker, and dismiss the people who seem to not care much about you at all.
Learn the Traditions
On a military base, you will experience things that you’d never imagine on the outside world. Don’t be shocked when a random base siren makes your skin jump sometime midafternoon. Military balls and holiday parties in your spouse’s squadron happen very often, and can make you feel like you’re at home. On Air Force bases, be prepared to stop driving or stop walking and remain silent while the national anthem plays. After it ends, you can carry on. This happens every day. Early in the morning you’ll hear the trumpets sounding as the start of the duty day, and late at night you will hear “TAPS,” honoring the fallen. It will be weird at first, but you will get used to it over time, and really take a moment to enjoy the music.
You see people move all the time, and you’re ready for it and excited. But with a switch of duty stations after your spouse gets new orders, the stress sets in. If you live on base, you will have many housing inspections after all of your furniture and excess baggage has been packed up. Expect people in and out of your house all of the time, and having to throw away a lot of good food or pass it off to your neighbors. Once you are kicked out of your house (about a month before you leave), you will be relocated to a military hotel or temporary lodging quarters, which are sometimes very nice and other times not so pleasant. Expect to live out of a suitcase anywhere from one to three months. When you arrive at your next duty station, it can take months before you receive all of your belongings. Until then, you are loaned furniture that is not always the most comfortable or pretty.
There ARE Benefits!
Almost every restaurant and many retail stores offer military discounts. While traveling, you may receive the luxury of being put in first class with your spouse, just because they are in uniform. You will see the pride in your spouse’s eyes when someone shakes their hand and thanks them for their service, and congratulates you for being the backbone of one of the most difficult relationships. Some people will even go out of their way to pay for your meal if they see the uniform. Sometimes it is embarrassing to accept, or may make you feel uncomfortable, but know that there are people out there who respect the lifestyle you exist in.
It is hard, but fear not. You will learn that every day gets easier and easier, and that being a military spouse can be both rewarding and fulfilling. You are your spouse’s greatest support, and they need you as much as you need them. Learning together what military life is all about can be complicated at first, but in a few years you will be an expert. You can then guide the new spouses into the transition that you were once very unfamiliar with.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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