The Three Most Important Things Every Army Spouse Should Know
Any marriage is difficult with hurdles to overcome and divorce rates clearly illustrate how few people are up for the challenge of a long term commitment. As the wife of an active duty soldier in the United States Army for the last seven years, I’ve learned through experience that being an Army spouse requires a lot more patience and dedication than any other relationship. Yes, every marriage has its highs and lows, but military marriages face unique challenges that can take quite a toll.
The following are the three most important things I’ve learned as a military spouse that have helped me make my relationship successful. I have shared these tips with every new military spouse I meet and even young women who are in relationships with active duty military personnel and considering marriage.
The military is not exactly known for stability. In the Army, most soldiers are on an approximately three year rotation. This means roughly every three years you will be moved. You have very limited say in where you get assigned and can be pretty much anywhere in the United States, depending on MOS. And you aren’t limited to the U.S. as there are permanent bases in Germany and Italy. Of course there is also a possibility that spouses may not be able to move with the service member, such as tours in Korea.
Deployments to war zones seem to be slowing down as the War on Terror is drawing to a conclusion. However, there is always the chance of a new war breaking out somewhere. Let’s face it, people in this world are crazy and will not hesitate to use violence to get what they want. The United States military are men and women who have volunteered to protect not only their country but its allies and interests. This means deployments can come at any time.
It’s not just major events like relocation and deployments that you have to be prepared for. I can’t count how many times I made plans with my soldier just to have them cancelled at the last minute because he got assigned staff duty, a twenty-four hour shift. Or a field exercise comes up or he gets selected to go to a special school. My husband and I were together for seven years before we spent a Valentine’s Day together. Be prepared to celebrate holidays, birthdays and anniversaries early or late. Always remember, this is his job and it has to come first. These are thing neither one of you may like it but you have decided to spend your life with him and you have to support him, even through the parts of service you don’t like.
Remember Your Manners
You may be your own person, but when you are married to a soldier your actions will reflect on him. If you disrespect someone in his chain of command, he will pay the price. There is nothing wrong with complaining about someone to your husband or family, but when you are out it is always better to smile and keep your mouth shut. This is one situation where the adage “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” is a very helpful philosophy especially if the person that might be annoying you is an officer. As my husband has said, you don’t have to respect the man, but you have to respect the rank.
And it’s not just other soldiers you have to be pleasant to. You also have to play nice with other spouses. Keep in mind that within the ranks, military spouses don’t always have the best reputations. A lot of the other wives I’ve met and had to deal with have been very catty and acted like they never really got out of high school. Unfortunately, there are also quite a few who choose to see themselves as trophy wives who aren’t obligated to stay faithful to their husbands. I’m not saying they are all horrible. I am suggesting you keep yourself guarded until you know who you can trust before opening your mouth because it doesn’t take that much time for it to go from a secret between friends to gossip for everyone.
Spouses Are Not Necessary For The Mission
There is a joke that goes something like “if the Army wanted a soldier to have a spouse, the government would issue them one.” This is an unfortunate truth. The Army makes its decision and plans missions based on the immediate need of the Army. This is an organization that really doesn’t care about your birthday, your kids’ birthday or your anniversary. It isn’t personal, it’s business.
However, this has a tendency to put soldiers in positions they don’t like. They have to miss the birthday, anniversary or opening presents Christmas morning. Just remember when your soldier has to abruptly you change plans, he’s probably not happy about it either. This is where adaptability is vital. Don’t be mad at him for having to do his job. Smile and offer to adjust the plans or plan something special for when he will be there and through it all be as understanding as possible. There are a lot of women who feel that the Army tries to break up marriages but that is not true.
As I’ve said, the military requires special sacrifices and marriages can often bare the heaviest toll. The positives – housing, health care, a dependable paycheck – are offset by the negatives – unexpected absences, relocations, stresses that aren’t found anywhere else. When all is said and done, being an Army wife is a way of life, just like being a soldier, and it will be what you make it. If you make it a positive experience, you will love everything the Army has to offer spouses. It takes a strong woman to make an Army marriage work, but it’s important to remember that while it is hard it’s not impossible.