I met my husband in the fall of 2014. I wasn’t looking for him by any means. We met randomly at a bar in Nashville where we were both visiting separately with friends for the weekend. In the getting to know each other part of our relationship, I learned he was in the military and had been for some time. Even though I grew up near a Navy base and my Dad and brother both served in the Navy for a short time, I knew very little bit about the military. I had watched tons of homecoming videos and cried accordingly, but I never dated anyone in the military or saw myself being a military spouse.
What were deployments like? Could I still have a career? Why are there some many damn acronyms and what do they all mean?
I learned many things over those first few years and I’m still learning now, but here are 5 of my biggest takeaways so far.
1. Take all of the cheesy tours and learn everything you can. The first duty station I ever lived at with my husband was Fort Benning, GA. It was a mere 4 hours from my hometown (which at the time seemed like such a drive, but now I’d give anything for that quick trip.). When I first moved in with J I looked to him for everything. Where to do the grocery shopping, where to grab lunch, I basically only went to places he had already been or suggested. That was just on the civilian side too! Going on post was a whole other world which I did not understand. I knew how to get to his office and back and that was it. He had mentioned a few times about a tour they gave on post to help acquaint new comers to the area. I was skeptical. I never did it. Now, I’m kicking myself. It took me months on my own to find the great gym, the helpful running trail, the MWR, dang even the commissary. I look back over those first few months and the time I wasted by simply just not wanting to look like a newbie, but I wish I had. Now, every time we go to a new post, I go! I take the tour, I join the groups, I sign up for the newsletters. It helps me stay connected, learn more about the place our lives revolve around, and often times leads to some fun activities. So, go! Take the tour, learn about your post and enjoy it.
2. Ask questions. I met a spouse one time who told me her and her husband didn’t really discuss the military at home. She didn’t know the name of his unit or what his job entailed. She kept insisting that it was just easier that way. She had a full time job and kids, but their life didn’t need to revolve around the army so she just didn’t see the need to talk about at home. Hey, if that worked for them, more power to ‘em! But, what I’ve found over my short time so far in the military is I want to learn, I want to know what my husband does, and it makes him feel good when I ask questions. Every time my husband uses an acronym I don’t know I ask him what it means. When he talks about a specific unit or training exercise I ask him to explain it. He gets pleasure out of teaching me something and I become a little more invested in this career we’ve given our lives to. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Learn as much as you can and share in a piece of your spouse’s life.
3. Learn to love and respect the unexpected. I will say this about the military, it keeps things interesting. My entire life I’ve been a planner. I plan nights out with the girls, vacations with the fam, and to-the-minute what my day looks like. The military is not conducive to this. You won’t know if you’ll be able to plan a summer getaway, your spouse may have to work late on your planned date night, and asking for time off is not something that comes easily in this line of work. But, with that being said, there may also be days your hubby will come home at lunch and surprise you with the rest of the afternoon off and you can almost always count on those federal holidays. So, learn to bend and flow, appreciate the time you do have together and plan as best as possible, but don’t sweat it if he gets called in. You’ll make that time up somewhere else, I promise.
4. Listen and support him. My husband is often asked if he’s going to be in the Army for life. His answer is always the same, “We’ll see.” There are days when he comes home with dreams of getting out, talks of putting my career first, and what those days would look like. Then, there are the days when he loves his job and we talk about the different paths we could go down and all of the different places we could still live on the Army’s dime. At first, this back and forth was hard for me. He would say something along the lines of, “I think I want to get out.” I would then spend a few hours looking for jobs he was qualified for in places I thought would be great to live, only to hear him say, “Oh, I’m not ready for this yet.” WTH! It took a few of these fights for me to realize he just wants me to listen. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not insinuating I don’t have a say in what I want, but for the time being I always tell him I’m here to support his career and one day it will be my turn and that’s MY decision. I have to remind myself that I entered into this relationship with my eyes wide open. I knew what the Army meant and hopefully you did too. Hopefully, the two of you made that decision together. If so, be there to listen. Listen to him complain about some other soldier, listen to him gripe about his day, but in the end when he says he love his job and wouldn’t change a thing, support that. Listen and support are a two-way street. We can’t expect them to listen and support us if we aren’t showing them what it looks like.
5. Make time and find yourself. This may not be the case for everyone, but when my relationship with my husband started to get serious I picked up my life and moved to be with him. I left behind my job and my family to be with a man I knew was the one. It was fantastic. We lived in the honeymoon phase where we wanted to spend every waking minute with each other. Our lives revolved around what the other wanted to do. As you can imagine this wasn’t sustainable. He had friends he wanted, needed to spend time with and I needed to find friends of my own, outside of spouses of other soldiers, that I could relate to. It probably took me until the last few months of my first duty station with him to realize this, but since our move I’ve motivated myself to take time to find my own self. I joined The Milspo Project, I volunteered, I made an extra effort to find like-minded women who encouraged me on my entrepreneurial path, challenged me to professionally grow, and felt like friends, not just spouses of people my husband worked with. What I’m saying is, find a life you love. You don’t have to be home every night when your husband walks through the door (if you like to then you go girl!). Meets some women, plan a girls night once a month, go grab wine with the woman you’ve been chatting with in your Facebook group. Make time and find you. It will make you happier as a human and that’s good for everyone!