“By the time I switched to the Reserves, I had been married for five years and had only spent 3 months living with my wife.”
A soldier, now back in active duty, shared his story with me. I sat astonished, probably shaking my head a little thinking, “I don’t know how they were able to do that!” Fourteen other spouses were in the room, only one other woman seemed surprised. When I shared the story with Chris, he just nodded.
“Babe, isn’t that crazy?” I inquired. “Honestly no. Don’t get me wrong, it’s unfortunate, but that is a very common story… it’s Army life.”
This is what I know to be true so far two months into military & marriage:
1- The more flexible you are, the easier the change will be. When in the military, anything is possible at any time. There are preferences and “supposed to’s” but, there is always a possibility of change. Best to be optimistic and flexible or fear, worry and bitterness will overtake you.
2- Everyone in the military are in similar boats if not the same one, yet most feel alone. This comment may seem hasty, but, every single spouse I have talked with has nodded and resonated with a feeling of loneliness at some point in time. Being vulnerable is hard. Trusting people is scary and loving people can hurt, especially when you know, most likely either you or them will PCS (move) within the next two years. I haven’t overcome this yet, but I am setting up coffee hang outs, activities and outings to just be with people and share life; even if it is only for a few months.
3- The less the soldier has to worry about their spouse, the better they do on the mission. Whether deployed or at home, this applies. The Army created a structure known as the FRG (Family Readiness Group) to help be a support to families and soldiers at all times, but especially during deployments. While at home, Chris has long work days, sometimes 14 hours straight. I have noticed that he works better, comes home happier and more relaxed, knowing that I am not going to give him a hard time about working such long hours. This wasn’t easy, but I learned a trick and I try to apply it to everything I can… I changed my expectations.
4-Be willing to change your expectations. The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie O’Martin is one of the best books I have found for a wife. Just begin it, you will see why. O’Martin shares a story about her frustration with her husband never being home for dinner. She changed her expectations so that when he was home, it was a pleasant surprise and she was not disappointed if he didn’t make it home in time. Three weeks into our marriage, Chris took Command of a company. Meaning, his average work days range from 11- 14 hours. After several frustrated evenings, I assessed and changed my expectations about dinner, his arrival time home and our time together once he got home. Both of our evenings together are so much easier and better.
5- The military is a massive entity that is trying to help families, but families must help themselves There are so many classes and resources available to the families that it is honestly overwhelming. The systems are not user-friendly and everything is government-run, so customer service only goes so far. However, believing the best, I do think the military is trying to help families in the best way possible, but it has to be a two – way street. I have met only a small handful of spouses that have spoken highly about Ft. Hood or posts in general. The general response “There’s nothing to do here. It’s so boring. I hate it.” I can see easily how this can set in. If I’m honest, I have already fought many emotional moments that I know can lead to feeling that way. I’m working daily to overcome it. Be active in military classes, in Meet Up groups, in a church community, in a book club, but don’t do nothing.
The transition has been harder than I anticipated, but when I meet soldiers and spouses whom have walked multiple deployment and much more, yet still are committed to each other and supportive of the Army as an entity, I have hope. My life, marriage and our journey will look completely different from what any kind of “normal” looks like to the outside world. However, we are here for a reason and I believe this is going to be an amazing adventure, one day at a time!