When I meet another military spouse, it doesn’t matter where they are from, what stage they are in life, whether or not they have children, or how old they are. There is an instant connection. There is plenty to talk about military life that will probably lead into other topics, into you learning that you had more in common than you thought. Even if we don’t become BFFs, we have that connection, a solidarity. We will probably understand each other better than most other people in our lives.
And as I become more and more “seasoned,” as we like to say in the military, I realize that I have plenty of my own advice to give out. A lot of that advice comes from experience, but a lot of it also comes from looking to other spouses for advice.
Every single military spouse I’ve ever met has been through some hard things. They all have their own ways of making things work and I’m always eager to learn from them. So, I am always asking them for advice. Here are some of the best things I’ve ever been told.
1. Look to find more positives than negatives.
It’s easy for me to say this because I’ve lived in great places and my husband has *almost* always had a job he’s liked. We have both been quite fortunate. But having that mindset has made it a lot easier for me to get through moves, new transitions, adjusting to things, and dealing with things like a moldy shipment or a flood while Nick is out to sea.
When you are actively looking for the positives, your entire outlook changes. The way you experience the world changes. You can deal with situations a lot easier, I think.
2. Don’t change who you are.
There are plenty of stereotypes about military spouses. But you know what? We are all so different. Just like anywhere else. You don’t have to be that spouse that is super involved and volunteering for every event. But if you want to, that’s awesome. I find myself somewhere in the middle. I love military life and I want to be involved, but I also need space from the military to do my own thing.
The two best things that I ever did for myself were to get a job that has nothing to do with military life and to volunteer at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society. So I won’t say that you should get super involved with the military or stay away from it. You do you.
3. Have friends who are military spouses and friends who aren’t.
Having friends who are military spouses has helped me tremendously. My friends who are military spouses not only understand exactly what I am going through, but they also are usually free on Friday and Saturday nights when our husbands are all out to sea or working long hours. Being able to vent to them and to get all of this advice from them is a gift. And let’s be practical here, they also will be the ones to help out when you need it, especially if you are stationed far from home. So, make sure you get out there and make friend wherever you are stationed.
But you also need to stay rooted and keep your friends from home. They might not understand what you’re going through or what any of those acronyms mean, but the friends you grew up with or went to college with are just as eager to help. Don’t lose touch with them, no matter where the military takes you. It’s been a lot of hard work for me to maintain those friendships and it’s so worth it.
4. Spouses are separate from service members.
This probably seems obvious to anyone who is not in the military, because it is. But I’ve noticed that we tend to lump couples together. Someone from Nick’s boat once told me that no one will remember my name, I’m “Nick’s Wife.” That really made me mad, and I will never forget it! Learn my name like I learn yours.
I don’t want a certain expectation placed on me because of my husband’s job, and I don’t want that for anyone else.
I’ll never judge a spouse for their husband’s work, and I don’t want anyone to judge me based on what they think about Nick. If a spouse doesn’t like Nick because Nick doesn’t get along with their husband, I wouldn’t want that person to hold anything against me.
I also don’t want any credit for what Nick does. Nick is in the military — I’m a civilian who writes about Hawaii.
5. Don’t compare.
Don’t compare yourself to another military spouse. Don’t compare yourself to your civilian friends. Don’t compare your spouse’s job to your friend’s spouse’s job. Don’t compare how hard you have it to how hard your spouse has it. Envy is the thief of joy, and when you start comparing yourself to everyone else, it’s hard to focus on the positive things you have going on.
We all have our own struggles. When you compare them or try to figure out who has it harder, you miss out on the camaraderie that you could be having.
6. Do your own thing.
I don’t always know my husband’s schedule in advance so I have to plan to do a lot of things on my own. I don’t know if he’s going to have to work on a Saturday so I just make my own plans. If he can come, that’s a bonus. If he can’t, at least I’m not sitting at home waiting for him.
I don’t want to miss out on something because I’m waiting on him. And the idea of me sitting at home waiting for him makes Nick feel bad. He’s happier knowing that I am able to do my own thing and live my own life – and so am I.
7. Ask for help when you need it.
People have flat out told me this, but they have also shown it to me over and over again. Not only are military spouses built-in friends, but they are also always there for you when you need it, and they love helping out other spouses.
8. Remember that you signed up for this. You can do it.
I wrote an entire post about this motto here. Basically, it’s a way to remind yourself that you signed up for this life because you know you can do it. And that applies to anything you sign up for – having kids, a new job, going to school. And if something’s not working, it’s never too late to make a change.
What are some of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever gotten about military life?