For any of you gals out there who are new to military life, or about to become a military bride, there are a few things every military wife should know. When I first married into the military, there were things I wish someone had told me. I’d like to share a few of those today, and keep in mind that this post is mainly geared for women who are about to become new military wives, or have just recently married a man in the military. Please read on to discover a few things every military wife should know!
1. Military Marriage Success Rates
One of the things every military wife should know is that military marriages DO work out. So many people are downers on marriages in the military, but I’m here to tell you it CAN be done. It takes work, yes, but any marriage requires that. Don’t bother yourself with statistics before getting married, that’s just planting a seed of doubt in your mind. But do stop and make sure that you do love this man enough to take this road with him. And determine from the start to make your marriage work!
2. The Importance of Respect and Support
Ask any man in the military what the number one thing he needs from his wife is, and I guarantee you the answer will be support and/or respect. Any job in the military takes dedication, loyalty, and can be very taxing on emotions and physical strength. Whether your husband is enlisted, an officer, or a reservist, he will need your support and respect for what he does in order to perform to his peak. Knowing that you take pride in him will give him that extra boost he desires to really shine!
3. Spouses Careers
Something every woman should know as they prepare to become a military wife is that your career may need to be and probably will end up on hold. If you are set on one path, and there’s no taking a detour for a bit, military life may not be for you. With frequent moves, deployments, and other factors of military life, your career might take a hit. My advice is to find something that’s flexible and portable! An online job, or something you can do from home, such as selling products for a company can be your new best friend. With so many women on base, it’s a great opportunity for you to bring in a lot of money, plus have fun hosting parties to promote your products, as well as meet new people! You can always pick your career back up down the road, but some women find that they do so well selling products from home that they make a career out of that instead!
4. The Truth about Deployments
The big “D” word, as some people refer to it, otherwise know as “deployment,” can be a scary thought for the new military wife. I’m not going to lie; even women who have gone through it multiple times usually don’t actually embrace it. BUT the truth about deployment is this: it’s not as hard as you might think it is! Deployments are like anything else in life, you have to take them one day at a time. Different people have different coping mechanisms, so don’t feel bad if your way of coping is to cry or be angry for a few days. Just know you WILL make it through, and it won’t be half as bad as you thought. I’ll touch on ways to deal with deployments later in this post, so stay tuned.
5. The Truth about Homecomings
Now that you know the truth about deployments, let me tell you the truth about homecomings! It’s not necessarily the peaches and cream most women imagine it to be. Homecomings can be a difficult adjustment, especially if your spouse has been on a demanding, stressful, or dangerous deployment. Some men need time to adjust to being back in a safe or relaxed environment, others bounce back just fine. And there can sometimes be a tension in marriage as you try to get back into the habit of doing things together, meshing your schedules to include each other, and not having so much “space” or “freedom” to yourself anymore. Give each other time to adjust and be patient no matter what. Don’t let this thought worry you, less than one percent of failed marriages in the military can be attributed to difficulty in returning from deployment.
6. Planning Ahead
Be aware that planning ahead will be difficult in the military. You can still go for it, but sometimes plans may be upset or you may need to change things. Military members can get leave, but they can’t put in for approval too far in advance. And of course, you want to save leave for things like holidays or vacations, so just keep in mind that it’s good to be flexible with birthday party plans and other things, or at least prepare for the fact that he might not be there if he is called into work.
7. Remaining Faithful to Your Spouse
During deployments especially, there is always a fear that one or the other spouse will not remain faithful. This door swings both ways; men have this fear as much as women do. The key here is to keep the doors of communication open. You need to talk to each other, and find out if there is anything you can mutually do as a couple to kick those fears out the door. And when your spouse is deployed, that’s an even bigger reason to work harder than ever at your marriage. Send frequent letters, care packages, pictures, emails, and take every phone call you get. Do what you can to let your spouse know you are still there, even from across the ocean.
8. Cutting Your Spouse Some Slack
As I may have mentioned before, military jobs are stressful. There’s a lot expected in work performance, presentation, attitude, physical appearance, punctuality, and training. That doesn’t even include deployments and TDYs; those are a whole different ballpark! Remember to cut your spouse some slack. Try to be understanding when he has a rough day. Understand that there will be times when the military will come before you; it’s not personal, it’s his job and he was trained that way. Be aware that there will be some things he may not be allowed to tell you or share with you for security reasons, and don’t take that personally.
9. Family Life and the Military
Many women wonder about family life in the military. My husband and I are expecting our first child, and so far it’s been my experience that the military welcomes family life. Be aware that it will be different from civilian life. You will need to be prepared to face the possibilities of going through childbirth or pregnancy alone. Are you ready to handle raising a child/children on your own for a little while? With older kids, you need to start prepping them for deployments just like you prep yourself. There are lots of family friendly activities on most military installments, and rest assured that your children’s medical bills will always be covered as long as your spouse is military. You will also have close access to a school, as well as support from other moms in the area.
10. Making Friends
I don’t think I can stress the importance of this tip quite enough! Making friends will be one of the easiest ways to cope and deal with military life. When dealing with frequent moves, you have to able to jump in there fast and adjust to new surroundings. Even if you aren’t outgoing, make yourself reach out! Having friends will get you moral support, and help you to be in the know about what’s going on in your new area, plus give you someone to go to for advice on military related things.
11. How to Cope with Deployments
Coping with deployments isn’t easy, but it’s by far possible. First of all comes your mindset. You need to accept what’s coming, and grieve it out before departure day. If you’re a soggy mess the day he leaves, it may be harder for him. Be positive, this deployment won’t last forever! Surround yourself with positive people and encouraging, supportive friends. Get a job, take up a new hobby, start some classes up. Keep yourself busy to make the time go faster. If you have children, don’t forget about their feelings. Do things with them, and listen to their fears or loneliness issues when dad is gone. Send your husband goodies in the mail often. Keep a bright attitude throughout deployment, but don’t hold it all in forever. There will be times to vent and let it out, make sure you allow this to happen because it will be necessary.
12. Knowing the Lingo
An important tip for life in the military is to learn the lingo so you know what your husband is talking about when he mentions his LES or tells you he is going TDY. There are abbreviations for almost everything in the military, ask him to write them down for you or go online to learn what the different abbreviations are for.
13. Finding out Who Can Help
Military life has lots of responsibilities that it puts on a military wife. She must be strong and self-sufficient at all times, but especially during deployments. Know who is available for help. Your husband can give you a list of people to contact in the case of an emergency, and also people who can just be there to assist you with things. Make sure you know the name and contact number of your sponsor when your spouse is deployed or TDY. There are scores of financial programs, medical assistance, and organizations on base that are specifically in place to help out family members of deployed personnel. Other places to turn to for help will include key spouses for your squadron, your squadron’s commander’s wife, and your husband’s immediate boss and/or supervisor.
14. Your Rights and Benefits
It’s crucial to know your rights and benefits being a military spouse. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but there are certain acts that can protect you from having legal action taken against you involving civil matters when your family or your spouse is overseas. There are also programs in place to help military spouses receive aid with education. Your military I.D. card gets you access to the base commissary and BX (or PX). You have complete health coverage and partial dental coverage. Most stores offer a discount when you present your military I.D card. These are just a few of the rights and benefits a military spouse gets.
15. Missing Milestones
One part of military life to really prep yourself for is the milestones that may (and probably will) be missed. Your husband will more than likely miss birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, special events, and more. There are many ways to work around this. One way is to Skype him in! Skype is a great way for keeping in contact with deployed members of the family. Other things you can do include taking pictures and videos for him to watch later. My personal favorite idea is to celebrate ahead of time. My sister in law and her husband had Christmas in July since he would be leaving shortly after!
16. Death and PTSD
No one ever wants to think about these harsh realities, but they are part of military life, and an ugly part for sure. Just know that any deployment raises the risks of death, injury, or PTSD. Be optimistic, but if this happens with your loved one, be supportive, understanding, and know who can be there for YOUR support and help in extreme cases or death.
17. Your Attitude
Probably one of the most important things about being a military wife boils down to your attitude. I’ve known and been around women with such bad attitudes that they bring down everyone who is around them, all the time. As a wife, you set the tone for your home. If you stay optimistic, chances are your husband and children will too. Everyone has bad days, but don’t be a downer constantly. Military life brings difficulties, but it brings lots of opportunity, amazing chances, and some great benefits as well. Look for the good, and you will find it outweighs the bad!
18. Helpful Tips
Here are a few to-the-point tips on military life. Memorize your husband’s social security number; you will need it more than you might think. PDA is prohibited when your husband is in uniform, so kissing or holding hands in public is a no-no. Always walk on his left side so his right arm is free to salute if necessary. Know different ranks and their symbols for your husband’s military branch. You should refer to any of your husband’s superiors as Sir (or by their rank). Always follow base rules, especially ones that pertain to driving. If you get in trouble for anything, it’s a mark against your husband. Know guidelines for dressing for formal military events and always dress appropriately. Take good care of your military I.D and never, ever post, email, text or snail mail a picture of it. Never mention anything pertaining to military training, exercises, or deployments including a date on social media. Learn about base pay and special allowances to be aware of how much your husband will receive each paycheck. Drive around base to familiarize yourself with the layout. This part can be tricky at first, all building look alike on a government installment!
Communication is key is any marriage or family situation, but sometimes more so in military families. It IS important that the wife be there for her husband, but it works both ways. Make sure your husband understands that you need him to be there for you too. And if you have children, don’t leave them out. They will have fears, concerns, and possible difficulties adjusting to moving or deployments. Communication will go to a whole new level when that happens. On deployments, keeping in touch is so crucial for your marriage. There are many different ways to do this, depending on where your husband will be located, and Internet access. There are many different apps that now allow for texting overseas, as well as different websites you can use to chat or IM. Video chatting or Skype is still a great way to keep in touch, as are phone calls when possible.
20. Be Flexible
Last but not least, my final tip is to be flexible. This can be HARD, especially when you’re a planner, like me. Military life may require you to drop everything and move with a moment’s notice. You may have to reschedule an entire day or even a whole vacation due to your husband's work schedule or some other unforeseen emergency. Things will not always work out; when that happens, there’s another route so take it with a smile. If you can’t learn to do this, your life in the military will be miserable and you will never enjoy yourself. Be flexible for your benefit as well as your family’s benefit!
To be honest, these few thoughts are just the tip of the iceberg. Many things you will need to learn on your own by trial and error. And of course there is always room to learn more, even the most seasoned military wives will tell you this. I wish you luck as you start a new chapter of your life, and please do not hesitate to comment below with any questions, or tips of your own that you may have!