Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Military Relationships: 10 Things to Consider

Many will say ‘you know what you’re signing up for’ when you marry someone who is in the Military.  I don’t think that statement could be further from the truth, the fact of the matter is, you may have an idea or fantasy about what life will be like, but until you are living it nothing can prepare you for the ups and the downs and the uncertainty that military life can bring.  For any of you reading this who are new to military life there are a few things I have learnt that  I’d like to share with you.

Your Career:  As you begin your new life as a spouse within the military it’s likely your career will be put on hold.  Unless you’re happy to stay where your job is and be away from your spouse, frequent moves and deployments can mean that our careers as wives can and will take a hit, especially if you have children to look after.  I retrained as a therapist so I could work from home or mobile and take it wherever we were located.   I found with so many women on camp it was an easy way of meeting new people as well as earning a bit of extra money.  Perhaps a new lifestyle could mean a new career for you, even if it’s only temporary. 
The ‘D’ Word:  Deployment.  The dreaded ‘D’ word that darkens all of our doors.  As a new wife it can be a scary and daunting thought, your husband being deployed for months at a time.  The truth is, the first one is always the worst, and the thought of it is worse than the reality.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t easy being away from each other, but like any trying time you have to take each day as it comes.  Everyone deals with deployments differently, there is no right or wrong way.  It’s ok to have days where you cry or you’re angry, but even at your lowest moment, know that you will get through it and on reflection it won’t have been half as bad as you imagined.
Planning Ahead:  Planning ahead and the military, generally speaking, don’t go hand in hand.  By all means continue to make plans, but be aware that sometimes plans will need to be changed and usually with little warning.  Like any profession your spouse is entitled to annual leave, sometimes there can be a ban on leave or it may not be able to be booked a long time in advance.  You might decide that saving leave for holidays or really special occasions is best for you as a couple, being flexible when it comes to birthdays and anniversaries etc can be good, if nothing else it’ll prepare you for the possibility of him not being there or being called into work last minute.
Family Life:  I think it’s natural for women to wonder what family life would be like within the military.  I know I certainly did.  We married in 2014 and have had two children, at two different camps.  Both camps have been equally welcoming of family and extremely supportive of any appointments or last minute hospital visits that I have needed.  That being said, it is extremely different to civilian life, you need to consider and be prepared to go through pregnancy and maybe even labour without your spouse.  It’s also worth considering how you will feel if you have to raise a child/children on your own whilst your spouse is deployed.  Emelia was 4 months old when Brett went on his first out of area, it was extremely difficult at times, being a new mum, not having a clue what I was doing, then suddenly going it alone terrified me.  The reality was, I was absolutely fine and the experience gave my self confidence a massive boost.  The thought of doing it again now doesn’t phase me – even with a second baby in tow!
Friendships:  Making friends at a new camp can be a daunting prospect, however, having a network of good friends will make the ups and downs of military life easier to deal with. Facing frequent moves and separation from your spouse, it’s important to throw yourself into your new surroundings, even if you’re not an outgoing person. Push yourself, attend a coffee morning or other social event, it will be worth it.  Having friends in the same position as you, going through similar things that you are is priceless, it provides a huge amount of practical and emotional support, not just when it comes to dealing with the military but the highs and lows of your life as well. You become each other’s family and in my experience, friends you make within the military become friends for life.  Regardless of whether you move to different camps in the long run.
Attitude:  It look me a while to consider this to be a point.  It may seem a bit of a strange one, but whilst reflecting on my life as a military wife, it dawned on me, one of the most important aspects of being a military wife is attitude.  My attitude certainly isn’t positive all of the time and I am guilty of looking at a glass half empty in certain situations, however, when it comes to our life within the military and Brett’s career I’d like to think I am very much glass half full.  I have known and been in the company of wives who have such a negative attitude, to the point that spending time with them brings down everyone else’s mood and attitude.  Right or wrong, as a wife you set the tone for the atmosphere at home (most of the time) and I have learnt, staying optimistic means your husband and children will remain that way too.  Everyone has bad days, but it’s imperative that you don’t allow these days to cloud every other day.  There are so many fantastic opportunities that military life brings and some amazing benefits too.  If you focus on the positives you’ll soon realise they out weigh the bad by a mile!
Be ready to start over… and over:  Military life means moving around, a lot.  I know people who have moved house 2 or 3 times a year, on average most would move every 3 years although ours has varied between 18 months and 2.  You need to be prepared to move again as soon as you’re beginning to feel settled. The best piece of advice I could give you, as much as you may want to, do NOT decorate your house (if it is a married quarter) because the day your husband tells you it’s time to move again the panic sets in on how much there is to put back and whether it will pass the blessed march out.
Don’t compare yourself to other Military couples:  Every couple and every relationship is unique. I have seen a competitive nature amongst some military personnel and their spouses, particularly when it comes to rank.  Amongst wives it can be a case of who has it the worst, whose husband has been deployed longer, or was promoted quicker, or they’ve moved X amount of times and have been to however many places.  I would suggest such conversations are best avoided, failing that try not to enter into much of a discussion about it!
People will think you’re crazy – and they won’t understand:  There will be times when you want to rant about a situation, or just have a good cry.  Be prepared for the one person, who is always there ready with the “you signed up for this life” or “you knew what you were getting yourself into” comments, which will infuriate you like no ones business.  My best advice; acknowledge their opinion and swiftly move it from your memory.  There is no way anyone could really know what life will be like marrying someone in the military until you are living it, and it’s usually someone on the outside making such comments.  People aren’t being nasty or deliberately rude, they just don’t understand and that’s really not their fault.
Communication:  Something that is vital in any relationship.  Arguably even more so for families within the military.  I feel it’s extremely important for you to support your spouse and their military career, but it works both ways.  It is equally important that your spouse understands how much you need them and their support too.  If you have children they will have fears and at times find it difficult adjusting to moving house or deployments.  Talking openly about it and trying to look at the positives will help with any feelings of fear and/or insecurity.  When it comes to deployments communication is crucial.  When Brett was in the Falklands communication was limited, we quickly realised how precious internet and telephone time was and made the most of every minute. 
There are many things that you will learn when you enter the world of military life, a lot of it comes down to trial and error – for me at times it’s mostly error!  These points that I have detailed are the ones that stuck out to me the most.  They’re things I wish I had known before to help my understanding of military life and what it entails.  This lifestyle changes all the time and every family has a different experience but I hope this post will be somewhat useful.  Whether you’re in a new ‘military relationship’ or relatable if you’ve been in it for a while!
Original post 25th January 2017

No comments

Post a Comment