Handsome and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary last week. Hooray us! Guess what we did to celebrate… we bought a new mattress and went out to lunch. Wild and crazy here, folks.
But instead of using this post to go on about our anniversary, I’d like to take a moment to use my wedded experience to help someone else. This is an open letter to my husband’s cousin’s wife, Samantha…
I know we’ve only met once, maybe twice? But you have been on my heart lately. 11 years ago I was in your exact shoes – a young bride fresh off the aisle blinking at an uncertain future as a military spouse. I had heard the statistics about the high rate of military divorces, the rampant unfaithfulness overseas, and the stressful life that deployments create. Maybe you have too. Honestly, I was nervous. Maybe you are too.
This advice is entirely unsolicited, I know. But here are a few things I wish someone would have told my 21-year-old self about thriving as a military wife…
Be Nate’s biggest fan. – this might seem incredibly obvious and as newlyweds, not difficult. But supporting his career goals may not always be easy. It may require some sacrifices on your part. If he wants to try out for a tough job or join a dangerous mission, you’re best to send him off with a smile. The absolute worst year of our marriage was the one year that Handsome was not doing the job he loved. He may have been home more and in less danger, but he was miserable. Regardless of how good your relationship is, it will suffer if he doesn’t feel fulfillment in his work life. And you don’t want him to someday resent you for holding him back from his potential.
Moving away can be the best thing ever. – seriously! Leaving your family, friends, and the only world you’ve known can be down right frightening. Instead of fear, view the move as a grand adventure. You are lucky to begin your marriage outside the direct influences of family and in-laws. Not that they won’t have good advice, but moving to a new place where it’s just you and Nate quickly builds an “us against the world” mentality and marital fortitude, if you let it. Make a point of researching and exploring unique things about your new locale. Be brave enough to do it alone if need be, because you may wait a long time (or miss out entirely!) if you only do things together. Chances are you won’t be there long, so exploit the fact that you get to see the world on the government’s dime!
Grow yourself. – don’t involve your whole life around his career, do something for yourself. This is your adventure too! Some of the most bitter spouses I’ve met are those whose entire existence and self worth revolves around their husband’s job. Yes, the military will dictate much of how and when you do things, but don’t let it consume you. Be proud of Nate, without becoming so engrossed in his job that you have no identity of your own. Find a hobby, a school program, a job or a volunteer opportunity to get yourself out of the house. This will grow your confidence and give you reasons to be busy when he’s deployed. Keeping a full calendar does wonders for your sanity while he’s away.
Make friends both in and outside the military bubble. – you will need both. Only other wives who are married to the same type of men will be able to understand your fears or joys that are specific to a military life. They know the lingo, the acronyms, the places with the best military discounts, and the tricks to working the system. They are pros at rallying spirits, planning girls nights when the boys are gone, and coming over when all you need is a hug. Avoid the gossip and rumors that spread quickly through commands… the information is rarely reliable. Friends who live outside the military influence are crucial too. Conversations not centered around military stuff are refreshing. They are good at distracting you from lonely pity-parties and helping you think outside the box of military routine. When you have no family close by, these people will become your family – invest your time and heart wisely.
Learn to do it yourself. – reset the electrical breakers, pay the bills, mow the grass, inflate your car tires, and know your way around a toolbox. Make YouTube and Google your best friends. It’s much sexier to have installed the ceiling fan yourself than to whine about Nate not being home to do it for you!
Don’t have kids right away. – clearly this is a personal choice. But with all the new changes your life will endure in the next year, it’s advisable not to throw more responsibility (and stress) into the mix. Consider yourself blessed to have found each other so young! You will never regret time spent investing in your marriage and enjoying the freedoms of child-less adventures. Those memories will be part of a solid foundation that you will harken back to when you’re deep in the dirty diaper trenches.
Stay flexible. – being and staying married to a military man requires an extra helping of flexibility. Things change quick and often, so be ready to patiently roll with the tide. Make plans, but don’t get bent out of shape if those plans need frequent altering.
There is a quirky saying that “if the military wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one.” Defeat this attitude by being Nate’s greatest asset. The time you spend apart can keep your marriage fresh and exciting… there’s nothing quite like homecoming night! ;)
p.s. your in-laws have my info… I always have time to chat with a fellow military wife!