7 MilSpouse Myths Busted!
Television, movies and an onslaught of viral videos and memes have created an almost mythical concept of military life. If your conversations with friends back home or civilian co-workers ever leave you shaking your head in disbelief, you might have encountered one of these seven military spouse myths.
- Myth: The Gender Gap
Thanks to years of movies featuring steel-jawed heroes and their adoring love interests, our modern military is plagued by the assumption that the military marriage is made up of a male service member and female spouse. Fortunately, the military is benefitting from ever-broadening diversity. Currently, almost 15% of active duty service members are women. Male or female, with same or opposite sex spouses, we are all juggling deployments, training and moves.
- Myth: The Stay-at-Home Mom
Linked to assumptions of military marriage is the idea that all military spouses are stay-at-home moms. More and more milspouses are choosing to continue their careers, which has brought the issue of spouse un- and underemployment to greater visibility. It is clear that a professional career, going back to school or owning your own business in no way diminishes your ability to support your service member spouse.
- Myth: Milspouses Are Limited to “Portable” Careers
As diverse as the military community has become, why would we think spouses are limited to the so-called “portable” careers? Focused largely on the childcare, education, health and customer service sectors, portable careers are those that are easily found around military installations. But, they are also heavily tilted toward entry level and part-time positions.
The military spouse community includes computer programmers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, a host of professionals offering remote work and more! Laurie Harrison, a Navy spouse of 13 years, recommends that spouses “use six degrees of separation, new duty station city Facebook pages and generic job search sites. In my 13 years of teaching, I have always found a job regardless of location!”
- Myth: All FRGs Do Is Hold Bake Sales and Gossip
FRGs (family readiness groups) and other official family support organizations get a bad rap. Online and in countless verbal warnings, new service members and their spouses are cautioned about the pitfalls of getting involved.
The reality is that the value of these volunteer-driven groups will be determined largely by the people who choose to be active in them. Like any other group of people, there are some that are more productive than others. If your unit doesn’t have a functioning family support group or is not serving a part of the unit’s family members, consider volunteering to address that need, before you put the already serving volunteers on blast.
- Myth: Military Spouses and Rank
If there has to be one dominant milspouse myth, it is the story of a spouse who “wears her service member’s rank.” This spouse believes that he or she is owed a level of deference by other service members or spouses. Facebook abounds with stories of spouses demanding to be saluted and other acts ranging from misguided to the ridiculous.
I can’t say that this myth is entirely without merit. We’ve all known someone – whether part of the military community or not – who expected to be treated better than those around them. I can confidently say, though, that this military spouse is a definite minority.
- Myth: A Higher Divorce Rate
Military marriage is hard. We deal with challenges that put tremendous stress on relationships. This seems to have created the public perception that military marriages are at a higher risk of divorce than the average couple.
While the numbers are a bit difficult to assess because of how marriage and divorce rates are tracked, the evidence we do have is that the rate of military divorce is decreasing. With a divorce rate of 3 percent across officer and enlisted ranks in 2015, military divorce is at the lowest rate, since 2001 according to Military.com. Civilian data is collected in a significantly different manner. While this makes direct comparison impossible, the data points to military divorce rates being slightly lower than the civilian population.
- Myth: You Knew What You Were Signing Up For
This is my favorite milspouse myth. We all have days when military life is tough. Leaving friends & family, separation from our spouse, kids struggling with another move, fighting the Tricare bureaucracy. It’s perfectly understandable to have days when you are completely over military life. Unfortunately, some people respond to your struggle by admonishing that you “knew what you were getting into.”
Maybe it’s just me, but I certainly did not know what marrying my soldier would entail. My 23-year-old self simply couldn’t imagine the after-effects of an IED-related TBI that included memory loss, difficulty with focus, personality changes and anxiety. That twenty-something never considered the emotional upheaval of sitting at home during the second Fort Hood shooting waiting to see if her husband would walk through the door. I had no idea what it felt like to live in eight homes in 11 years. I had never experienced anything like the relief of finally putting my arms around him, after a year in a combat zone. There is only one way to fully understand the highs and lows of loving someone who serves their country – you have to live it.
Convincing people their long-held beliefs about military life just aren’t true might be frustrating at times. It might leave you feeling misunderstood now and then. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to tell our stories. Stories that are often stranger than fiction, but so much more rewarding!
About the blogger
Kristen is an Army wife since 2006, herding her 8-year-old son, two dogs and one horse through military life. When she’s not wrangling the Tricare appointment line or building communities online in her role as a digital media strategist, she listens to podcasts, spends an hour longer than she said she would at the barn and Googles the stuff her science-minded kiddo talks about. She celebrates all those spouses creating their own definition of military spouse success at White Gloves, Optional and shares her own trial-and-error attempts at balancing home, work & all that other stuff, too!