Marrying Into the Military
The hard part is behind you. You’ve found your partner, the perfect person to navigate the twists and turns of a life well lived. There’s just one thing. Marrying your love comes along with a third wheel – the military. Training, deployments, PCS moves and a whole new language is all part of the deal when you marry a service member.
Let’s Talk Stereotypes
Between Lifetime’s Army Wives and war movies, the “military wife” stereotype is alive and well in American pop culture. This usually means a 20-something woman, bravely holding things together at home as she sends her man off to war.
There’s some truth to that. But it neglects the incredible diversity of the military community. There are people from all walks of life, with a mind-blowing array of goals, traditions, careers and talents that will now become your neighbors.
Welcome to the Military Family
Once your marriage certificate is signed and official, there are still a few steps that need to happen for the Department of Defense to recognize the status change. Your service member will need to submit DD Form 1172 to register you in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), the system that enables you to get a military ID card, access medical benefits and gain entrance to military installations. (To view Form 1172 and instructions for completion, click here.)
Beyond that, the degree to which you plug into the military community is completely up to you. Bear with me a moment, while I offer a small bit of advice. For the next stretch, whether it is a matter of months until your spouse separates or 20 years, the DoD will decide when you are together, where you live, when you can take vacations, and a thousand other details of your life.
You can fight the military’s hold on your life. Or, you can inform yourself about the programs, terminology, resources and tools, choosing the ones that apply to you. You don’t have to buy into the stereotypes to plug into the tools intended to make this transition smoother.
Build a Village
There are so many wonderful opportunities ahead of you, but there are also plenty of challenges. Murphy’s Law for military families is that, without fail, things will happen at the most inconvenient possible times, like illness or car trouble while your service member is away. This is a tough road to travel alone on assignments that will probably take you far away from family and friends. A key military spouse survival skill is learning to build your village.
Whether you connect with new friends at the gym, develop a support system through your church, volunteer on base to connect with other spouses or find another channel through your individual interests, it all comes down to building a network of people who will support you through the tough days.
Military spouse employment has become an increasingly visible aspect of the military community, over the last several years. If you are concerned about the portability of your career through future military moves, get connected now.
Connect with career-focused resources:
PCS Like a Pro
Marriage + a military move? You’re diving right into military life! The good news is that thousands of military families PCS every year. Organizations and individuals have developed a range of tools that are available to help you navigate your first PCS. As Rebecca said at MilitaryOneClick, “Ask tons of questions. Tons. Even stupid ones.”
You can grab a PCS Checklist from Blue Star Families to get yourself started.
Hold On To You
I love my military community and the opportunities offered to my family, as part of my husband’s military service. But, through the years, I’ve found that the military spouses I most admire, the ones who manage to do more than survive the challenges, hold on to their passions. It is tempting to put your plans on hold until Uncle Sam isn’t dictating where you live and when you move. Don’t wait. I’ve learned to write my plans in pencil so they can flex, but they still need to happen.
Want to go school? It’s possible. Want to pursue your career goals? It might require some creativity and flexibility, but it can be done. Want to volunteer for a cause that is dear to you? The communities around our military installations will treasure what you bring to the table. Military family life is not about forcing everyone into one single mold of the ideal military family (although sometimes it feels like they try). Your individuality, the unique strengths and perspective you bring are vital parts of the strength of our military community as a whole.
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!