Secrets of the Thriving Military Spouse
As we wrestle tired children into the car, dash into the store for a few forgotten things or continue the search for that perfect job, the idea of thriving as a military spouse feels like a pipe dream.
So how do they do it, these mythical creatures who seem to have it all together?
They can’t do it all
Although everything may look perfectly squared away, remember that you are seeing the highlight reel. Sarah, creator of ServantMama.com, says that like swimming ducks “we may look calm and collected on the surface, but underneath we’re paddling like crazy.”
We all have the same 24 hours in a day, so knowing what to say “no” to is a vital part of making it work. Another spouse going for a run or eating dinner at the table may feel like a totally together day for you, but might be a must-have in their home. We each make choices based on our priorities
They embrace their strengths
There was a point, early in my marriage, where I tried to force myself into this image of what I perceived a military spouse to be: super volunteer, always willing to help, Semper Gumby. I ended up worn out, tired of the Army, and resentful of its claims on my time and energy.
In the years since, I’ve learned to be more selective about how I invest my time. I still support my community, but I do it in ways that fit my strengths without overcommitting.
Are you at your best one-on-one? Your neighbors will appreciate you reaching out. Did you master club fundraisers in school? There are so many nonprofits, on-base or unit organizations that will thank their lucky stars. An introvert who prefers to connect virtually? Share your perspective and stories and insight through online support groups.
When you engage with the military community on your terms, you maximize the positive impact you can have. At the same time, that gives you the breathing room to opt out of the things that you don’t enjoy. There are plenty of pieces of military life that we don’t love (hello changing deployment dates!) without adding to it with self-imposed expectations.
They know what they need
Almost every seminar, class or training I’ve attended has included the recommendation to “put on your oxygen mask first.” The metaphor may be overused, but it is so very relevant to military life. The difference for spouses who make the most of their military journey? They don’t wait until emergencies to reach for the oxygen. Instead, they know what they need and make it a priority to take care of themselves.
When my now-husband sat in my parents’ living room to show them the engagement ring he had purchased, my dad had only one question — are you prepared for the horse thing? As a longtime equestrian, riding horses is an outlet I rely on. I am willing and able to move around the country. I can handle deployments and TDYs. But along the way, I need to have that me time at the barn. Taking that time for myself is my way of charging my mental and emotional batteries. Know what you need to do to recharge.
They plan in pencil
Military life requires us to roll with the punches — unexpected orders, 24-hour duty, constantly changing redeployment dates — it’s all subject to change. At the same time, you still have to make plans and goals.
Make your plan. Just make sure to write in pencil so you can adjust, if you need to.
They hunt the good stuff
No matter how together someone seems, they also have days where nothing goes right. It happens to everyone but the pressures of military life, especially separations, can amplify their impact.
“Military spouse life can quickly make way for martyrdom,” cautions Lindsay. There are days where even the most positive of mil-spouses has to make a choice to hunt the good stuff. Acknowledge the challenges (we feel your pain), but don’t forget to also consider the advantages. Military life offers opportunities, even if you have to chase them down at times.
On the tough days, it may feel like everyone else has a secret key to making it work. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer. The good news? You can start working on these five tips today!
- Know that you can’t do it all. Instead, focus on what’s most important to your family.
- Embrace your strengths when choosing how to get involved in your community.
- Know what you need to recharge your batteries and make it a priority.
- Amid all the unexpected, you can still plan (just use a pencil and be prepared to be flexible).
- Make it a point to hunt the good stuff daily.
About the blogger