Being a military spouse, I think there are a lot of stereotypes about the type of people we are or should be. Think “Army Wives.” There seem to be certain characteristics that people associate with military spouses, and we are in turn expected to have those characteristics in order to fit in with the military community.
But honestly, I think anyone can be a military spouse! We are all individuals, just like spouses in the civilian world. Just like everyone else, we contribute every aspect of our being into our lives and our families. It takes a lot more than stereotypes to be a military spouse.
There is no one type of person who can be a good military spouse. And there is not a set standard for fitting in with the community of military spouses. Right?
Well, yes and no. Yes, diversity is a great aspect of the military community. But, look a little closer, and you may notice that, at the core of all military spouses, are some very important characteristics. To be happy and successful in your military relationship, there are, indeed, some qualities that we should all strive to maintain. Not only to fit in with the military community, but to make your military relationship the best it can be.
Most of us are not born with all of these characteristics. I, myself, am still working on developing many of the characteristics that I’m about to talk about. But, just because we are not perfect, doesn’t mean we can’t always be working towards improvement, right!?
So, what are some characteristics that every military spouse needs? Well…
Flexibility does not come easily to some people (you can include me on that list… probably at the top of that list actually), but it is crucial to happy military life. Why? Umm because this is the military! Things change all the time, and they can change on a dime, from where you live to when your spouse will be around. There are many things that you just don’t have control over, and you have to get used to it and learn how to handle it, otherwise you’ll be pretty miserable. But if you are willing to be flexible with the unknown, then you start to see your military life as an adventure, not an interference.
I think optimism and flexibility go hand-in-hand. Life is not easy. Military life? Possibly even harder. Again, there are a lot of things that are out of your control, or don’t go the way you’d like them to. But, that’s life! Often, it’s much easier to pout about those things. But, honestly, that just makes it even worse. Why inflict a negative life upon yourself when it can be changed simply by changing your attitude? I’m not saying you have to be happy-go-lucky all of the time (because yes, you will go through difficult seasons) but having a negative outlook on your life in general could really be harmful to the quality of that life.
Willingness to Communicate
Just like any relationship, good communication is the key to success! You don’t have to be a pro at communication, it’s certainly something I’m still working on, but you have to at least be willing to try. In military life, especially when you have a family, there a lot of moving parts. It takes a lot to maintain a family, a household, your lifestyle, and support a spouse in a stressful job. My advice? Talk about everything. Talk about what you know, what you don’t know, what you think, how you feel… everything. And encourage your spouse to do the same. Have adult conversations about what’s going on in your life, and how to always improve your relationship and your life together.
You may be considered a “dependent” to the military, but that should hardly be an accurate description of your relationship. Not because your spouse is unreliable, but because they won’t always be around. They may be working, training, or even deployed. You should depend on them just like any other spouse, but you need to be able to take care of yourself and your family too. Learn how to change a tire, learn how to fix things around the house, and find hobbies on (or off) base that you enjoy doing. It’s a wonderful thing when your spouse is around, and it’s horrible when they aren’t, but it’s up to you whether or not their presence determines the quality of your life.
What is any relationship without trust? It isn’t much of a relationship at all. In a military relationship in particular, your spouse has so much to entrust in you. They will trust you with their home, with the well-being of their family, with their well-being, with their worries and their joys, and with their heart. It is so easy to see why one of the pillars of a military relationship has to be trust. Focus on being the kind of spouse that they can trust with anything and everything.
Much of the time, you will be the one in charge of things. Mostly with household affairs, but also with other things. Be able to make decisions for the best interest of your family, be able to manage bills, and be willing to go above and beyond. Be someone that your family can depend on.
Willingness to Support Your Spouse Through the Good and the Bad
Military life is a wonderful adventure! And no adventure is complete without both the good and the bad. That’s right, there will be a lot of ups and downs in your life, and much of that will have to do with your spouse’s job. You will go through a lot, both as a couple and as individuals, but the best part is having a support system in your spouse. And vise versa. Be the spouse that is supportive of them, during the good adventures and the bad.
There are so many things that your service member cannot control when it comes to their job. You have to be understanding of that. Do not, I mean seriously, do not, blame them for it. I was guilty of placing blame on Connor for a long time when he first started West Point. But that did nothing except put strain on our relationship. To be understanding, I think, you first need to really, truly, know your spouse. Then you will realize that they are passionate about their job, but they are also passionate about you and their family, and they would (or should) never intentionally do anything to hurt either. Practice having an open mind and an understanding heart, and remember that wonderful characteristic we call flexibility.
Ultimately, military relationships are about love; love of family, love of country, and love of each other. With the right attitude, anyone can have what it takes to be in a military relationship, you just have to want it.