From one spouse to another: Advice for new military spouses

Two people holding both hands
Two people holding both hands

From one spouse to another: Advice for new military spouses

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Okinawa

For newly minted military spouses, the reality of what lies ahead can feel daunting. The path ahead is full of unknowns. As a military spouse of almost 20 years, I reached out to my friends and family to see what they would say to themselves as a new spouse. Here’s a little (okay, a lot of) advice from us to you.

It’s not like the movies. There may be a few spouses who look like a Hollywood version of perfection. However, odds are they’re just like you. “There’s no such thing as the ‘perfect’ military spouse … your house will get messy, your kids will break down in public, your hair will be disheveled, and dinner is sometimes a lazy chicken from the commissary — and that’s okay,” says Brandie S.

There is no stupid question. Confused about time-honored traditions and acronyms? If you don’t get it, it’s okay. “Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t understand certain traditions or acronyms. The military world is amazing but confusing at times,” says Katie B. Carissa R. agrees, “Ask those questions you thought were dumb. You’d be surprised how many people have those same questions.”

Hand the controls over. Military life is a planner’s nightmare. Deployments, unexpected moves and lengthy TDYs can become the norm. Jill N. advises it’s okay to let go of control. “You learn everything works out the way it’s supposed to, whether you realize it or not.” Bethany B. adds, “Just roll with it, don’t expend energy getting mad over things you can’t change and instead work towards making the best out of every situation.”

You get an ‘A’ for attitude. “You might not be super excited about your next assignment or your last assignment, but your attitude is such a huge factor in how your experience is,” states Michelle H.

Dreaming of a warm, sunny assignment instead of bitter-cold flatland? It’s all in what you make of it. “Try to have a positive outlook on any PCS. Two of the locations I thought I would hate ended up being a couple of my favorites,” says Kim G.

Dive in and get uncomfortable. Jumping in and stepping outside of your comfort zone definitely has its benefits. “Dive into the new base and community quickly. It helps establish normalcy,” says Miranda B. Lynely E. agrees. “It can be extremely hard to get out of comfort zone, but you won’t regret it.”

Ask for help. Inevitably, there will come a time when you need an assist. Alicia P. says “Do not let your pride stand in your way. The military community is filled with some amazing people that truly just want to help you out.” Likewise, it can be good to return the favor. “When you can help someone out with a meal, hug or listening to their concerns, know that somewhere in your travels someone will do the same for you,” says Claudia R.

If you’re socially awkward, knowing how to ask is helpful. As Krista V. explains, “I think it’s easier to ask, ‘do you know someone who could/would…’ Same goes for offering help. Something more specific is way more meaningful. ‘How about dinner Friday? I can bring it to you, or you’re welcome here,’ can help with the discomfort and awkwardness.”

Find purpose. Your path is going to be full of turns and you’ll never know what you can use in the future. “Find something that makes you better. It could be going to school, picking up a skill set or trade. Point is to do it for you!” says Mari. K. Victoria A agrees, “Get out and find a job or join something new. Life brings you to brilliant people who will make your life all the better.” Melissa G. adds, “And don’t let a soul tell you can’t still have a career. It might be challenging, but it is possible!”

Get involved. Whether it’s taking classes or joining spouse groups, “Getting involved in spouse groups or unit booster clubs is a great way to meet new people who will become your support network,” mentions Meredith G. Erika A. advises, “Volunteer. Our community needs you and it makes it easier for your servicemember if you volunteer as a family.”

Establish your tribe. The military community is small and mighty, and full of amazing people waiting for you. It might take time, but you’ll find your people. “Find your people. It may take years, a few PCSes and a couple of bases, but you will find them.” These friendships are what make the tough military lifestyle so very worth it,” says Alicia B.

It’s okay to not be happy and excited all the time. “Be honest with yourself and your spouse when you’re having a hard time. It’s okay to be frustrated and angry about a situation,” states Jill N. Adds Kristina W., “Somehow you do survive the days that seem crushing and overwhelming. You are stronger than you will ever know. Military spouses have an inner strength no one else will ever know or understand, though some days it’s okay to stay in bed and cry.”

Ultimately, your path is yours to choose. Ricki S. offers these wise words, “Take responsibility for cultivating your own happiness. Even if it looks different from what others are doing. When you are confident in your own achievements, you will be more satisfied with your life, which in turn is a gift to your spouse, family and community. This life is about a wealth of experiences and if you can embrace that notion, it’s a spectacular ride.”

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