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Burden of Silence: When Crisis Strikes do you Tell Them?

Heidi Evans
tagged: coping, deployment
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Somewhere in your earliest days as a military spouse, you have a subtle—or not-so-subtle—orientation. I call it the Welcome to the Sisterhood of the Big Girl Panties. Someone gives you the code of the military spouse and a big part of this is the Code of Silence.

It goes something like this: No matter how great the tragedies at home may be, deal with them. On your own. Don’t bother your deployed service member. They can’t do a thing about it and they won’t be coming home. All you will do is distract them, and that could get someone killed.

The code dates back to a time when the wall between home and deployment was not breached by the Internet. We’re living in a different world now. Service members and their families share more than ever before. But what if that service member is under intense pressure or daily attack, where the slightest break in concentration could kill many? What if news from home is so devastating it would cripple even the coolest character?

Suddenly that burden lands squarely on a heavy military spouse heart. You have to decide what to tell and what to keep to yourself until your service member arrives home.


How Do Spouses Handle It?

We asked our Facebook followers how they respond to this code, and more than 50 military spouses, all women, quickly replied with widely varied answers. Many said they hide nothing from their husbands. They said it would be like lying and would violate trust, potentially harming the marriage.

Others said they share information only after a problem is resolved, or when they know more facts, and then they choose their words carefully.

Many Facebook commenters said they worry their service members will hear news from home via e-mail or social media, so they try to break it them first. Bad news from the battlefield may be blacked out for the families, but there are no blackouts on bad news from back home for service members. 


Breaking the Code

Amanda Parkhill, a Navy wife of 13 years, chose full disclosure when she faced a crisis. She’s married to a fire control officer serving on surface ships. She had to share bad news when her father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, and also during a complication-filled pregnancy that landed her in the hospital four times.

“I would rather have him hear it from me than get a Red Cross message,” she says. “We have always talked about everything, good, bad or indifferent. They say it will upset them… but Jason (my husband) isn’t like that. He would have been so hurt and so upset had I not told him.”

Parkhill says hiding things ruins military marriages because it undermines trust and communication. But for other wives, the choice wasn’t as clear.


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