Editor’s Note: The term “civilian” in this piece is used to describe members of a family where no one serves in the military. In no way do we mean to imply that military spouses (unless they also wear a uniform) are not civilians.
A group of our Military Spouse writers and staff members collaborated on a list that we hope you will share with those outside your military circle.
We have all had experiences with “civilians” who mean well, but in the absence of understanding may do or say something that can be hurtful or leave us scratching our heads in confusion.
But it might be time to give our civilian counterparts a break. Let’s be real… sometimes this life is hard for those of us who belong to a military family to understand. We cannot expect folks who are not living it to completely grasp our way of life.
We have found that most “civilians” truly do appreciate what our service members and families go through. In recent years, we have seen a great deal of support from many grateful Americans. But there are still common misconceptions.
Instead of getting our feelings hurt, or worse… assuming that a lack of understanding means they simply don’t care… it is up to us to start the dialogue, clear up any confusion and lessen any divide that may exist.
Here are 35 things that we want civilians to know:
35) Yes, we “chose” this life by voluntarily saying “I Do”… but that doesn’t mean that we knew what we were getting into. No one can understand until they are living it. We are all learning along the way, and could really use the support of our family and friends through the ups and downs.
34) Even though we might not be in your neighborhood or community for long, we are worth making friends with. We promise to stay in touch and maintain friendships, even over a long distance. In fact, we are kind of pros at the long-distance thing.
33) The feelings you have when your spouse is on a business trip for a week aren’t diminished because mine have been worse, or my separations have been longer. Being away from your spouse can be difficult and you have as much right to miss them as we do.
32) That being said… it can be difficult for us to hear about how hard that week-long separation is when we are two months into a year-long deployment.
31) Lots of military spouses either wear or have worn a military uniform in the past. You might be surprised to learn how many of us are veterans.
30) Civilians might pity us, but on the contrary, most of us think this life is amazing and diverse. Heaven knows it’s not boring!
29) We know your mother-in-law who lives down the street can get on your nerves… but we hope you will appreciate having family close by. It is one of the things we miss most.
28) We are not plagued by divorce like is sometimes depicted. In fact, military marriages can be very romantic. We literally get to fall in love over and over again due to the long deployments and separations.
27) When our spouses are overseas, on a deployment: NO, they do not get to come home for the holidays, birthdays or special occasions. They really are gone for the duration and do not have a choice on coming and going.
26) Even if we say no to an invite during deployment, please don’t stop asking. We may not be able to accept today, but at some point during the duration we will probably need it!
25) We can deal with lots of stereotypes or misconceptions… and we can even laugh at ourselves from time to time. But any suggestion that the majority of spouses are unfaithful is very hurtful. Infidelity is not as big of an issue in our community as it is sometimes portrayed. Just like any group of people, the bad apples can make an entire orchard seem rotten.
24) We are all on the same team! Sometimes we get the impression that civilians view military families as a certain stereotype (egotistical, strict, amongst others). These stereotypes hinder relationships amongst civilians and military families, and for the most part are completely untrue!
23) Even though our lives may change drastically after we marry a military member… we are still the same people you knew before we became military spouses. And sometimes, we depend on our “old” family and friends to help remind us of that.
22) Have a question about the military or being a part of a military family? Just ask! Trust us when we tell you… we had (still have!) a lot to learn. We don’t mind answering the questions at all.
21) Soldiers are in the Army, Marines are in the Marine Corps, Airmen are in the Air Force, Coasties are in the Coast Guard, and Sailors are in the Navy. All military members are NOT called “Soldiers.” It is not they would be ashamed to be called “Soldier”… it is just that they are very proud of their individual branches of service and really appreciate it when civilians get that terminology correct.
20) Yes we do pay taxes.