When we marry a member of the military, we are not only vowing to share our lives with them…we’re vowing to share THEM with the WORLD.
It’s not something we tend to think about when we’re trying to plan a wedding (or in many cases, an elopement), but it’s true.
Eventually, we learn the lingo, the culture, and the hard truths about being married to these super heroes, and occasionally along the way we find ourselves looking in the mirror asking our reflection,
“Where did I GO? Where does his/her career end and where does my identity begin? Am I doomed to a life where my whole identity revolves around being a military spouse?”
Now I’m betting most of you are shaking your heads and saying “HEY! Come on now! I’m more than a spouse!” To that I say: “Good for you!” But I’m asking you to dig a bit deeper for a moment. Because if you do end up feeling like you’ve lost yourself, you need to know you’re not alone.
We should all recognize that military spouses have come a LONG way from the days where the expectation to conform was the golden rule. Be humble, take care of the home front and wait with baited breath for your service member to come home.
Today’s military spouses no longer have to wait in the shadows or by the phone for something to happen in their lives. But that’s not the problem.
The problem is that military culture hasn’t caught up with our need to lead separate lives that isn’t dictated by our service member’s career. Sure, we all know people who’ve been able to have it all, and it doesn’t mean that we’re all doomed to lose ourselves to our dependent status. It just means that the barriers we face sometimes can lead us to question who we are.
Your identity is made up of all the things that make you unique. A person’s ability to choose is one of the main components that bring all those unique aspects together. We make choices every day that help define who we are; like the clothes we wear, the food we eat or the interests we have.
Most people (meaning civilians) are able to choose where they live, what type of career they will pursue or what kind of doctor they want. Most of the time, we don’t have much say in these choices. We can’t choose where we live, or if we can even pursue our careers and often, which doctor we want to see. Our limited choices can often leave us feeling like a limited version of ourselves.
But the good news is, there are other choices you can make that might help you find your way back to you. Here are four ways to create and maintain your identity outside of your service member’s career.
1. Ask Yourself Those Hard Questions
Who are you? Who do you WANT to be? What’s important to you? Seriously, think about it for a moment. Do you know the answers? It’s harder than you thought, right? The answers to these questions will change over time, that’s a given. But you have to ask them, and you can’t be afraid of the answers even if they’re not compatible with military life.
No, things won’t always magically go your way, but you’ll start realizing and solidifying who YOU will choose to be on your military journey.
2. Take Ownership of Your Own Happiness
Yes, our spouse means a lot to us, as they should! I mean, we don’t just follow any ole punk half-way across the world and back! But, we cannot ask them to be our everything. There’s no room for YOU if THEY are expected to be your everything. Put the shoe on the other foot for a moment and imagine what it would be like if YOU were the one responsible for THEIR happiness 24/7. Bottom line: that type of expectation will set both of you up for failure. Not to mention, it’s exhausting!
3. Reconnect With Your Roots
When you stay connected to your family “back home” you’re making the conscious choice to stay connected with your original voice. That’s a huge part of our identity, like it or not. We may not be the same person we once were, but that person is still in there and it’s important to remember where we come from. Our roots are the foundation of who we are. Even if you were born into a military family and don’t have just one town you called “home,” we all know that “home” is not a place…it’s the people who have influenced us along the way.
4. GET. OUT.
Seriously…get OUT of the damn house every once and a while…ALONE. Even when….no, ESPECIALLY when you don’t want to. In fact, I triple dog DARE you to drop everything for a day or two and just GO somewhere.
Yes, it might seem virtually impossible but YOU are resourceful. If we want something bad enough, we will FIND a way to make it happen….but you have to WANT it to happen. A lot of us, especially moms, find it difficult to spend time away from our family. We tend to either feel guilty or imagine that things will go wrong if we’re not there.
Now listen to me carefully: The sky will not fall, the world will not crumble and no one’s life will be ruined if you just do YOU for a bit.
Again, put that shoe on the other foot and have a little faith in your other half. It’s hard letting go of the responsibilities that we’re typically charged with, but not only would you have the opportunity to recharge your batteries, but you’d also show your spouse that you believe in their capabilities to hold down the home front too. They may just appreciate all you do that much more after experiencing Murphy’s Law first hand.
Today, you might know exactly who you are. You may not need or even want the info above, and if that’s the case…AWESOME. But at some point, you just might want to take a look in the mirror and check in with yourself. If you look at your reflection and aren’t sure who’s looking back….start by asking those hard questions. 😉