Spouse 101

Dear Dr. Kendra: I’ve Lost My Sense of Self Worth

Dear Dr. Kendra,

I am writing in response to your article, Military Spouse Stress: You are Not Alone, from the August 2016 issue. While it’s nice to hear how much we are needed as military spouses, it would be nice if we were treated that way as well. We just PCS’d to an overseas assignment, and the transition here has been horrendous. I have a master’s degree and no children but have been told that my options for seeking employment while here are slim to none.

In addition, since we moved overseas I was not able to file for unemployment in the last state we worked even though I worked throughout our assignment, and because we are overseas my student loans cannot be deferred due to unemployment because I am “just the spouse” and not the military member. It makes it extremely difficult to maintain a sense of self worth when we are generally treated like second-class citizens. I hope more articles like this are written and more awareness is brought to this issue.

Sincerely,

2nd Class Citizen


Dear Valued Spouse,

I understand how you feel and rest assured you are not alone. Research suggests that 20 percent of military spouses experience clinical levels of stress and that employment frustrations certainly play a significant role. Unemployment and underemployment of military spouses can be a major stressor for military families.

The National Military Family Association places the unemployment rate for military spouses at nearly 26 percent (three times the national average). In addition, military spouses, on average, make 38 percent less salary than non-military connected civilian counterparts. This finding is extremely alarming and represents a major concern for military families.

Accordingly, programs such as the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities and Military Spouse Employment Partnership have been developed to help military spouses address these concerns. Military leadership has heard the call concerning employment challenges faced by military spouses, but change can be slow. Continue to ask for help and reformation. Highlight your concerns through appropriate chain-of-command and/or write to your Congressmen.

Unfortunately, even with the best of changes we will never be afforded the same job opportunities or career advancements as non-military spouses. Frequent PCS, single parenting demands during TDYs/deployments, lack of extended familial support and licensing requirements present major obstacles to professional careers.

Yes, struggles such as these are real. But, in our own best interest, we need accept reality and guard against bitterness and resentment that can negatively affect the best of families. One way to achieve this is through a cognitive strategy called reframing: to perceive the situation in a way that will lead to better outcomes. I first learned this technique from a remarkable mentor who mastered the art of reframing during her 26 years as a military spouse. She always viewed a pending PCS as a chance to reinvent herself, to try something new and gain a new perspective on life. She proclaimed, “It was through the trial and error of jobs and experiences, literally around the world, I was able to unlock my own potential.”

When an active duty member decides to serve our country; the entire family also serves. Along with such service comes a collective sacrifice that all military families experience. Seek support from others through military spouse mentorship, support groups, community programs or clinical professionals. Positive psychologists have found that sacrifice can be a way to increase character strength. By supporting each other, military spouses can achieve stress-related growth from these significant sacrifices.

With the use of cognitive tools, realistic expectations and support of others we can rebuild our expectations and acquire the skills needed to persevere even in the worst of situations. You do not have to physically wear a uniform to make a noble sacrifice for your country.

Sincerely,

Dr. Kendra

 

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