We should all be grateful that there is no longer a spot on our spouse’s reports that ranks our participation.

And thank goodness the ‘80s came along and we are no longer required to quit our jobs if our spouse gets a command position. As you can see, there have been many changes to spouse’s lives in the military the bastion of the military spouse has always been spouse functions. But have they gone the way of afternoon teas and white gloves?

As a modern military spouse, there is probably a feeling that these activities aren’t geared towards you and your busy lifestyle. This was especially true when I was a C.O.W. (Commanding Officer’s spouse). I thought it was futile to try and plan anything. It was disappointing to attempt and put together an activity for the spouses in my husband’s squadron when there would be little response — either in responding to the invitation or participating in person.

But there are a few lessons here for the seasoned spouse.

First, RSVP isn’t the norm for most people these days. Some people have taken to changing the wording so that the receiver only needs to answer if NOT coming. This train of thought was created as to make a person’s life easier. No matter the wording, not responding is prevalent in all areas of society. While it may be frustrating to have little to no response, knowing this may help to ease the pain and stress of waiting for your inbox to be full. The only area where people are cognizant of responding is with military events where either the military member’s administrative assistant, protocol or the military member themselves are required to answer.

Even with the introduction of wonderful apps like Eventbrite or Evite, your mailbox could go silent. I thought that attaching a beautiful invitation would alter people’s behavior, but I found that it wasn’t the case. With the frantic way we go about our lives, our inboxes are inundated with stuff to RSVP to. We are pulled in so many directions and people want to decide last minute whether to attend something or send regrets. Most people see these events as forced fun. And who wants to be forced into having fun. But it is the perfect oxymoron for most to describe what the commander’s spouse is trying to do.

So we delay responding. Either because we hope for something better to come along so we have a valid excuse or we forget about it. Either way, participation is bound to be minimal. Most people will assume that others will attend so that they won’t be missed. As we know, that isn’t usually the case.

Because of this, I did two things:

1. I tried various days and times for functions

2. I opted for activities I enjoyed.

Instead of just having coffee at my house, I signed us up for unusual activities. I found a jewelry and bead store in my local community and had a class on jewelry making. There was a lavender farm 30 minutes from our base so I planned a day learning to make lavender lemonade and cookies. And let me tell you, even with a low turnout, the smell of lavender can make anyone happy!

The second lesson that I learned from my time as a C.O.W. was that it doesn’t matter how many people attend. What matters is that you can reach out to one person and let them know you are available. This is the biggest lesson of all. There are many spouses who are apprehensive about being a part of something new, but knowing that someone who has been there before is willing to be a part of their lives is HUGE. Just the act of sending out an email with your contact information can be a plus.

The first email I sent out had all my pertinent information attached. I heard crickets chirping for days on end. A few weeks later, I received a call from a spouse who had a question. It wasn’t a life-altering question nor was it life-threatening but she needed an answer. I was able to do some research and found the answer for her. I was happy to help and she (I hope) knew that I was there for her.

One of the goals I had for spouses was to send emails with “things to do” around town. When we were new to the area, I had a hard time coming up with things to do. I didn’t want others to suffer as I had so I made it a point to provide that info to others since I could.

I met a significant other at a squadron picnic. She apologized for never attending because she worked and had other activities she participated in, but she added that my emails made her happy. She found outings for her family each weekend and it alleviated some stress. So even though I didn’t connect with her face-to-face, I helped in another way.

Buddha said, “When watching after yourself, you watch after others. When watching after others, you watch after yourself.” I have found this to be true whether in the role of spouse, friend or mentor. So realize that putting yourself out there is a good thing — no matter how many people answer your email. And remember that spouse functions are about more than just you.

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