(Photo Credits: Photo Pin)
I have proudly been a part of the military spouse community for over 13 years now. And when I say “proudly” I am 100% sincere. In my opinion, military spouses are amazing in many ways. I consider myself to be extremely lucky to be a part of this community, despite our many challenges, and am elated that I wake up every day and “go to work” for this community by working with milspouse writers from all over the world, and interacting with our robust online network.
My love and adoration for this amazing group of people does not blind me to some of the problems within our community however. Just like any other group of individuals in this world, we have our issues… many of them not far removed from what our “civilian counterparts” experience in their lives and relationships. But because I believe with my whole heart in the military spouse community, I believe in our ability to improve in areas where we may fall short, especially in the way we interact and support one another.
We have all seen it. Spouses comparing the danger of their servicemembers job to that of another person serving in a different job capacity. Spouses comparing how hard they have it because of XYZ circumstance that the military lifestyle has put them in. Spouses who will swear that their deployment is harder because of the length, or the danger of their servicemember… or a whole host of reasons.
And I wish we would all cut it out already.
Because here is the thing… no matter how hard someone else’s lot in life, it should never negate the way you are feeling (or dealing) with your own problems. Sure, you can respect that someone else may be going through something terrible and, as a result, it may help put what you are going through in perspective. But each of us must deal with our own demons without the guilt that our problems are insignificant because of the plight of our neighbor.
Everyone deals with things differently. Some of us are better at dealing with certain things, at certain points in our life. So you may be going through your 4th deployment with your spouse in a “no-joke-knocking-down-doors-shooting-Taliban” job capacity… but you may have a tremendous support system and you may be in a really good place. Your neighbor might be going through their first deployment where their servicemember can call them every day and where they are in very little danger… but they may have a family tragedy occurring, or might be battling other demons… making this deployment incredibly hard to handle.
The point is, none of us knows.
Many of you have heard me say before, that in my experience, deployments do NOT get easier with time and frequency. For me, the third deployment was much harder than the first, despite the fact that my husband was in very little danger during the third one, but was in a much more dangerous situation during the first and we had very little communication. I am not even sure I can pinpoint exactly WHY the third one was harder… I just know that it was.
As strong as we are in the milspouse community, we are also human. We don’t always understand why we are feeling a certain way, we don’t always understand why certain things are hard for us to handle, and we don’t always cope in the way we hope. And as part of our human nature, it is natural to get upset when our lives are in turmoil and we see someone complain about something we might consider insignificant.
But “significance” really is relative. What is important or upsetting to one person may not even be on the next person’s radar. How many times have you wondered why in the world someone can get so riled up about a topic that has no meaning to you? Then, how many times have you been riled up about something and are met with the blank stare of someone who can’t comprehend why you care?
We like to say that we are all in the same boat… when in reality, we are not. Military life is not a cookie-cutter proposition. No two families will have the same experience… there are just too many variables. We may all have common issues and concerns. We may all have similar tools available to us. We may all be afloat in the same murky waters, doing our best to navigate them… but we will all do it differently, and will all be given a different course to chart.
The compare and contrast game really does nothing to help any of us figure out the complexities of this lifestyle. I don’t know about you, but I have never, ever aspired to be the spouse with the “worst” plot in this military life. And I hate seeing spouses tear each other apart in some sort of contest for who should be able to complain the loudest or cry the hardest.
It might serve us all to accept that every one of us has, at some point, every reason in the world to complain or cry ugly tears.
We can do better as a community in supporting one another by realizing that no one person has a monopoly on suffering. We can do better as a community in recognizing that someone else’s problems are important but they don’t negate the problems of everyone else. And we can do better as a community by offering support even if we may not understand why someone is having such a hard time.
Because you never know when something “simple” or “easy” will throw YOU completely off your game.
It happens to all of us.