By Cary Love, Navy Spouse
My husband and I rarely fight, but when we do it’s always over the same thing: the life I gave up to be with him.
I get upset that I don’t have the future I always thought I would, and he gets frustrated that he can’t give me everything I want. The worst part about this argument? It can never be resolved, at least not until I let go of a life that could have been, and he realizes he can’t be responsible for my happiness.
Many military spouses end up giving up one thing or another when they chose to marry or date a service member. Whether it’s a steady job, a close group of girlfriends, or involvement with a club or organization; it’s hard to say goodbye to the parts of your life that make you happy each time you get a PCS.
For me, leaving my dream of becoming an editor in New York to move down South was far from easy. I spent my entire college career networking with journalists and interning at magazines, and when I finally was getting interviews was precisely when my now husband proposed.
Saying yes meant getting to marry my best friend, but it also meant refocusing my whole future. I was a big city kind of girl with career aspirations dating back to the age of 13, and now I’m a new wife, in a new town, with new, shaky goals. I’m starting all over again, and it’s a constant challenge not to harp on all the woulda, coulda, shouldas in my life.
I could go on for the rest of my husband’s military career wondering what my life could have been, but that won’t change anything, and certainly won’t help my brand new marriage. After all, I made the decision, I said my vows, and I’m the only one with control over my future.
In order to be happy in the present, give my husband the love he deserves, and enjoy the wonders of being a newlywed (i.e. breakfast in bed and lazy Sunday afternoons binging on Netflix), I need to wholly and truly let go of my past.
I know I’m a brand spanking new military spouse, and I surely don’t have all the answers, but these strategies have helped make it a little easier to say bye to yesteryear over my first few months as a sailor’s wife:
Write down goals for the immediate future
When I first moved here, my husband, who usually has 12-hour school days in the Naval Nuclear Power School, knew I would be spending a lot of time alone. He suggested I write down everything I hope to accomplish during the two years we spend in South Carolina.
It was a great way to remind myself that I have plenty of things to look forward to, like getting my master’s degree, traveling to new states, volunteering with local nonprofits and working as a fitness instructor. Writing down my goals took the focus off of things I gave up and put it on exciting opportunities I can work toward.
Don’t be afraid to vent
Sometimes venting can feel a lot like complaining, and it’s normal to want to avoid putting our own problems on someone else. Originally, I was afraid to tell my family or friends that this whole being a new wife in a new town thing was harder than I thought. But the truth is, the people who love you usually want to help, and verbally getting out your feelings can be a huge weight off of your shoulders.
A month after I moved, I decided to also start seeing a therapist on base, and it was one of the best things I’ve done for myself here. Not only does he understand the situation I’m in, but it’s his job to just sit and listen to me cry and voice off on whatever’s been bothering me that week. Plus, he’s giving me great coping strategies, like writing fiction when I get overwhelmed, and communicating more effectively with my husband.
Communicate your feelings!
On that note, I can’t emphasize the importance of communicating with your significant other. There’s an enormous difference between blaming your partner for what you may have left behind (neither true nor effective) and being able to talk to him or her when things get hard (something that will bring you closer together). I let my husband know that sometimes I need to be able to cry over a bad interview or missing my friends without him feeling responsible. No, he can’t give me immediate solutions, since that’s up to me, but he can be my constant supporter, a shoulder to cry on, and the perfect reminder of why my choice to get married and move was worth the sacrifices I made.
Find a release
It’s so easy to let the hopelessness and bitterness creep in, reach for a glass of wine (and maybe some chocolate), sink into the couch and start feeling bad for yourself when something crappy happens, like seeing a picture of all your old girlfriends having a night out on Instagram, or missing that family wedding back home you were supposed to be a bridesmaid. I’m guilty of it from time to time, and it never helps me in the long run.
Finding a release, whether it’s singing, dancing, working-out, writing poetry, or anything else you find enjoyable, can be therapeutic on its on. My weekly dance class is something just for me, something I’ll never have to give up no matter how many times we have to move, and it lets me let go of my frustration in a positive way.
Although, I guess the chocolate can sometimes work too.
How to stop holding on to your past:
– Keep track of what you hope to accomplish, rather than harping on what could have been.
– Vent to the people who love you; don’t let your frustrations build up.
– Communicate with your s.o. when you’re feeling low, but avoid blaming him.
– Find something that makes you happy and use it as a release when a longing for the past starts creeping in.