Ok, I know. Just, bear with me here for a moment.
Any military spouse that’s been a military spouse for, oh, two point five seconds knows that military families face totally different circumstances than civilian families. There are deployments and year-long (sometimes longer) absences where you are lucky if you are able to see your spouse over a poor Internet connection.
Of course, non-military families experience great absences as well, but chances are, the non-military ‘deployed’ spouse typically has the ability to call it quits and head home if it isn’t working out. If a military member decides to leave while deployed, chances are he or she is less likely to see home and more likely to see, well, jail. And of course, you can’t forget that added element of danger to really mess with the mix.
We also know that the during the course of a military marriage, a couple will experience multiple moves, a loss of control in scheduling or advanced planning, and as is often the case, the need for the non-service member spouse to either put career or schooling on hold, or at the very least, wade through obstacles that might not otherwise be there in a more permanent geographic location.
The military family may also witness first hand the unique symptoms that illustrate the psychological burden of war: TBI or PTSD on one end; fear, loss, loneliness, forced independence on another.
There is the need to make peace with the unknown.
But, at our core, we really aren’t that different from our civilian counterparts. Why? Because we’re human.
I’ve read the circulated lists of ‘things not to say to a military spouse,’ with some recognition, humor and let’s be honest, shock. ‘Really,’ I have thought, ‘no one could be so tactless as to ask me if I’m worried if my husband will die.’ ‘Wasn’t I sad to give up my life for a partner?’ Or, ‘how I could love a man who would fight an, in their opinion, unjust war?’ And my favorite, ‘well, you knew what you were signing up for when you married him.’ No one could actually say those things to me, could they?
Yes. Actually, I’ve heard them all; at one point, each and every one of those questions/statements has been posed to me.
Once, even, when I shared on opinion that we should be doing more to honor our veterans, I was told that I was, ‘on my high horse just because I was married to someone in the military.’
So, what exactly is it, I wonder, that these questions hope to answer? Is it, in the case of the first question, to see if I am a robot devoid of human emotion? Or in the second case, that I have absolutely zero sense of self and lack ambition? That a decision made by our government should ultimately affect how I feel about my spouse? And by extension that if I might experience pain as a result of some of the above obstacles I am not allowed nor entitled to actually show or feel it simply because I had fallen in love? Or, really, am I just some arrogant jerk that’s hopped on the military bandwagon and decided my opinion just matters more.
What did I do? I started to turn these questions back on the asker. If asked whether I was scared if my husband might die while doing his job, I asked if they were worried their spouse might die, as well. The next time a ‘friend’ complained about their partner working long hours, I looked at them and said, ‘well, I suppose you knew what you signed up for when you started to date an accountant and it’s tax season.’
My intention was not to be cruel, but rather to show that just because I am a military spouse does not mean that the day I sign my marriage certificate I become a non-human. I experience the same things they do on a daily basis.
At its core, my marriage and family is no different than a civilian marriage and family. I feel pain when he is gone, pain when we occasionally argue, pain when he is struggling. When he succeeds, I share in his happiness, we make plans for the future, we stay up late talking—far past our bedtime, we go for long walks through the woods and up and down the aisles of Target, we cook together, we worry about one another, we support one another, we get annoyed with one another, we fight for one another. We move through financial ups and downs and we both try to stick to a budget that we occasionally miss.
We raise our daughter together, and just like our non-military friend parents, we love her with all our heart. At the end of the day, all we want is to raise a happy, healthy, productive person who will go on to do whatever she dreams.
Our family seeks to be the best friends and neighbors, helpful to our community and strangers. We want to make a mark on this world, we want to do better, occasionally we fail, and sometimes we succeed.
Years ago, we were two college kids with crushes on one another. Like anyone who is lucky to fall in love, that’s just what we did.
Sure, I can define myself as a military spouse; I can say that I have been in a military marriage, am part of a military family. We can weather those unique challenges that set us apart from non-military peers.
But every morning we wake up. We pull on our clothing. We see to our children. We drink our coffee. We love one another. And we move forward to another day. Just like anyone else.