Editor’s Note: The word “civilian” is used to differentiate between military and non-military – we understand that military spouses are civilians and not considered “military.” Thank you.
One of my single biggest pet peeves is when women, generally civilians, openly complain about their husbands’ “annoying” everyday habits. “He’s so messy…he’s so lazy….never loads his dish in the dishwasher…would be nice if he could fold the laundry every now and again.”
Now, granted, some military wives certainly complain about these types of things, as well. But I can distinctly remember the first time this type of incident occurred, when I realized how much it bothered me, that it was a group of civilian speakers. I was a newlywed military wife, going on month 3 of not seeing my husband, dealing with this type of separation for the very first time. I was also a college student, working on her final semester, struggling to balance a mass amount of stress. I was sitting in seminar one night, a row of classmates sitting behind me, going on and on about the seemingly endless list of things they “couldn’t stand” about their spouses…comparing “awful,” “aggravating,” “frustrating” little things their other halves were doing every night. Now, I’m not saying our spouses can’t (and don’t!) drive us nuts every now and again. It’s part of being married! However, in this particular instance, I can remember sitting there feeling every comment spewing forth physically sting.
There were two reasons why what they were saying bothered me so much, and I remember clearly the dialogue that went on in my head as I struggled to keep a smile on my face: 1) I could not help but compare my problems to theirs. That’s your biggest problem in life? I thought. This is the biggest struggle in your marriage? Then, the second thought crept up, this realization even more painful than the first: 2) I would love to be able to just come home to my husband at night. I wished there was a toilet seat left up, or work clothes strewn across the floor of our bedroom. I missed him and his little habits that (pre-military) would have, and did, drive me up the wall. I craved them. All of those little habits would have meant that he was there; that he was present and with me. It’s amazing the things you learn to appreciate, I thought, all the little things you took for granted before the military. As these thoughts rushed through my head, I came to a few conclusions.
The first is something I still struggle with to this day: it is simply unfair of me to judge other women, particularly civilian women, in this way. Civilian women and their families do not know what they do not know. They cannot be expected to approach issues the same way, or to even have the same type of issues. They do not face the same unique experiences and challenges that military families do, and therefore I cannot necessarily compare our problems…it goes back to the infamous apples-to-oranges argument. Secondly, I realized something which I continue to be reminded of each time I find myself subjected to this “pet peeve.” The military lifestyle (challenges and all!) can be a truly beautiful way to live. If you can see through the difficulties associated with the military, let go of the anger you have (especially regarding our spouse not being around the majority of the time) long enough to focus on what you do have, what you can have…well, my fellow spouses, you can harness your unique ability and opportunity to, as Tim McGraw would say, “live like you were dying.”
Only after becoming a military spouse, when I was only able to see my husband sometimes, I understood why I was always so joyous when I did! I began to view every moment I was with him as a blessing, intended to be cherished. Who has time to fight over whose turn it is to do the dishes or fold the laundry when you’re too busy giggling in each other’s arms on the couch, after his return from a 6-month deployment? How can you ignore the butterflies in your stomach while hanging out with him at home for the first time in almost a year, long enough to notice that he left his seabag in the middle of the floor? Who cares that he didn’t scrape his dish spotlessly clean before loading it, when you’re so eager to get him in bed once again? These days, I try to be thankful for these “pet peeves.” When times get hard, they serve as reminders of how blessed I am, and the unique joys I have the opportunity to experience as a military spouse. They remind me of how my outlook and my priorities have shifted, how much I have grown as a result of these tough times, these lengthy deployments. For the first time in my life, I truly appreciate the here and now. And I attribute that to being a military spouse.