I hear it all the time: The negativity we seem to heap on one another. On any given day, one group of spouses or another seems to want to recreate the high school environment of cliques and “the cool table” in the cafeteria.
Yes, there has always been a tension between each of the branches of service and between enlisted and officer spouses. But over the last decade-plus, many of us have seemed to get beyond those traditional hang-ups. We began appreciating others for what they could accomplish, not for the rank their spouse wore.
We’ve seen the struggles all families have faced. We’ve understood: That knock at the door could be for any one of us. So on some levels, we as a society have seemed to forge alliances across the services and become closer. And yet, I still sense serious issues under the surface.
“We, as military spouses, should be looking for ways in which to highlight all the spectacular work others are doing among us, especially those of you who find your way into a leadership role.”
INSIDE AND OUTSIDE
For whatever reason, as a male military spouse, I seem to be exempt from much of this “hair pulling” and drama. Perhaps it’s the odd side benefit of being the rare male spouse (as if they’ve spotted a unicorn and don’t know how to respond, so the last thing they’re thinking about is drawing me into the drama).
That’s not to say I haven’t experienced it-it just seems to happen less and when it does, my ignoring it seems to make it go away. On the other hand, at least based on many Facebook feeds I’ve read (which perhaps isn’t an absolutely fair version of reality), a large majority of military spouses I know seem to run into this problem regularly. And it seems to have a fairly negative impact on their lives… something I wish we could remedy.
CAN I BE BLUNT?
I realize I may not “get it,” but lots of military spouses seem to be pretty mean to one another. This expands into the FRGs, the local social circles, the family advocacy organizations and beyond. Everyone wants a piece of the pie and seems to think that if “you” get
something (or your organization does), it means “mine” will not and vice versa. Now, you may be thinking I’m going too far. Saying too much. But this issue matters. So let me offer my view on a way forward for military spouses that I hope might be helpful:
First, let me quote from Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”
My obvious translation for military spouses is this: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow military spouse.” That doesn’t mean you can’t have differences of opinion. It means you shouldn’t demean other spouses when you disagree with them. There’s an enormous gulf between discussing a legitimate difference on an issue or policy and resorting to bullying and gossip. Try to keep this philosophy in the back of your mind as you’re working with your fellow military spouses.
Second, take a new look at the pie. Rather than seeing it as a set size, where there are only so many resources or opportunities available, look for ways to grow the size of the pie, allowing more benefits for everyone. Goodwill begets goodwill and amazing, almost magical things happen when you don’t care who gets the credit. We, as military spouses, should be looking for ways in which to highlight all the spectacular work others are doing among us, especially those of you who find your way into a leadership role. Be happy for other spouses as they are rewarded and recognized for their work. On those occasions when another spouse is recognized but you aren’t (and you’ve “done 10 times what she has done”), know that this just wasn’t your time. But it will come. And if it doesn’t, that’s OK also. We shouldn’t be doing what we are doing for the accolades anyway. (That probably sounds hypocritical coming from someone who has had his 15 minutes of fame. I hope you’ve seen in my actions and columns these last nine months that I’ve taken every chance I’ve gotten to highlight other spouses, who frankly, could just as easily have been the 2012 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year instead of me … in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them would have done a better job than I.)
Finally, let me say to those on the receiving end of negativity within our military spouse community: If it was ever me who said something I shouldn’t have, I hope you’ll forgive me. I hope I was simply having a bad day if I said something that wasn’t fair. Please don’t let what I might have said or others discourage you from being part of a great community. Perhaps you do need to look for a connection in a different venue. Perhaps there are others looking for a leader to emerge from what might be a bad situation. Work with them or take the lead, and make a tough situation a positive one.
In the end, we need to care for one another. We need to advocate for one another, and we need to love one another. Because, frankly, all we have is each other.