When I got married to a young Marine at 22, we were both as “boot” as boot gets.

Now, almost two years on, I hardly possess more than an ounce of practical wisdom about the military world. I barely know what my husband does at work every day (I used to ask, when he started his MOS school, but I quickly tuned out when he started talking about radio frequencies and all that technical mumbo jumbo). My mind turns blank as soon as he and his coworkers start talking in military jargon. I still don’t know exactly what all the different uniforms are called, how many chevrons maketh a Staff Sergeant, or what the official on-base dress code entails.

((Marrying Young is a Military Tradition))

But I do, at least, have a handle on handling myself through this life.

As a military spouse, in the eyes of the world around me, I am a dependent. Dependent. The word makes me dry heave; it doesn’t even begin to do justice to the amount of ambitious, intelligent, motivated military spouses I’ve met over the past couple of years, or even the person that I see when I look in the mirror. In many cases, “dependent” feels entirely irrelevant. And, honestly, the connotations of “dependent” are pathetic at best; I have flippantly wondered, at times, why we couldn’t at least be “sidekicks,” or something a little less impotent.

But the key thing I’ve learnt is that being “a dependent” and acting dependent are entirely different things.

You don’t need me to tell you that new military couples face a veritable avalanche of challenges, of course. But as a fellow dependent, I thought I’d give a little advice that might not be in your typical LINKS program: How to shake off the “dependent” mentality and become a stronger, more badass person in the meantime.

Strike a social balance.

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Some days you’ll feel like a million dollars, and some days you’ll feel like you’d rather hibernate under a woobie than put on a smile and go to that unit function. To hell with it: Don’t feel like you have to volunteer, bake 500 cookies, or run yet another charity 5k just because you feel like you ought to.

Yes, there are the eternally peppy military spouses who bustle furiously from event to event, but you don’t need to be this way, especially not as a total noob. It is okay to say “no.” No-one is going to judge you for opting out of optional activities. Your level of involvement with the community is allowed to fluctuate.

Social media is your biggest frenemy.

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