Look back on your years in school, and ask yourself this question:
Who was the teacher that changed your life?
Now, think back on all the years you have been a military spouse, and answer this question:
Who was the military spouse that changed your life?
Was it easier to answer the first question than the second? Identifying “that military spouse” in the same way that we identify “that teacher” is a significant part of our growth in the military life. Why?
Because that spouse, just like that teacher, is a mentor…and in this life, we need mentors.
Who Is a Mentor Spouse?
Mentor spouses have a rich experience that guides other spouses who are new, young or otherwise feeling lost. Mentor spouses might be called “seasoned,” but their ability to mentor doesn’t rest solely on how long they’ve been married or how often they’ve high-fived deployments, TDYs and PCSs.
Mentor spouses help mentees discover the power within themselves to navigate this life on their own. They inspire confidence, provide honest advice and connect mentees to useful resources.
The founder and president of the Military Spouse Advocacy Network (MSAN), Verenice Castillo, sums up mentorship like this: “Mentorship is more than answering questions or sharing your personal experiences with others. It is about providing the kind of support and friendship that makes strong spouses and stronger families.”
Mentorship Smooths the Path for New Spouses
If you’re a new military spouse, you might find yourself feeling alone, uncertain and overflowing with questions. You also might realize that finding a sense of purpose is the biggest challenge of all. Having experienced similar doubts, fears and obstacles, mentor spouses can offer a combination of emotional support and practical advice.
Finding a mentor spouse isn’t something you can force. Let it happen naturally, but engage yourself in activities where you can meet people with a variety of backgrounds. Participate in your unit’s spouse functions, join spouse clubs or volunteer at local events. You might meet an experienced spouse with whom you will naturally “click.” This relationship can benefit you by:
- Clearing up confusion. Every military spouse knows what a relief it is to finally crack the codes of acronyms, customs and courtesies.
- Welcoming you into a community. A mentor spouse can introduce you to people and activities that will help you feel less like the new person and more like part of the family.
- Connecting you to resources. Discover everything there is to know about your installation and the local community – and gain some insight on the beast that is TriCare!
- Putting things into perspective. When you’re overwhelmed by the rollercoaster of military life, hearing how another spouse has handled it (several times) can ground you and restore your confidence.
Talk to your mentor – a lot. Ask questions, no matter how small. Listen to advice. The more you do this, the more you’ll grow and the more you’ll feel at home.