Tag Archive: military spouse


To be honest, I’m having trouble deciding on where to start writing this entry. Up until a few weeks ago, I had never really put conscious thought into what it means to be a ‘military spouse’. I just was.

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“Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day”. Really? Like is this a national holiday? Because it should be. If we aren’t on a base and completely surrounded by the military 150% of the time, we’d never know we were appreciated. And that is because no one, but ourselves, knows our battles. Each one is different, and yet we all share a few common denominators.

There is the obvious description of what people think we are, we spend a lot of time alone. We worry. We stress. But then there are things that aren’t so obvious, we often times find ourselves operating as single parents. We fight alone on the home front (or so it seems sometimes). We have no identity when it comes to the military and the benefits given. We are always identified as a ‘dependent’ crushing our individuality and in some cases, not all, creating chauvinistic a-holes in the men who we ‘depend’ on. (more on this in another blog)

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Have you ever put thought into what that word means?

de·pend
dəˈpend/
verb
  1. 1.
    be controlled or determined by.
    “differences in earnings depended on a wide variety of factors”
    synonyms: be contingent on, be conditional on, be dependent on, hinge on, hang on, rest on, rely on;

    be decided by
    “her career depends on a good reference”

    (source https://www.google.com/search?q=Dictionary)

    When you describe us like this….it does something to our psyche.

    Psyche-Dissociative-Disorder

    (Image from: http://www.wakingtimes.com/2015/04/06/psychological-warfare-and-the-fragmentation-of-the-psyche/)

    As a military spouse, the “service” that we are thanked for goes far beyond the obvious.

    My husband recently returned from an 8 month deployment to an area of the world that I’m not privee to. Doing a job, I have no idea about, and comes home with residual ‘interference’ that I can’t help him with. Do you understand how frustrating that is?

    opsec2

    As a model, my job requires me to travel. Often times for days at a time. I am a Canadian citizen and my entire family resides in a foreign country. Not realizing it at the time, I purposely made my agents life difficult because I didn’t want to take a 2nd parent away from our 2 boys. I had an excuse for everything!

    It’s hard enough for children to live without a parent on a good day, but what if that parent was in harms way? My kids don’t need verification that my husband is in danger, all they need to do is see the news, and then put 2 and 2 together.

    Now, if I pursue my career while my husband is fighting for our lives and his on deployment….how will my kids function?

    Sure, my Mom can come and take care of them. Friends have volunteered as well to help, but what can they say when it’s time for bed and our youngest is crying because he misses his daddy? It’s not fair for him that I leave, and I’m lucky that I have the choice. But the sacrifices go so much deeper than just sharing my husband with the rest of the country.

    Often times, military spouses don’t have the liberty to be the ‘stay at home mom’ everyone thinks we are. The military pay isn’t phenomenal. Over the last 5 years our income has been threatened by government shut downs. So what are we to do when we live in a home that requires rent or a mortgage, need to put food on the table and pay other life supporting bills when our primary source of income could be snatched away from us as a moments notice (hello deployment)?

    We have no choice but to find a job. And often, those jobs are low income producing or a ‘work from home business’ because we can’t commit to a long term position because in 2-5 years we’ll likely be moving.

    Now I’m sure a lot of people out there might be reading this and be like, “oh suck it up lady, you get free medical & dental coverage”. Have you ever been to a naval medical facility? Did you know that the military doctors cannot be sued for negligence? Let that instill confidence in you next time you require a serious surgery.  Is it better than no medical? Yes, but most recently we lost our dentist because our dental insurance now pays so low that it doesn’t even cover the biggest discount the practice offers and it’s just not economical for the dentist to treat us anymore. So now we need to search for a new dentist, who will take our insurance or ‘suck it up’ and pay out of pocket.

    Let’s also talk about the fact that while our spouse is away, they cannot disclose to us what is going on. Therefore we are left to wonder and speculate and worry. Do you know how many times I had to pray myself to sleep just so I my mind wouldn’t wander into the unknown world of what my husband was doing overseas?  How many times I had to smile and tell my boys that Daddy was ok for the 3rd week in a row of not hearing from him and trying my hardest not to cry while doing it?

    My son became ill while my husband was gone, not seriously but still required a few days off of school & a doctors visit. But I wouldn’t dare tell my husband about it because the last thing I want to do is create a distraction for him that could not only put his life in danger but the men and women around him. For 8 months our relationship became very superficial. Is that selfish? Maybe, but if anything ever happened over there because my husband wasn’t 100% focused on the mission, I couldn’t live with myself.

    There is an unspoken attitude amongst us veteran spouses, we just deal with it. No sense in complaining or bitching about it because we know, nothing is going to change.

    When someone thanks ME for my service, often times I shrug it off and smile. Give the polite ‘thank you’. Afterall, I’m just doing what any normal Mom would do right?  I’m just taking care of my family….But behind our big white smile and little giggle, just know, that we are each fighting a battle that we can’t talk about, often times have no answer for and couldn’t even if we wanted to and wouldn’t anyway because the number 1 lesson we’ve been taught as supportive spouses is ‘OPSEC’.

    I am proud to be a military spouse, and I want to use my voice and my visibility to help those men and women holding down the homefront to have a voice and know that they aren’t alone and to raise awareness about what really goes on back home.

    16f9612da7a71005ff4a63a7c859a78b--military-spouse-quotes-military-girlfriend

     

    Be sure to follow and subscribe to my blog, as my next topic will be on the; “now he’s back, dysfunctional trials and tribulations of the reunited military couple. ”

     

     

     

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Have you read the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman?  You can find a neat little quiz on the website http://www.5lovelanguages.com.

Many years ago I picked up this book because my husband and I were having difficulties communicating.  I had thought about the Mars/Venus theory but I thought this was a better choice.  Considering it had the word ‘language’ in it.

While reading the book, I found out that my primary love language is “Acts of Service” .  This means that when I am showing my love for someone, whether it be a friend or loved one, that my actions will be what shows them how I feel.  When I am receiving love, acts of service is also how I feel loved by others.  Acts of service speak to me more then gifts, words of affirmation or even physical touch. My husband however, his primary love language is “Physical touch” with “Quality time” as a close 2nd.  Are we compatible?  Well we are more compatible now that we understand how to love one another.

Now if a person who has the love language  “Words of Affirmation”… this person would respond more to someone who flatters them and uses words to lift them up, right?  And the person with the love language “Receiving gifts” would be more receptive to that person bringing them flowers or a box of chocolates.  Something small like a classic movie rental or a present that shows thoughtfulness and preparation would put that person right over the edge.

The relationship my husband and I have is one that has been worked on for years.  It hasn’t always been easy but all in all even the bumps have been fun because it’s forced us to learn new things about one another and we feel accomplished when we work through an issue and come out on top.  My husband is always there to compliment me, he notices when I get my hair done, and I love how his hands appreciate my curves.  I’m there for him when he needs a hug and our nights cuddling on the couch re-energize him.

You know when you have those days that you look in the mirror and say “I look good today”.  Your clothes fit you the way you love them to and you get that tickle in your tummy that tells you that today you are going to initiate some lovin’.  This is huge for my husband because remember, my love language is acts of service but his is physical touch and quality time.  So by me initiating those romantic times it speaks volumes to him.

“The benefits of touch to a person’s health are phenomenal. Touch can reassure, relax and comfort. It reduces depression, anxiety, stress and physical pain; and can be healing. It increases the number of immune cells in the body, and has powerful affects on behaviour and moods. “*

Intimacy and the military is a whole other story.  Every spouse will have a different story, different ideas and every spouse will have a different outcome.  One thing that we all share though is that we are all human and all are physical beings.

So, how does a military spouse handle the fact that, for months on end, even a year or longer they are single in the physical sense but not in the mental?  How does a person survive without being hugged, loved, caressed or stimulated for such a long period of time?

While discussing the topic of sex and intimacy with a military spouse, it is not uncommon to hear stories of infidelity.   This is something that happens all to frequently in the military community.  It’s not always the service member that cheats, quite often it’s the spouse left at home that is the one who breaks the commitment.

Why?  To some the answer might seem obvious.  Long periods of time spent apart, temptation knocking at the front door, “it ‘just happened”.  No matter what you think or why you think it, the fact is that having an affair in the military has become very normal and dare I say accepted.  When someone brings it up, shock is not the first reaction in most cases.  The only time it gets addressed is if the service member gets caught fraternizing with someone in their command.

I can’t count on one hand the amount of affairs my husband has witnessed during his 13 years of service.

I recently read a blog where I found this information:

Is sex a basic human need?

Start with these premises:

  1. A (human) community is obligated to supply those of the basic needs of its members that can be met, unless perhaps these members have freely consented to not having these needs met.
  2. It is not permitted to require anybody to have sex, absent a free promise from the requiree.
  3. If a community is obligated to provide A to x, then it is permitted for the community to require one or more of its members to provide A to x.
  4. There is at least one community where there is at least one individual who (a) is capable of sex; (b) does not have sex with anyone; (c) has not consented to the state of affairs in (b); and (d) nobody has promised anything that entails having sex with this individual.
  5. Basic needs are the same for all members of all (human) communities.

Conclusion:

  1. Therefore, sex is not a basic need.**

I highlighted the sentence in #1 because I think this is the viewpoint that most military spouses take when the subject of sex and intimacy comes up during their partners deployment.  Some of us have mutually consented to not have these needs met.

If a person is single and dating, it’s their choice whether or not they want to invite intimacy between themselves and a suitor into the equation.

Knowing the love languages above, you take someone who is married.  Who has a primary love language of physical touch and put them into a situation where they are around the opposite sex in a friendly setting.  You can see where I am going with this.  Does one too many hugs prove to be too much for this spouse and they find themselves reaching out for that connection because they need it?  Is this a weakness or a sign of selfishness?

It’s very easy for someone who is in a vulnerable position to find themselves ‘taken’ by someone else is who trying really hard to create intimacy.  Sometimes before you even recognize what the other person is doing it’s too late.  And most people are motivated by their own selfish needs and desires.  So, even though the suitor recognizes that the spouse is vulnerable and is in a position of weakness, they will use that as their cue to try and get their own needs fulfilled without understanding the recourse involved.  The spouse may be so deprived of physical touch or quality time with someone that they can’t see straight and just blindly latch on to whomever is making themselves available.  This can go the same for all the 5 love languages mentioned above.

Now the service member who is deployed isn’t immune either.  Their needs are just as important as the ones left behind.  And as studies have shown, physical touch can reduce stress, infuse relaxation etc.  Is it really a surprise that many of our service members stationed in a war zone turn to affairs?  Trust me, I’m not saying it’s acceptable or excusable, I am just seeing if it makes sense when put in a different perspective.

Most times when people find themselves in an affair they assume that it’s going to be easier than what they have now.  The person is showering them with attention, the person is loving on them, flattering them etc.  things in the future are going to be better.  The popular saying “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side” comes to mind.  In most situations the ‘initial’ lust phase blinds most people to the reality of the situation.  Most military affairs lead to divorce. Divorce and the military is a very ugly situation.  There may be custody issues in which the military member almost always loses due to their deployment potential.  Financially, our military members are already hurting, now take their pay and cut it in half due to support expenses and fees.   Not looking green is it.

Now the person they are having an affair with has their own set of baggage.  This could just be a conquest for them.  They could be in a relationship too, so now you have 2 separate divorces to go through, custody battles.  What seemed fun and carefree in the beginning becomes a hard truth once the rainbow disappears.

You also have those relationships between 2 service members that occur during deployments, in the navy they are affectionately called “Boat Boos”.  These are relationships that only occur on the ship during the deployment with the understanding that once they get home, they go back to their own separate realities.  For some of you you may think this is a great arrangement.  Best of both worlds.  Until you get caught on the ship and are disciplined for it and you are demoted for it…then what?  Or what happens when one party decides they want more out of it then what you are willing to give and you have the whole ” Fatal Attraction” situation?  What happens to your spouse in that situation?

So what have we learned?  Not much actually.  No matter how many studies, how many demotions, how many divorces occur with our service members and spouses worldwide, unless we all hold each other accountable and refuse to accept the indiscretions we witness on a daily basis then the lives that are destroyed by selfish needs will just continue.

It’s been proven that numbers can change the future.  Imagine if everyone in the military community knew that someone was watching and someone was reporting what they were doing.  If a service member or spouse knew ahead of time that if they go through with it their partner will be told about it…..do you think they would continue?  Or do you think they would actually take a step back and reevaluate their choice?

Only time will tell.

*http://www.suite101.com/content/the-benefits-of-human-touch-a155979

**http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-sex-basic-human-need.html

In my last blog entry I introduced how a military spouse whose partner is deployed handles the situation.  No matter what situation brings about loss, whether divorce, death or moving, we all experience in one form or another some of the stages at one time or another.  It is a natural process.  It’s how we come out of this process that makes the real difference in our lives.

We have covered so far shock, denial, emotion, guilt, anger, frustration and fear.  So what comes next?  Let’s find out.

5. DEPRESSION & LONELINESS

Depression is not reserved for the spouse of deployed service members as this can affect women in every walk of life.  However, in the case of the military spouse depression can be a very dangerous place especially if there are children involved.  When your partner leaves for deployment and you are left alone in your house to carry on as usual that ‘usual’ may seem a little daunting.   Some of us with children carry on for the first couple of weeks as though nothing has changed.  Everything is still new and for the most part our partners have been gone for this long before and we’ve made it through okay.

Prior to most deployments the service members find themselves doing trainings, work ups or schools.  These can last from a week , month or several months depending on their branch of service and the type of ship or unit they are attached to.  Most families of military members are used to them being gone for these short periods of time.  It’s said the military does this so that we start getting used to them being gone, that is hardly their motivation.  While this may be true for the most part, taking the garbage out for 2 wks doesn’t really compare to doing it, the lawn, the cars or the house for up to and sometimes longer then a year.

Depression can set in due to many factors.  The spouse left behind is dealing with supporting the possible rants and emotional issues of their loved one with no one to vent to due to operation security. It’s sometimes not easy for a deployed service member to show weakness amongst his peers so he turns to his wife.  She is left to deal with that fall out.  Watching the news can also send a spouse into depression.

The spouse becomes lonely.  Now I don’t care who you are, loneliness can affect you no matter how social you are.  Whether it’s just curling up at night with a good book, laughing out loud and realizing there is no one there to share the joke with or the desire to cook a nice dinner and then wake up to the fact that you’ll be eating it alone.  I’ve been known to walk around my house talking to myself.  Luckily I never respond…

These little bits of life are ones that can tip the scales from outgoing to introverted.  Most of the time when a spouse goes into a depression it’s not about the big things but actually the little things that send them over the edge.  You take the extra time to look nice or are having a great hair/makeup/skin/clothing day and no one is there to appreciate it.  You can send an email or take a picture to try and share the moment but it’s one of those times that you kind of had to be there.  Today with social media being so accessible those efforts to attract the attention of your loved one often fall into the hands of others which can lead to a whole other set of problems.

I have 2 children but they don’t share my humor nor do they share my palette so for me to cook an elaborately flavored dinner is sort of wasted on them.  My husband however would devour it and shower me with compliments.  I read a book once called “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, I’m sure many of you have heard of it.  Well the way that I show love is “Acts of Kindness”.  I may not SAY how I feel about a person but my actions will hopefully convey how I feel.  My husband is the primary beneficiary of my acts however when he’s not here it’s hard to feel validated.

It’s really easy for an isolated spouse to start to feel the emotions of loneliness and depression and have no one around to notice or be concerned.  Many spouses live in areas of the country where they don’t know anyone and no one would recognize a change in behavior.  This is where it can get dangerous.  If that spouse feels isolated and alone with no one or no where to turn, their state of mind can take them to very dark places.  To the point where they could harm themselves or others.  If the family has children this is an especially dangerous place to be.  In some cases those children are the brunt of the emotional dysfunction and can be left to fend for themselves, the depression can turn to anger and the children can become victims of abuse or worse.  In other cases the spouse may be able to put up enough of a front to not draw attention or concern from friends and loved ones.  We all know when someone bottles up emotions eventually they will snap, the straw that broke the proverbial camels back as one would say.

Depression and loneliness are very serious and not to be taken lightly.  During this time of the grieving process you may also see spouses who are normally very active in their community or even the opposite very quiet and reserved to start to act unnatural to their personality.  The quiet spouse may start to get loud and act out to draw attention to themselves or the normally outgoing spouse may all of a sudden retreat and not be seen for an extended period of time.

This stage is very dangerous also to the relationship that spouse has with their deployed service member.   When the service member starts to notice a change in their spouse this becomes a very dangerous place to be.  Our service members can’t afford to have the distraction of problems at home.  When their mind is affected by things going on here then they are not paying attention to what is going on around them as clearly.  If that distraction is concern over the mental or physical state of their spouse and children it could turn deadly, not only for the service member but also every member of their unit.  Once a spouse snaps out of their funk, guilt can set in for putting this on their service member…it’s a vicious cycle.

6.  ACCEPTANCE & MOTIVATION

Many spouses eventually move forward into accepting their situation.  After a few months they find themselves in a routine.  They have made plans with family,  reached out to their church and community and are beginning to embrace their new, however temporary life.

The spouse may find a new sense of pride.  Pride in themselves for the fact that they are doing it.  When a challenge arises they moved through it and handled it with sanity.  Pride reflected in the communication with their service member.  A verbal ‘pat on the back’ from their hero.   Pride in the fact that they haven’t completely fallen apart and that their children are functioning normally.

The biggest problem encountered here though is that once the spouse accepts their situation and becomes motivated to make the best of it, on the other end of the spectrum, as the deployment comes to an end they are thrust back into anxiety and the emotional roller coaster of earlier in the deployment because now the spouse and family unit has to prepare for the return of the deployed service member and whatever that return may bring with it.

7.  ANXIETY AND ANTICIPATION

This stage is one that can appear at any time during the deployment however I am referring to these specifically as the deployment comes to an end.

During the past 7, 9 or 18 months the spouse at home has maybe dealt with deaths, car issues, house issues, behavioral issues and their own emotional ones.  They may have had a complete breakdown and moved through it to come out strong and independent on the other side.  Key word here INDEPENDENT.  This is can be a good and a bad trait as the spouse of a military member.

I am very independent and have, at certain times witnessed my own thought process going to “well, what do I need him for then, I’ve been doing this on my own and KNOW now that I can”.  Ooooh, that’s a dangerous thought to have.  That frame of mind is a place where the anxiety of homecoming can fester.

Here we have this spouse who has succeeded on their own for months and months.  Handled a variety of stressful situations some that may have crushed another person.  Now, in only a few weeks, their partner in life, their partner in home and family is returning.  Where do they fit in now?  How do we go from being totally independent of each other to learning how to depend again?  How do I help them to adapt to the new children they are going to encounter?

Our children had changed phases in life during my husbands last deployment.    Our then 2 yr old in diapers when daddy left was now a 3 yr old toilet trained little boy.  Our then 5 yr old kindergartner was now a 6yr old 1st grader who was doing everything by himself.  It’s a hard place for daddy to come home to where his children don’t ‘need’ him the way they used to.  My husband had to deal with those emotions himself and then had to accept the situations, routines and life we had built while he was gone.  This is all on top of the emotions he had to deal with while being gone and witnessing what he did on deployment.  Not only that but he also had to adapt to the constant “noise of playing, screaming and sometimes total melt down” kids again and the fact that the boys followed him EVERYWHERE he went.  That can be a lot to adjust to especially after spending months only taking care of himself.

The grieving cycle never really ends for a military spouse.  It’s more of a constant state in one form or another.  Once we recognize which state we are in is when we can move to a place where we can involve and encompass everything around us.  We are also able to learn from mistakes.  The mistakes I made on deployment one will not be in effect for deployment 2 and I will have a better idea of what to watch out for where my kids and I are involved because we have so recently been through it.

There is not one piece of advice that can be given in this situation.  We are all a lady in waiting at some point during our military spouse lives.  Every spouse is different and in different phases.  We each need to find what works best for us and then to make sure we make a note of it, because if you are like me, you will forget it just as fast as you thought of it.

I’d love to hear what you think.  Please join my blog and leave me a comment, this is as much for me as it is for you.

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