I am the wife of an Iraqi War Vet. He gave 8 years of service, multiple deployments, and two tours in Iraq. The first 8 years of my marriage were formed by the military. I would love to say that my marriage has always been routed in these ideals but we learned the hard way. We have always loved each other, been honest, faithful, and been true to our vows. But we have both made major mistakes in our marriage. The military life is hard.
Families sacrifice just as much and learning to deal with this sacrifice because you love someone is difficult. I’ve watched too many families destroyed by it. The military may say they respect the family but it will always be a secondary concern to the real objectives. How can you maintain your marriage and family through the hardships and challenges dictated by military orders? Here are ten things the military taught me about marriage.
- Let the anger keep. I was told at my wedding to “never go to bed angry.” My new husband was working 16 hour shifts, you can imagine the seriousness of what was happening. Our base was at it’s near highest security alert and my spouse was exhausted. I was upset that our new life together was so lonely. We fought for his 6 hours that he had home. Watching him leave the house that exhausted changed my view on everything. The anger will keep and often after the initial emotions have settled you will get to the real issues.
- Do acts of service to show love. My husband worked every holiday, snow day, rainy awful day. He wasn’t the only one. I would often take warm meals and hot drinks to our gates to take care of the men that worked with my spouse. It’s a thankless job to do security and there is no break. More personally having a meal done before a long shift or bringing additional food for an unexpected double are the kinds of things that help your spouse feel loved and cared for when the military makes them feel anything but.
- Know every aspect of running your lives. As a military spouse you do not have the luxury to call the husband in to open the jar, or your wife to do the finances. You must be both, you must know all things, and you have to roll with the challenges. Communication has definitely improved but not all deployments are equal, you can’t always talk of your spouse when you need.
- Make every moment count. I have actually made getting groceries a date. When your time together is very limited and there are errands to do it becomes a choice of this or that. I learned very quickly to just roll with it. We would walk around the commissary playing 20 questions couple style, or some similar game, so that we could get things done but still spend quality time together.
- Lead with love not fear. There are things I will never be allowed to discuss, that terrify me now let alone then. Focus on the love you have in your spouse, the belief you have in them, and try not to hold on to the fear. I know how hard that is, but the fear will drive you mad and you’ll push the one you love most away.
- Learn to be alone. This is probably the first big lesson for a military spouse. If you’re overseas and jobs are hard this can be a jail. The loneliness is overwhelming. You have a community, use them. I was afraid to make friends as a new wife and that was my mistake. Pick up hobbies, enjoy your interests, read more… Work on you, I promise this will save your sanity.
- Make your own traditions. Your first deployment through a holiday can break you. There are certain expectations for how you spend each holiday and trying to meet those expectations with military orders can be impossible. Don’t fret, you can make your own new traditions. I’ve sent boxes to our troops for every one and can tell you that they make a difference. Anything you can do is better than nothing.
- Focus on what you do have and not what you don’t. If you spend your marriage focused on the things you can’t control. Or what you can’t have due to the schedule and demands of the military, you won’t last. It is a very hard life, it absolutely is. You’re not wrong to want those things. If you put your focus on what you have it’s easier to be appreciative about your life together.
- Hold faith and confidence in each other. There are many people that will try to come between you and your deployed spouse. You cannot keep faith in your marriage by listening to the voices of others. You must have faith in yourself and your spouse in order to keep your vows. Everyone isn’t cheating, marriages do work, and your morality is not up to others.
- Make change your friend. Every single aspect of your life will change multiple times, learn to embrace it. Look at pcs as a new adventure. Dream of your new life there. You must always look forward. There’s a common saying that goes roughly “there’s no base as good as your last, as bad as the one you’re on, or with as much opportunity as your next.”
Thank you for your service and your sacrifices. I’m well aware how much you miss. Thank you to your families for also learning to roll with the hardships and sacrificing so much. It is a very rare person that can serve and rarer still that can love that service member the way they deserve.
In honor of Veteran’s Day my family has made a contribution to Wounded Warriors. I hope you will reach out to a Veteran and his/her family and provide an act of service.