So, it’s common as a military spouse to be stuck in a waiting game. Life often feels like one long holding pattern. In this post, I mean to reference life as a sub spouse, because that’s my experience. I know our service members, whatever the branch, often have to hurry to certain points, only to wait hours once they get there. What I mean by “hurry up and wait” for me though, is that I seem to spend my life waiting around for something, and then once “it” happens, (whatever it is,) I have to rush rush rush to get all the boxes checked and the papers signed and more and then it is back to waiting for the next thing.
Many of the wives I’m friends with (and yes, I know spouses can be men and women, but in my small circle of friends, they’re women,) understand this concept all too well. Planning anything around the military is terrible. It really stinks if you’re an organized planner type of person. (raises hand!) Do you want to get married during a sea tour? I know one person who basically found out THE DAY OF HER WEDDING that her fiance could be off the boat at one particular time and he had to be back on board a couple of hours later. (What the what?!?!) Do you want to have a kid? Well if it turns out like me, your husband will miss a huge chunk of your pregnancy, swoop in for the birth, leave two days later, and miss most of your daughter’s first two years because #SeaTour. Do you want to plan a party or ceremony or date night out? Better check schedules of everyone involved and then check duty schedules and then it still isn’t 100% that anything will go forth so have a backup plan in mind.
The first thing you’ll need to realize once you marry into this life as a [enter service here] spouse, is that there will be a good deal of your life that is completely out of your control. Take a good hard look at yourself and your personality and your lifestyle and then ask yourself, “Can I handle this? Forever and ever?” Because you’ll need to once you’re married to your service member. There are ways of coping, sure. But the sooner you come to grips with a lifestyle that is a roller coaster that is out of your control, the sooner you can find your coping strategies, employ them, and live happily ever after.
Here’s what I do. I mentally make plans. And I backup my plans with alternates and then I make contingency plans for the alternates. Because going into unknown situations scares me to my core, so I mitigate that by trying to think of what I’ll need to do whenever “it” happens. For example, we’re waiting for my Sir’s next orders right now. They could be a new job on this same island, and so my plan is very simple: do nothing. But we saw some international jobs and my plans for those orders are much more complicated. I mean, we’re already overseas technically. What’s one more ocean and crap ton of land mileage, right?! It’s enough to drive a person mad. I’m a list person so I’ve created mental to do lists for things to accomplish once orders come through. People to talk to. Forms to fill out. Things to sell/buy. This helps me feel like I’m in control of what I do have to be responsible for. There will be a lot of hurrying once we get my Sir’s new job. But since I literally can’t do a thing without orders, I think of what will need to be done and when. See? This scenario is more like “Wait. And then hurry up!”
But maybe lists aren’t your thing. That’s fine. You’ll find what works for you. Distract yourself by throwing yourself into your work until it happens, and then that’s when you can devote your energies to working through it. Or find some girlfriends, Skype or in person, and vent and talk it out until it all makes sense. That works too. You’ll find what works for you.
Also. Lower your expectations. Seriously. This is a skill that will help you in the long run. It isn’t easy to do, if you’re like me. But having super high expectations that something will be absolutely amazing will only set you up for disappointment later. BUT. Wouldn’t it be better if you expect something to be just OK and then it turns out to be stupendous?! Try to tell yourself that things may go wrong and plans may have to be shelved for later or changed and then you’ll avoid the bitter feeling of disappointed hopes. Every time you find yourself thinking excitedly of fantastic plans you’ve made, just remember that it may not go as you set out and that’s OK.
This is a lifestyle many people can’t understand. Even if they basically understand the words I’m saying, until they’ve lived it for themselves, it isn’t a true comprehension. From the outside, it can seem like we have no stability and no control. Then again, I barely spent any life “from the outside” because both of my parents are marines and the only time I spent “in the civilian world” was about four or five years or so between college and marriage, so maybe I’m not the best judge on perspective “from the outside.” But it is a comment I receive a lot from my non-military friends, that they can’t conceive of what it’d be like to live this life. But if you were to ask me as a child if I ever felt like I was in an unstable environment, I’d have said no. The military may be a little crazy, running around like a chicken with its head cut off, but plans always come together in the end. I went from being a military kid to a military wife and I don’t ever recall feeling like my world was too much out of my control. I just found the things I can control, and took the reins. It’s all we can do, and in the end, this life with my best friend is worth it.