Why is there so much pressure on the military spouse to handle everything alone and without complaint? This life is already so uncertain, and then you go and marry a sailor (or marine or airman or soldier…) and things are being thrown at you that you never imagined having to deal with. But. Because you chose this life, you can’t complain, right? You can’t have a negative opinion. You can’t have a bad day. That would be unpatriotic. That would be ungrateful. That would be *gasp* shockingly normal.
I want to normalize it. Get it out there. Stop talking about it with one or two friends over wine in your kitchen and start telling the new spouses what they’re really signing up for and stop thinking you have to suffer in silence because that’s what it means to be a military spouse. Tell those new wives that there is a lot of loneliness. Tell the new husbands that their civilian friends may not ever understand them. Tell them that their own families may not ever be as supportive as they need. That they may have to be their own support system for a while when things get rough, and things will get rough. Tell them that they will learn more about themselves on this journey because they will be in situations they never dreamed of. Don’t ask them if they can handle it. Tell them they will have to handle it, because failure isn’t an option. There isn’t one way to survive deployment that works for everyone. There isn’t a miracle cure that will make you a professional military spouse. Even the strongest have weak moments and it has to be OK to break down and then build yourself back up again.
On your roughest days, it’s OK to complain. You’re allowed to be human and have negative thoughts. You are not superman. You are not Atlas, with the world on your back. You’re allowed to call your sister and vent about your problems without being judged for being ungrateful. Having a bad day sometimes doesn’t make this a bad life. Having a negative thought sometimes doesn’t mean you are depressed and it certainly doesn’t make you a toxic negative person. Having complaints doesn’t mean you’re ungrateful. Wanting your husband home more doesn’t mean you’re unpatriotic. Stop the madness now people! If one more person tells me (or my milSpouse friends for that matter!) that I should shut my mouth because this is what I signed up for, I will throat punch them while whistling “Stars and Stripes Forever,” k?
Civilian friends, check in on your military spouse friends. Chances are, they’re sugar coating it for you when they tell you they’re OK. They probably feel like you won’t understand the depth of their issues. They may feel like they can’t unburden themselves to you because they face challenges that are hard to put into words sometimes. Sometimes putting into words makes it more real, if that makes sense, so maybe we suffer in silence as a coping mechanism. Sometimes we would rather talk about the positives and ignore the negatives (I know I do this a lot, personally. It makes me happier to focus on the good rather than the bad, but there are some days where my natural optimism just can’t combat the challenges and those are the bad days.)
But for real, no one can carry around their burdens all the time without complaint, without relief. Find a way to lift your burden. You are the one at home, keeping things together for your service member. You have a lot to handle, but you don’t have to handle it alone. You are stronger than you think, but you don’t have to be super tough 24/7. You can’t maintain that without faltering. Sure, you can be tough as nails when shit hits the proverbial fan because someone has to clean it and fix it, so it might as well be you, right? Well what about the other difficulties? The smaller things that are super insignificant until they add up with all the other insignificants and become overwhelming? Or what about when all the big things go wrong at once? Anyone can handle one or two big emergencies, right, but now every single Murphy’s Law-type emergency is happening. What then?
Seriously. Sometimes strength is knowing when to ask for help or ask for an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. (And if your sister won’t answer the phone to listen to your problems, call someone who will.) The military spouse is a special person who puts up with a lot of stress. Wouldn’t it be a better thing if we supported each other and helped each other carry around our baggage? We’ve all got baggage. We may as well help each other!