It’s a brand new year and it’s no surprise that most people seem to be taking a hard look at the past so that changes can be made for the future. Your two mermaids here are no exception. It has been a long 2017 and we looked even farther into the past, to ourselves before we were Navy submarine spouses. We feel like we were totally different people back then, even though it’s been a different length of time for the two of us. We grow as we face different challenges and the Navy has certainly given us things to contend with. So here we have our first co-written post. We thought we’d look back and give our younger, newly married, selves some advice on being involved with this Navy life we chose.
Amy, the older and wiser of the two of us says:
I don’t really know where to start, 2017 has been the HARDEST year so far and I’m hoping things calm down a bit in 2018. I’d like to spend more than a few months a year with my sailor, but so far, its not looking good. As for advice I would give my younger self if I could time travel, I would have A LOT to say.
Recently I’ve had an eye-opening experience and in dealing with this, I’ll share the following with you. But I need to start at the beginning.
One of my cousins has talked about joining the military for quite some time. He worked for a number of years in the Las Vegas Police Department and has since moved on and now lives in Florida. He finally decided to take the leap and join the Navy. He also got married this past summer and I have not met his wife yet, but I’ve spoken to her a few times. Now, I certainly do not know her and I’m sure she is a wonderful woman; I have been told that she’s pretty amazing, and if my cousin chose her to spend the rest of his life with, she must certainly be pretty special. But what I’m getting at here is, maybe its because I’m a “seasoned” spouse and have dealt with the good, bad, and downright ugly, but the past few days have opened my eyes. My cousin’s wife has not been handling his absence very well. He was gone for only a day when she spiraled into a full on anxiety attack because she hadn’t heard from him. (Insert eye roll here) Now, you may be thinking that I’m being rude, or that I’m not sensitive enough to relate to her. But the reality is that I relate so much to her and that I can have no sympathy for the way she’s acting. I have been in her shoes. The first time my husband left for a deployment after we started dating I had a full on meltdown and couldn’t go to work because I couldn’t stop crying. And what would I say to my former self? “Put your big girl panties on and deal with it!!” I’d slap myself in the face and and scream “PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER”, you know, like they do in the old black and white movies. This was nearly 10 years ago, and since then we’ve been through 4 deployments, 4 moves, 1 amazing baby girl, and the hell that is the USS Columbus. Looking back, after all the crap we’ve been through, I would just look at my younger self and shake my head. My cousin’s wife has already started the “I hate the Navy”, and “I don’t have time for catty women” and “I don’t like military wives” crap. Hey, I get it, I’ve been there. For the first 7 years of my Navy experience I met some horrible people, and because of them, I was never involved in any FRGs (Family Readiness Groups) or command events because I didn’t think I needed any more friends, and Navy Spouses, well, all military spouses, already have the terrible reputation so why would I want to involve myself in that? The truth is, you can avoid all that for as long as you want, its like sitting in a rocking chair, you can do it all day but its never going to get you anywhere. You will meet people that are just downright horrible human beings, but you will also meet the most amazing people and some will become lifelong friends. You cannot simply just push aside everything involving the military, especially if your spouse is deployed. I’ve learned that there is so much support out there. So many resources. SO MUCH HELP. If you sit on the floor and throw a temper tantrum because you haven’t talked to your husband in a day, well then hunny, you’re going to have one hell of a time with this lifestyle.
Like I said before, from 2007 until 2014, I only had a few friends within the navy community. I was never involved in an FRG, I never went to command events, besides Sub Ball, because, well, who doesn’t love to get all glammed up and have a fancy date night?!!! I worked A LOT. I had work friends, I was working overtime, as much as I could, because I wanted to stay busy so the time would pass quicker. It worked for me, until we were moved from Connecticut to California. And then I felt completely alone. Yes, I still had a few friends who were in the same area. The submarine community is pretty small so its likely that you will always know some people at every duty station you’re assigned to. But after we had our first child, I developed a terrible case of postpartum depression and realized that I needed to to reach out to the resources that were available to me. And let me tell you, they helped. A LOT. I am so thankful for all the support that the military has to offer the families of the sailors, soldiers and what have you. There are such WONDERFUL resources out there, probably some i don’t even know about but I wish I had accessed them sooner.
While living in Hawaii I became a board member of our FRG, and boy did I learn a lot. We had a wonderful group of ladies, and of course some not so wonderful ones, but that’s the good part, you don’t HAVE to be friends with everyone, but you can be friendly and get along with them. I have taken the COMPASS class, which I encourage anyone and everyone to take. It’s free and its different in every duty station since you can learn about the local cultures and things to do. It also teaches you nearly everything you need to or want to know about being a military spouse, navy specific.
Let’s also not forget how much I love my husband and I support him 100%. He absolutely LOVES his job and he loves what he’s doing for our country. That makes me so very proud. I cannot say enough how proud of him I am. As hard as it may be to be a spouse to an active duty submariner, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I may get sad and depressed but I will NEVER let that get in the way of my husband’s career. I have seen way too many sailors who have to cut their tours short, or drop out entirely because their wives can’t handle it. I am proud of my sailor and I will stand by him no matter what. After all, that’s what we said in our marriage vows, “In good times, and bad, for richer or poor, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”
So, to summarize, if I was face to face with my ten year younger self, I’d say, GET OUT THERE! Reach out, take advantage of everything the Navy has to offer its spouses and their families. Pull your big girl panties on and HANDLE IT HUNNY. You can do this, you WILL do this. Go out there and KICK ASS! While you can still have your guard up and be choosy about who you allow into your inner circle, put yourself out there. Trust me, you’ll be much happier when you do.
Lauren, only having been married three years says:
What would I say to myself before I married my submariner? Well, that’s hard to think about. I certainly don’t have any regrets and I don’t think I’d do anything differently. Or rather, I wouldn’t do anything big in a different way. Everyone has tiny regrets that don’t really have a big impact (“I wish I kept that umbrella in my car.” “I should have been better organized about sending those thank you notes.”) but those aren’t interesting things to give myself advice about. Instead, I would give myself the advice that I’ve already told myself a million times in the last three years.
Learn to disregard plans. I know I have to plan most things out but the Navy does things differently and they’ll be the biggest cause of upsets to your best laid plans. OR learn to have backup plans for many things, just in case. Learning to let go a little more of the set plan will be such a big benefit in this life. Try making loose plans that can be changed at the last minute. Try to see lots of possibilities for the event (or whatever it is) and think about how you’ll react if that happens. Just breathe and know that he’s your best friend, he isn’t doing it on purpose, and it’ll all be OK in the end. And maybe grab a glass of wine.
Also, learn to trust yourself. You’ll spend a good amount of time managing things by yourself so it makes sense to learn to confidently handle lots of things independently. Your sailor may be at work for an 18 hour day or he may be underwater for months at a time. Whatever he’s doing for the Navy will mean he can’t always be there to take care of the car or lawn or kids or the taxes. Find the resources you need in your area and get things done because someone’s gotta and it may have to be you. Most of the time. To use the Nike catchphrase, “Just do it.”
And, enjoy your duty station. Make the choice to enjoy it because you’ll likely move away soon enough. It’s OK to not like every single thing about the places you live and it’s OK to have bad days now and again but it doesn’t make sense to let it all make you miserable. Hawaii is not your personal idea of paradise but it doesn’t mean you have to be grumpy and grouchy all the time. Decide to be happy and that’ll help when you’re alone on island when your Sir is underway.
Here’s to a wonderful 2018!