Let’s talk for a minute about vulnerability. I strive to bring to you my experiences as a learning tool, in an honest, truthful manner. I want to provide a picture of what you may expect as possible experiences in this life we live. My experiences and the stories I tell are anecdotal, but I want them to be something to give you a tidbit of the things you might come across and maybe they can be useful for you should you experience anything similar. That said, sometimes the things I share will be fraught with personal vulnerability. You will be privy to the raw details, and I share this because I trust that it may benefit you. The most important thing to me, is to tell you things that you may not get at a Family Readiness Group meeting or at a Fleet and Family Services brief. The un-PC version. The Real Deal. And as always, I welcome your input and your requests for things that you want to discuss on this blog.
So, who are you? I ask you to ponder this deeply existential question because I’m going to share with you one of my very early struggles as a married spouse-loss of personal identity. I was raised in a mustang household, which means my dad started out as an enlisted Sailor, then worked up the ranks and retired as an officer. I also married into a family where my Father-in-Law retired as an officer. So, I had two moms to look up to and saw as an example for what I thought I would be as the spouse of an officer. Haha, right? Is that really “a thing”? So this sounds kinda silly to write out in words, but I have to admit, I think I came into this marriage with some sort of pre-disposed image of who I should be as an officer spouse, like a sort of caricature. I thought I had to be some sort of perfect little thing, thus the Stepford wife idea. Sounds kinda laughable, right? Wasn’t I just ME? Because I had this ideal in my head, which was not only unrealistic, but was NOT ME, I spent the first couple years of my marriage unhappy. I wasn’t unhappy with my spouse. I wasn’t unhappy with my marriage. I was unhappy with the role I was trying to shoe-horn myself into! I was unhappy trying to be something that I wasn’t!
Allow me to digress for a sec…many of us, when we marry our nomadic partners, get uprooted from our homes and all that is familiar, and shot across country, or even around the world, to a new location. We are then expected to reestablish ourselves in a new place, in a new home, in a new community, our kids in new schools….new, new, new! This can be challenging, to say the least. The number of significant changes that take place upon arrival in a new duty station can be overwhelming. Now add to this, especially if you are a newlywed or new to the military community, the disorientation that can result from taking on this new role as a military spouse (Remember, I hate the word “dependent” and do my best not to use it!).
Even though I grew up around the military, and had even been active duty myself for a stint, I was experiencing this dizzying dynamic. I was newly married, newly living with another person (we had each lived alone for years before we got married), new to a state on the opposite coast…had no job, no friends, knew no one, and had NO IDEA where to start! Somewhere along the lines, I got it into my head that I had to “be” a certain way. There was no pressure from my new husband (or probably any idea that I even had all this in my head!). It was all my own pressure. I had created some dumb little handbook in my mind about this new role. And I lost ME. Seriously, the reason I wanted to name this blog something about Stepford wives, is because I think that’s kinda what I thought I needed to become. **So crazy, right?**
Lemme tell you, in my experience and the experiences of most of my peers, the spouse is the one who is likely to give up a career. Combined with all the lifestyle changes involved in supporting and becoming nomadic with our military partners, it can be too EASY to kind of get lost in the flurry of your new life dynamic. That’s partly what happened to me. I was trying to be something that I wasn’t, and that made me unhappy. I allowed myself to get swirled up in the tornado of change and lost touch with many things that made me who I was when he married me! With the sacrifices we make as spouses, please remember not to give up everything that makes you…you!
If you have a career that you love and you can keep alive in the process of moving from one duty station to the next, please continue to pursue it (these days many jobs can be portable). If you are in school, either stay in school and finish or see if you can do some sort of distance learning. If you have never wanted kids, but see all the little military rugrats at every command event, don’t feel pressured to have kids! If you love tattoos, colored hair and body piercings, continue to express your creative style in that way! If you love group socializing, participate in FRG/OSC, and other command related activities. But if you don’t want to socialize at command functions, or don’t want to give up your career, or don’t want to dye your hot pink and black hair back to a “normal” color, or whatever, no one can force you to do most of these things! Communicate clearly with your spouse about the things that you are interested in doing or not doing, and be honest. There is NO requirement for spouses to take part in a great many parts of the military lifestyle. It does NOT reflect poorly on your service member. Don’t let it change who you are, don’t let it make you forget who YOU are! Don’t let yourself get lost in “supporting” your person, because he/she needs you to be YOU, not to bend and change your very personality.
The truth is,15 years later, I can’t remember exactly what things I was trying to force myself to do or be. I know I said yes to things I didn’t necessarily want to. Suffice it to say, over the years I have learned why I was so unhappy then. Your identity is precious and unique to solely you! Who you are, what you do, how you respond, how you love, how you treat others, how you sing in the shower…these all are things that made your mate fall for you in the first place, so don’t change them! Your uniqueness is what adds the diversity and character to the new people we meet along the way.
So I’ll say again, YOU BE YOU, as only you can be!
Cheers and love,
Love love love this!! That loss of identity is so difficult to grapple with when lives converge into marriage and the military steamrolls our life, at least at the very beginning. YOU BE YOU is such important advice for all military spouses. Because the world needs all kinds of kinds!!
Girl, I totally felt this loss of identity for I dunno how long. You were LEGIT my first Navy friend. The guys introduced us before TopGun when they left us alone in a new place for a couple months!!! And here we are old bitties in the spouse world!! Hahaha.
I am very impressed with your honesty into what we need in this crazy world. There are so many roles we are expected to take on and sometimes those roles do not support who we really are. I look forward to reading more of what you write. It has been 25 years since we were in the military world. Our military world seems to have been very different from the world I observe today. We were Army and that appears to be a different world from the Navy which we are associated with today. I never experienced the deployments which Navy homes experience. My heart goes out to those who are left behind while the spouse is away and to the spouse who leaves the comforts of home to be on a ship. You have written lots to think about.
Thanks for your insight! I wonder what you’d think of being a spouse in today’s military world?? I hope you continue to enjoy reading my posts.
This is so true! With the tremendous wisdom that always comes with hindsight, there are many things I would tell my younger self. One of the biggest would be it is possible to be incredibly proud of your spouse’s service while still making your own needs a priority. There almost seems to be a badge of honor associated with how busy we are as spouses, or how much hardship we bear, but the truth is much of it is self-imposed. If I had to do it over, I would answer my phone less, volunteer for only what I truly had time for, prioritize my kids over all else, and just BUY the damn dessert! I am finally “finding myself” now that he is retired, which is amazing, but brings with it the realization that I spent too many years lost.
I think a LOT of us feel lost for at least some period of time in our “careers” as spouses! Since there is no guide book, we have to figure it out as we go!! Hope you guys are doing well.