Sunday, June 19, 2011

Life as a Military Spouse; A Privilege, Not a Right.

Life as a Military Spouse; A Privilege, Not a Right.
I've spent over half my adult life married to a United States Marine. Before that, I was what is commonly referred to as a Navy Brat. Having spent all of my life associated with the military in one form or another, including a stint of my own in the United States Army, I've seen many types of spouses. Some good, some bad, some just indifferent. There are several things I've learned after meeting these women, and being on both side of the military lifestyle.

 I'd like to share them with you.

First and foremost, since in my experience, there seems to be some confusion as to what being in the military actually means. The definition of military is: anything relating to war-like matters.  Yes, this means the sexy man you're dating or coveting from afar, has signed on to go to war

In case you're confused about what going to war might entail--because you've been living in a cave or under a rock for the last decade or longer, depending on your age--just turn on your local news station, pick up a newspaper, or check your Yahoo! email. I guarantee there is at least one link on the home page related to the ongoing war in the Middle East, and the military rarely (if ever) accepts  the feelings of a conscientious objector once the contract is signed.  

On the off chance those little glimpses into the life of a Solider, Airman, Seaman, or Marine aren't enough for you; let me break it down so you'll understand what the war means to your life, and how it will affect you.
If you choose to marry someone in the military, understand they will deploy. This is not a possibility, it's a guarantee. Those few who don't ever see a deployment are the exception. Not the rule.  

While they are deployed- for three, six, nine, or even eighteen months- you're going to be alone. Often in a place where you have no friends, family, or any semblance of a support system. You'll have to learn to do everything by yourself. You're going to have to be mother, father, handyman, gardener, taxman, and lawman. You'll be wearing so many hats, juggling so many jobs, you'll often fall into bed so exhausted you can't think straight. 

Then the heartache comes. 

You'll carry your phone around with you compulsively; showers will be the fastest known to man, and you'll be sad and withdrawn for days if you miss a chance to hear the often tinny, garbled voice of your husband as he calls from a finicky satellite phone. You'll find yourself lonely in a way you never experienced before, and loneliness is a vicious mistress; one you'll spend more time with than your actual husband.  

During their deployment, anything that can go wrong will. For the first time in ten years, you'll come down with the worst stomach virus ever, your child will be rushed to the emergency room because of an unexplainable cough, the house you painstakingly clean daily will suddenly become infested with roaches, and that brand new car you purchased right before he left will breakdown for unknown and mysterious reasons.

Sounds fun, right? 

I haven't even started yet. 

Now, imagine being alone in a strange place, and essentially re-experiencing everything negative about high school. 

That's what the military is like.

 A bunch of boys and girls with the legal right--and access-- to weapons. Being old enough to fight for your country or get married, doesn't guarantee you're old enough to be a decent human being. 

As a military wife you're dropped directly into the path of every single person intent on wreaking the most havoc on those in their path. It's like a real life version of the movie, Mean Girls; only with worse hair, makeup, and wardrobe--and in some cases-- a few more years in age; though at times you'll be hard pressed to find the maturity and wisdom you'd expect from someone who graduated a decade ago. 

While your husband is in some random XXX-stan country, dodging bullets, keeping his head down, and praying to whatever deity he believes in, you'll be navigating your own minefield. Yours isn't deadly, but it's still treacherous, and can prove to be lethal to your husband's career.

That's right, being a military wive means everything you do is a direct representation of the person you married. You go out for a wild night of carousing with the girls, dance on a few tables, take a few body shots, and post a few scantily clad, raunchy photos of yourself on the internet. This can-- and often will-- come back to bite your husband in the ass. 

You think since you didn't sign on the dotted line when he enlisted, military rules don't apply to you. You're wrong. With access to the many benefits that come with the 'dependent' status, there are rules and responsibilities.

A few of these, let's call them expectations, include: not wandering around public areas, such as the commissary and the exchange, in your pajamas; not becoming a barracks bunny-- hooking up with those Soldiers, Airmen, Seamen, and Marines who aren't deployed; showing appropriate decorum-- for those confused, this includes table dancing and taking body shots outside of the comfort of your own home-- at all functions, while on base, on any other government installation, or in public; showing up to Command functions appropriately attired, in this case, appropriate would not include something you'd wear to bed, or to round up business on the local street corner.

Yes, that means your wardrobe choices are going to have to fully cover you, or you'll be asked, and usually not nicely, to return to your home and attire yourself properly. 

After all, this is the real world, and in the real world you can't get something--while dressed like Lady Gaga on crack-- for nothing. 

Life as a military spouse can be a highly rewarding existence, but it isn't for everyone. There are several signs you should be aware of before making the commitment. If you realize this lifestyle isn't for you, that's okay, no one will hold it against you, and in many cases will even applaud your sense of self, and your maturity for not putting yourself in a situation where you'll be miserable, and therefore, make others around you miserable as well.

*  If you can't handle living away from your family and childhood friends, don't become a military spouse. You'll only waste money traveling home every time your Soldier, Airman, Seaman, or Marine has to stand duty, go through training, or work a late night.

*  If you find it hard to remain faithful to your significant other during long separations, don't become a military spouse. Nobody likes a home wrecker, or a barracks bunny, and you'll find yourself on the bad side of the military chain of command very quickly if you get caught.

*  If you're unable to leave the drama from high school, in high school where it belongs, for God's sake don't become a military spouse. There is enough drama in the military already without adding more to it.

*  If you are afraid to get dirty, unwilling to learn, or predisposed to believing that women are meant to be taken care of, you'll find yourself unhappy and miserable. Don't become a military spouse, find yourself a nice Prince to marry. There's little royalty found here.

*  If your life isn't complete without constant attention and entertaining, you're doomed to disappointment if you marry a military member. Make yourself happy in the long run. Marry a banker. 

*  If you can't handle being alone for months at a time, whine about how unfair each deployment is, and constantly complain about how hard it is for you; don't become a military spouse. Every one of us have gone through it. Some multiple times. We understand it's difficult, but we aren't going to coddle you. Suck it up Buttercup or marry a school teacher. 

*  If you don't believe in the war, what our country is fighting for, or the taking of 'innocent' lives, you won't make it as a military spouse. Trust me on this, we're not a very understanding bunch when it comes to those beliefs. After all, if you're not willing to stand behind our troops; feel free to stand in front of them.   

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