What you should never say to a military spouse.

When my husband was in college, it never occurred to either of us that he would have a career in the military. Once he graduated, we weighed the pros and cons and within a few months he joined the Navy and took his oath.

Before we knew it, it was time for him to go to OCS (Officer Candidate School) and as much as I prepared myself for my husband (of less than a year) to be gone for months, I found that I was far from prepared.

He was under enough stress when it came to getting ready but I unfortunately added to his stress.

In some ways I felt like he was abandoning me and I started picking ridiculous fights with him. I found that by doing so, I was distancing myself from him emotionally so it would be easier when he was gone.

I quickly learned that I would just end up feeling guilty and wanted to tell my husband how sorry I was but it wasn’t like I could just pick up the phone.

For the next 12 years his deployments never got easier and I missed him just as much as the first time he was deployed.

Sure, I became more self-sufficient all of those times I was alone (I pride myself on being somewhat of a plumbing ninja with all of the sinks and toilets I fixed over the years) but there was a huge part of me missing.

My husband.

Being a military wife is like being on the most thrilling but at the same time one of the scariest rollercoaster rides that you can experience.

Like being a mom.

I’ll never forget when I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter and we were living in Washington, D.C. My husband came home from work and I just knew something was going on. He told me they want to send him to Afghanistan in the next few weeks and he’ll be gone for a year.

I felt so selfish and guilty that I wanted somebody else to be deployed instead of my husband but after a very tense next couple of weeks, someone else was sent after all.

It turned out that once the powers that be found out my husband was recovering from a broken foot, he was deemed too much of a risk.

In all the years that he’s been in the Navy, the one thing that’s like fingers on a chalkboard to me are the times he was deployed and the most frequent comment I would get is Well, that’s what you signed up for.

It feels like the person saying that is dismissing my feelings. That’s probably why my mother-in-law was the worst offender when my husband was deployed.

Just because my husband is in the military doesn’t mean that it’s easier when he leaves or that we miss each other less. I feel in some ways it’s much harder because of the danger involved.

So, if there’s a military spouse in your life, give them a shoulder to lean on. And a hug. Hugs are always good.

Do you have a spouse in the military or one that travels frequently? How do you handle the separation? What would you like people to know?

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3 Responses to What you should never say to a military spouse.

  1. Angie May 11, 2012 at 08:03 #

    My husband is also in the Navy. He was in the Army reserves before this, and deployed twice. It is tough when they are gone. His second deployment we weren’t married yet. I had people asking me if we were going to break up since he was leaving. They couldn’t understand that I would stay in a relationship with someone while they were going to be gone for a year. It was ridiculous. People ask me how I handle all the moving and the separation, and I tell them you just do.
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  2. LeeAnne May 13, 2012 at 05:17 #

    I am a “NAVY BRAT”, and can honestly say that it is a hard on children as on spouses. Like you, Elle, my Mom missed him just as much after 25 years as she did when they were dating. Mom always said it took someone special to be a Military Spouse – following them whereever they were allowed to follow. I remember standing on the Piers as the ship was leaving, crying because I knew my Dad would be gone for 7 – 9 months at a time. And then in 7 – 9 months, standing on the same Pier crying because he was finally home. Mom and Dad were married for almost 64 years before Lung Cancer took him. He always sang her praises as following him wherever he went and on his final journey, he remarked to his Oncologist that she would follow him to Heaven as well. I wish you and your Hubs, (as well as the “Little Hummingbird”) the best Military life you can achieve. And from the bottom of my Heart, I THANK you for your sacrifice of “letting” him go, and I THANK him for his dedication and commitment to serve our Country.

  3. Carrie May 15, 2012 at 06:13 #

    You do what you have to do, but it isn’t easy. It is hard to explain to someone that you worry every day that he won’t be able to come back. If they never have to have the that experience, they just can’t grasp what that constant fearful little thought feels like. I think they assume that you go back to the way things were when you were single. But that isn’t the same. Once you are in a family, unless the whole of it is safe, it just doesn’t feel right.

    I remember being a angry with my friends and colleagues who wanted to engage me in a discussion of the war’s Rightness or Wrongness. I told them I didn’t have the luxury of being able to think about that. If I came to the “certain” conclusion, as they did, that the war was wrong, and I lost my husband to it, how would I reconcile that? I would lose my mind.

    I understand your fear at 8 months pregnant, too. The same situation happened to us. We knew that he was coming up in the next year, but due to someone going AWOL, my husband got bumped up at Christmas. He left Jan. 1 2004. Our daughter was born the next month.

    Thank goodness for the wonderful group of women that lifted our family up and helped me find my feet. They helped me with the new baby and my toddler while we acclimated to our new reality so that I had a solid home during the deployment. It is so important that we keep it together for our spouses so they can focus on what they need to do.

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