Dear Defeated Military Spouse,
Hey friend. Is your husband home? No? Mine either.
What deployment is he on? Oh yeah, The Pilot was there last year. It has its pro’s and con’s, doesn’t it? The connectivity is better when they are there but sometimes the time difference is hard to navigate. I’m sure it’s even harder with kids if he calls right before nap time or during dinner. I bet it’s hard to share those short-lived calls with the kiddo’s too. So many hearts vying for Daddy’s attention and you bravely let them sit in your lap, blocking the screen so they can tell him that their first baby tooth is finally loose.
Sometimes I honestly don’t know what’s harder: getting to see them and hear their voice for a painfully brief five minutes, or resigning yourself to simply being his pen-pal.
Did I tell you The Pilot called? I know, it was such a surprise. I had my phone on silent because I was walking into the movie theater and when I checked my phone to make sure it was on vibrate, I saw I had a voicemail from some funny number. Turns out it was The Pilot. He had found “the” phone on the ship with the outside line. He said he’d try to call back in a few minutes so I ran out of the theater.
Have you experienced that yet? Dropping everything you’re doing, no matter where you are or who you are with, so that you don’t miss that outside chance of hearing from him? Talk about an emotional roller coaster. It’s sheer euphoria when the connection is good or the texts are “real-time,” but it is inevitably (at least for me) followed by the guilt of bailing on whoever I was with and whatever we were doing. And sure, they’ll tell you they understand and it’s completely fine, but truth be told, they are probably hurt or offended. Understandably so. For the civilian, military spouses may come across as flakey or unreliable because we live in a totally fluid environment. The context of the military life is in constant flux and out of sheer necessity, we adapt. We get used to, nay, we excel at changing the plan, canceling and rescheduling.
It’s such a point of conflict, isn’t it? On the one hand, you want to do things, go places, see people, and stay busy at all costs to help keep you distracted from the reality that he’s gone. Then again, the temptation to stay home just in case he calls feels completely justified. Because it’s heart-breaking to miss one call. But it is absolutely debilitating to miss multiple attempts at contact.
Do you blame yourself? I do. I question my priorities. I question why I am not always completely prepared or in a place to respond any time he’s available and able to connect. I dissect and analyze whether or not I truly care for him and genuinely miss him if I’m “caught” in a moment or in a conversation in which he’s not the central focal point. It’s a harsh and completely unrealistic standard to live up to, no doubt, but it’s hard to ignore when it seems as though so many other spouses simply do deployment better.
Do you compare yourself to other spouses? Get. In. Line.
The super-mom. The “I can volunteer for every single marine pot-luck dinner” wife. The “I decided to run a marathon while he’s gone” wife. The “I have four kids and I have never lost my cool in a public place” mom. The “I became the president of the Officer’s Spouses Club and have successfully raised a record number of charitable donations that we can now use to offer scholarships to other spouses” wife.
But why? Why do we compare ourselves to other spouses when we know that they are so different from ourselves? Differing strengths, different experiences, different personalities, different coping mechanisms, and most importantly, different marriage relationships? I don’t know about you but I have yet to find another wife that I have met and though to myself, “Oh my word. We’re the same person!” No. Not one.
On the contrary, I have met what feels like a countless number of spouses that I have learned from, been challenged and encouraged by primarily because we are so different.
Differences should not be a used as a standard of measure for success. What makes me different from you does not make me better than you.
What makes me different from you instead should be seen as an opportunity for you to learn from me. Not because I’ve always gotten it right, but because I have learned some lessons the hard way. I have struggled and strived and strained in ways that produced nothing good or beneficial for me or those around me. This is no way to live through a deployment. In fact, it’s no way to build community and foster life-giving friendships.
Sweet, defeated military spouse– you are not alone. You are not the only one that feels like you’ve failed more than you have succeeded. You are not the only one who feels like she’s had more bad days than good. You’re not alone when the weekend rolls around and you have simply run out of ideas and out of steam for the kids. You are not alone when the broken and sporadic communication with your spouse seems to feed more frustration than love.
You are not alone. Period. And neither are you defeated.
The beauty of being a military spouse is that, for better or worse, we stick together. We have to. No one else truly understands unless their spouse is in the same squadron. No one else can wrap their mind around OPSEC and encoded emails unless their spouse in on the same deployment.
We may not always like each other, but we must learn to love each other’s differences. We ought to embrace each other’s strengths and show grace towards our own weaknesses.
At the end of the day, none of us really know what we’re doing. We’re all reacting and responding to the latest news, the newest return dates, the latest pregnancy test (Just kidding. I’m not pregnant. Please do not email me asking if I am pregnant) and seemingly endless list of things that never stop changing. Some make it look easy. Some make it look like a reality show waiting to happen. Whichever end of the spectrum you find yourself, we’re all in it together and on one else understands quite like a military spouse.