On the outside, military life appears to be a complicated mixture of life away from your spouse, and families constantly uprooting and resettling. On the inside, military life is even more complicated, with rules, regulations and expectations your spouse will adhere to.
If you are affiliated with the military in any way, you will have already experienced “The Order”. An order is the military way of asking you to do something. In the workplace they will usually phrase questions and requests in such a way that soldiers of a lower rank will immediately jump to attention and do said request. As a wife you will succumb to the civilian version.
As a wife, you will never be asked in a syrupy voice “honey, please drop off my dry cleaning”, you will instead receive all such requests as “my D/U needs to be dropped off by 1600, remove all ornamentation”. In civilian translation that is “honey please drop off my dress uniform by 4:00 pm, and take all my pretty medals off”.
If you seek to question them, phrase all questions with extra complicated words, make it sound official, but never ever answer “sir, yes, sir”, they will look at you like you’ve just made fun of them, and they will pout.
The soldier in uniform is a feast to behold. Wives, this is why you married him, it doesn’t matter how often he’s gone, or how often he drives you to wine, it all comes down the dress uniform. They look fantastic, and they know it.
The moment men put on that uniform they become superheroes, those boots shined to perfection don’t just step they make loud clomping noises like Clydesdales proclaiming masculinity. Wives need remember one thing about the dress uniform – never touch it – let it touch you. When you’re dropping it off at the drycleaners – let him put it in the car, when he’s dancing with you at military balls – let him dance to you, not with you; and never step on the boots.
If you step on the boots, they will scuff, and should an officer of higher rank be able to see that scuff – they will pout.
It is guaranteed that your soldier will get to do interesting, cool, and fascinating things. He probably can’t tell you anything about it. Wives will hang on their every word, they will beg, they will swear that they will never repeat a word – don’t waste your energy – you’ll just make your soldier pout.
They probably don’t want to hide things from you, or they may get a perverse sense of satisfaction in knowing things you don’t – it’s something you’ll just have to live with, because you’ll never be able to prove it otherwise.
Be prepared that when you ask them what they did today they will answer “stuff”. “Stuff” keeps them out of trouble with their commanding officers, and keeps the government from charging them with (yes they can actually go to military jail – the bread and water, hard time type of jail).
If you can, be sure to get a job in intelligence, or equally secret type of job, that way each of you can come home and tell your kids you did “stuff” all day. It’s a great way to get out of take your kid to work day guilt free.
It is important that wives have something to focus on other than their husband’s job. If you’re a stay at home mom – do something away from the children, volunteer, walk a neighbour’s dog on a regular basis – something…anything. You need something that is entirely your own that has no involvement whatsoever with the military.
Military wives should try to make friends with a few other military wives; it helps to have a support network of people who understand the loneliness and the frustration of extended absences and extra pressures. Wives should not be friends with other military wives exclusively, in much the same way as you need a job separate from the military; you need friends separate from the military.
Your soldier will be friends with certain other soldiers for life. They may drink too much, they may smoke too much, and they will occasionally act like legal thugs – but they will be friends for life. The danger they face together, and the learning they do together creates a bond that is rarely broken. Try not to pout - allow your soldier the freedom to be friends with the guys who may drive you a little batty – freedom is what they fight for, allowing them a little breathing space helps to motivate them to fight for us.
Every family is a sum equal to its various parts. A military family is no exception. There is a great deal of support available for military members and their families. Your soldier will have stress they can’t discuss with you, you will have stress you can’t communicate because of your different family roles. Take advantage of military family resources, there is no shame, there is no stigma attached. Whether that resource is marriage counselling to help families reintegrate after a deployment or to help a couple deal with domestic violence, military resources are designed to help military families.
Domestic and family violence in the military is unfortunately common. Getting help from the resources available will help not only your family, but will help the military organization as a whole. One soldier is one family; every soldier makes up one army.
Your soldier will be away. Depending on the job they do, that absence may be frequent or for long periods of time. Accept the absence. You will not like it; families undergo a great deal of stress during absences. The military requires sacrifice from not only its soldier, but also their families. Every child, every wife, is also a part of the military. The best thing you can do for your marriage, for your relationship is to accept absences for what they are.
The reality is that sometimes our soldiers don’t come home. That is what we accept when we marry them. Support your soldier as best you can when they arrive home/telephone you saying they are posted to X, getting deployed to Y. Deep down you might not like it, even if the posting is next door to a five star resort in Hawaii. The best thing you can do is accept it, support it, and make the best of it.
If nothing else, wives, just remind your husband not to confuse their rank with your authority!