First thing first, I’m not going to sugar coat this. There are serious ups and downs to being a military spouse. There are times that being a military wife is incredibly rewarding, you will be prouder of your partner than you ever thought possible. Then there are times that you are sitting on your kitchen floor at 3pm in the afternoon crying because you’re alone again and just cant handle it anymore.
If you had told me when I was 18 that I was going to be a military wife, I would have laughed in your face and told you you’re insane. This is not a life I ever thought would be a reality for me. Yet here I am. I’m not going to go into the details of “our story” quite yet, as I want to do a post specifically on that. For now, lets say I was very apprehensive about my (at the time) fiancé joining the army. Now that we are three years in, a lot of those initial feelings of fear have gone away (note that I didn’t say all). I’m going to try to break this up into sections: Daily life, Deployment, Homecoming and some advice thrown in (basically my tips for any new military wives who may stumble across this post).
For the most part our day to day life is the same as it is for all couples, who both work full time jobs. We both wake up in the morning, get ready for our day and head to work. The only difference is he’s wearing combats instead of a suit. Every once in a while he will have to stay at the base overnight, which means I get to sleep diagonally down the bed without anyone complaining! To be honest these are the days with your spouse you will want to enjoy. Once an exercise or deployment comes around you will miss the small things, like kissing them goodbye every morning. There are times these days can be hard to enjoy because there is always something looming in the distance. To me it seems like there is always something on the horizon waiting to take him away again (which is pretty sucky, I’m not going to lie). It can be very hard to live in the moment when you know what will inevitably happen in the future. This is something I still struggle with today.
When you are brand new to military life everything seems scary. For me hearing about guns, LAV’s and military protocol was as familiar as Latin. It can seem really scary listening to him talk about going away for training exercises or a possible deployment. The best thing you can do is ask a lot of questions and learn as much as you can about their job! I promise the more you know the less scary/ intimidating / foreign it will all seem. The more time I spent listening and learning about what exactly his job within the military was the more comfortable I got. At this point I’m convinced I know more about his job than a lot of the new guys do (lol). Open communication is so incredibly important. Being able to openly talk to your spouse about how you’re feeling (even if you think it’s irrational) is a must do. Also try to be aware of how your spouse is feeling.
Deployment day was honestly the worst day of my entire life. There is nothing worse than dropping off your spouse and knowing it will be months before you can hug, touch and kiss them again. To be completely honest after I dropped Layton off I went back to our empty apartment and cried for hours (I’m definitely crying as I write this, just remembering the empty/sad feeling brings back a lot of emotions). Having a group of people you can turn to is so incredibly important. I was very fortunate to have a very supportive family (my in-laws included). I honestly don’t think I would have kept my sanity through the deployment without them. We were very fortunate because it was a 6 month non-combat deployment and Layton was able to come home for Christmas break after four months (before leaving for another two). Since it was a deployment focused on training we were able to talk for about 85% of the deployment. There were a few weeks he went into the field and we couldn’t communicate, but the rest of the time we could send at least a few texts every day.
If you are able to FaceTime/ Duo call or Skype during a deployment take every opportunity to do so! It is a wonderful thing to be able to actually see your spouse and their surroundings (even if those surrounding include 7 other loud army guys who all want to say “Hi!”). Being able to see where Layton was gave me this wonderful sense of calm. I was able to picture where he was most days and that ended up being very comforting for me. If you aren’t able to FaceTime, but are able to talk on the phone or text take advantage of that time as well. Keeping up communication (as best you can with work, a time change, and spotty wifi) is so important.
For times when you aren’t able to connect with your spouse try to fill your time. I took up working out (I ended up doing it 5-6 days a week to keep busy), and binge watching Netflix to keep myself amused in the evenings. The evenings and nights are usually the times I missed Layton the most. I would try to set up Skype dates with my mom, cooking a good dinner (I love to cook so it helped me pass the time), watching TV/ YouTube and listening to podcasts. Basically anything that would fill our apartment with chatter and voices was a go to for me, I hated it when our place was quiet as it reminded me I was alone. Pouring yourself into hobbies is a life saver. It’s also important to point out that there are other military wives who are going through the exact same thing you are. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and make new friends within the community. Other army wives/ girlfriends/ spouses are an amazing source of knowledge and support. If you don’t know how to connect with others in your community try starting online. There are hundreds of blogs, forums and Facebook groups for military spouses.
Exactly one year ago today (on February 24th, 2017) I picked my husband up from the base and welcomed him home. I’m pretty sure I went through every single emotion that day. I was so excited to see him that I honestly don’t think I slept the night before, I was like a little kid on Christmas Eve. I had cleaned the apartment top to bottom (twice), and spent the rest of that day staring at the clock wishing time would go by faster so I could go pick Layton up. Yet in the back of my mind I was incredibly nervous to see him. We had been apart for what felt like forever. What if he came home and we felt like strangers not husband and wife? Would it be weird having him in my personal space again? Would we still feel sparks after so much time apart? Will we still relate to each other the same way? And so on. Oddly enough I found out he had the same thoughts that day as well.
It’s hard not to worry if things in your relationship will be different after a deployment. After all half a year apart is a long time and we had both “grown up” a lot in that time. I was a much more independent and confident woman than he had left behind. Suddenly I was this person who was completely alright being on my own. I think the biggest struggle when he got home was being dependent in anyway. However, it was amazing having someone else carry groceries up to our fourth floor walk up. I truly believe that homecoming can take a serious toll on your emotions. It’s not really possible to pick up where you left off before the deployment and we found it took a couple weeks before we found our groove again. Going from living alone to having a husband in 24 hours can be kind difficult to adjust to, no matter how excited you are to have them home.
In the end, there are always going to be ups and downs with being a military spouse. It’s how you handle those ups and downs that really matters. The biggest thing you have to do is live in the moment, don’t lose your independence, stay connected with friends and family (even when you want to hermit away and avoid everyone), and communicate with your spouse. Army life can seriously suck sometimes, but I promise you will come out of every dark time stronger than you ever thought you were.
Until next time internet friends,