While most couples make big decisions together, it may feel like your spouse’s choice to enlist was more your spouse’s choice than your own. You want to be supportive, but you may be seeing all the cons — and very few pros.
As a husband who’s played the supporting role to a wife in the Army Reserve Medical Corps for years, I’m eager to show you how you can prepare and where you can find the positives.
Use Your Resources
The military spouses who struggle the most are usually the ones who try to do it alone. Being home and raising kids in your soldier’s absence is lonely enough as it is, so find all the support you can through military organizations already in place.
Before my wife left for Iraq, she made sure the Military One Source toll-free number was on the fridge if I needed it. This is an excellent resource for counseling, support, and information for anything you come across as a military family.
In addition to any needs you have for professional support, don’t hesitate to reach out to other spouses, especially if you’re somewhere new or located far from family. The families of other soldiers can easily become like family because no one will know what you’re going through quite like they do.
Understand This Can Strengthen Your Family
The experience of having my wife absent from holidays, as well as the day-to-day lives of our kids, has certainly been difficult. However, it has also drawn us closer as a family than anything else ever could. Although we obviously want her with us for every Christmas and birthday celebration, we know that we’re serving our country as well by supporting her, so our kids never complain. They understand this is a team effort.
In addition to broadening our kids’ understanding of the world, our circumstances have also deepened our bond. We take advantage of opportunities to find fun ways to stay connected. We make video messages together, which gives me a chance to make something meaningful — and lasting — with my children.
Through everything, our faith has played a big part in making it through lonely nights. Sharing that faith with my wife keeps us connected, even when we’re apart physically.
Take Advantage of “Hidden Perks”
When my wife decided to leave her practice and join the ARMC, we had to adjust to a smaller income. I didn’t want to complain about finances when others were literally sacrificing life and limb for our country, but it was nice to find a lot of perks and discounts that eased our new financial situation.
Many movie theaters, restaurants, and clothing stores offer military discounts, and we’ve been able to go on relatively cheap vacations to places like Disney World. Post exchange (PX) shopping is frequently overlooked by newcomers, but these small benefits can really add up.
The one not-so-hidden perk is insurance. The healthcare program has been much more affordable for us than conventional programs, and the military offers considerable discounts on life insurance as well. Your family is making a huge sacrifice for our country, so make the most of these benefits whenever you can.
It’s not an easy life having your spouse in the military, but you’ll be much happier if you focus on the positive aspects of your situation and use your resources. Don’t try to go through this alone. Find people to lean on who understand your situation because there will be many times when your spouse will need to lean on you.
Randy Thompson is happily retired after raising two daughters and working in the corporate world of graphic art and design for a number of years. He grew up in Floyd County, Va., and attended Virginia Commonwealth University.