Marrying into the military comes with many perks and many more drawbacks. For some, it brings a life of stability with a regular income and a consistent place to live. However, others will face challenges greater than they’ve ever known and what seemed like a dream becomes a nightmare.
So how do you navigate the biggest challenges of life as a military spouse? While some movies will tell you that love will conquer all, what you will face is hard work, which will take determination, communication, and support. Even if you face every challenge with confidence and support, you still may struggle, and that’s ok.
The Challenges Facing Military Spouses
First and foremost: not all military spouses are women. Women make up 14.4% of the US military and 17.9% of reserve and guard forces. Just over six percent of all military marriages are considered “dual-military,” meaning that both partners are in the military. The majority of women in the military who are married are not married to other service members. Military husbands are real and need the same consideration and support as their female counterparts.
There are derogatory phrases used for military spouses, suggesting that women who marry men in the military do it for the steady paycheck and absent husband. At the end of the day, this stereotype is harmful and cruel to both partners. Building a safe and supportive community for military families means banishing these harmful stereotypes of military spouses.
Long Periods of Separation from Your Spouse
On average, deployments can be between six and 18 months long, meaning your partner could be away for almost a year and a half. Being separated from a loved one that long is hard enough, but knowing your spouse is away in a potentially dangerous situation is especially challenging. While your spouse is the one in danger, you may feel like you’re living with the sword of Damocles dangling over you at all times, dreading bad news.
Missing their presence, voice, and touch takes its toll and can bring strife into many marriages. The lack of communication alone brings challenges for many families.
The saying is that an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure. Working with your spouse to communicate before they leave, have a plan to communicate in any way possible, and feel confident and hopeful through the dark times alone is the best way to cope. Not every moment will be easy, but you can be prepared for the hard moments by building a supportive community around you before you hit the hard times.
Part-Time Single Parent
The average soldier will do 1.6 to 2.1 deployments. That number isn’t easily divisible, but any number of deployments will present challenges to you as a parent. Whether one deployment or three, your partner will miss being there with you and your children through major milestones.
But they’ll also miss the times that you’ll need the most support. For example, if you and the kids all get sick at once and you just need someone to help take care of you, your partner is halfway around the world. The distance is immeasurable in the moments when your kids need you, or you need a partner’s help with the kids.
It also means that your kids will be coping with the same emotional struggles as you — a parent is missing and they may not fully understand why. If they do know why mom or dad is gone, they may struggle to cope with the emotional ramifications of the absent parent or the fear that goes with having a parent in the military. Helping your children cope will become part of your job, and it won’t always be easy.
There aren’t simple answers to helping children through these difficult times or coping with parenting alone part-time. However, building a support network, working with other military spouses, and reaching out to organizations like the USO can help you and your family manage these challenges.
Coping with a Spouse’s Return
It can be challenging to adjust to living with a partner again after having them gone for so long. Routines have been developed, systems put in place, and suddenly the empty chair is filled, and the apple cart has been upset all over again.
This change is especially challenging when a spouse comes home with a physical or mental injury. More than 50,000 service members were injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to injuries during war, service members also face greater overuse and strain injuries than the general public.
In a study of US veterans, it was found that almost 13 percent of veterans experienced PTSD at some point. Your spouse may come home from deployment changed in a way you weren’t prepared for, which can create challenges for you and your family. However, there are organizations that can help you and your family cope with these kinds of injuries, like The Wounded Warrior Project.
On average military families move every two to three years. That means that your kids may change schools up to eight times before they graduate high school. It’s not just your children who are uprooted out of their schools and away from their friends. For military spouses, this can mean trying to find a job in every new location and can cause high rates of unemployment among military partners.
Recent events have re-shaped the working world and more people are working from home than ever before. It’s possible that this shift in the working environment could help military spouses build their careers from anywhere in the world. The transformation to work-from-home could have great, long-term benefits for military spouses.
Getting Through to the Other Side
Whether this is your first year of marriage or your fifteenth, surviving as a military spouse comes down to finding support and love in your community. While it can be challenging for some people to build that community, some programs can help. For military veterans facing injuries, mental health issues, or struggling to cope with coming home, programs like Veterans Affairs, the USO, The Wounded Warrior Project, or the PTSD Foundation of America offer assistance.
Building a community is challenging, which is why at Spirit Peak Organics, we support The Wounded Warrior Project and The PTSD Foundation of America. With every purchase, you can choose to donate a portion of the proceeds to one of these incredible charities for veterans and their families.