Military spouses hold a unique, but important role in upholding our nation’s strength. Although they don’t serve the country directly, their support to those who do is vital to force morale and readiness.
May is Military Spouse Appreciation Month – a time when military spouses are recognized and honored for their contributions. If you aren’t or have never been a military spouse, it can be tough to figure out how to show your support. A good place to start is by learning more about life as a military spouse.
Life as a military spouse
The life of a military spouse may be filled with exciting new adventures along with periods of separation and loneliness. Spouses are generally flexible and strong, and often required to be independent while their partner is working towards their mission. Many have children and jobs to balance along with the demanding aspects of their partner’s military career.
While individual experiences may differ, life as a military spouse generally involves:
- Frequent moves. On average, military families move to a new duty station every two to three years. It can be difficult to leave jobs, say goodbye to friends and start over in a new and unfamiliar community. The upside of moving every few years is the opportunity to live in different parts of the country and in some cases, the world, but there are also challenges adapting to a new environment and culture.
- Separations from extended family. Moves are bound to take the military spouse in your life far from close friends and family. This can cause feelings of isolation and loneliness, but it also can enrich their lives as they meet new people and engage with their community.
- Separations from their partner. A service member’s deployment can be hard on a spouse. They may worry about their partner’s safety and miss their companionship. They may feel overwhelmed by the burden of doing everything on their own. The service member may miss important events – birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, even the birth of a child. This can lead to sadness and even resentment. However, military families tend to find creative ways to include the deployed member in these events. And while deployments can take their toll, they can also show spouses just how much they are capable of handling on their own.
- Finding ways to reconnect when their partner returns home from deployment. There is often a readjustment period when a service member returns from deployment. The spouse at home may have established a new routine while the returning spouse may wonder where they fit into the household. This can be a rocky period in a relationship that requires patience and lots of communication. Couples learn valuable skills during this period that ultimately strengthen their partnership.
Showing your support for the military spouse in your life
Military spouses tend to be resilient. Over time, they develop new skills, create new support systems and learn to adapt to changing circumstances. Any extra support or recognition that you show the military spouse in your life can go a long way toward making them feel strong and understood.
- Call and check in. It’s nice to do this any time, but particularly meaningful during deployments, after a recent move or during other times you know the spouse may be under strain.
- Send a card. A handwritten note is always a welcome surprise.
- Offer to take the kids for a night, if you live close enough. A night off from parenting responsibilities to reconnect with a partner or just enjoy some solitude is a huge gift.
- Make a meal or send a gift card to a local restaurant. Whether it’s eat-in or takeout, everyone enjoys a night off from cooking.
- Offer to be a listening ear. Let the military spouse in your life know that you want to be a supportive person in their life. Often that means just being available to listen.
Resources for military spouses
There are a number of resources to support military spouses. See if the spouse in your life is familiar with them.
- The Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program. Frequent moves and other challenges of military life can get in the way of a spouse’s career. SECO supports military spouses with education and career guidance, scholarships and partnerships with employers who have committed to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses.
- Non-medical counseling. Free and confidential non-medical counseling is available on the installation through the Military and Family Life Counseling program and through Military OneSource.
- Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultation. Free and confidential, this specialty consultation from Military OneSource features a number of tracks, including Strengthening the Couple Connection, Staying Connected While Away, Reconnecting After Deployment and MilSpouse Toolkit.
- Re the We on Military OneSource features links to services, resources and expert guidance to rekindle, repair or reset a relationship.
- The Blog Brigade features posts from military spouses about a range of topics, including military life, deployment, parenting, relationships, career and education, health and wellness and moving.
While May is Military Spouse Appreciation Month, it’s important to recognize the feats and challenges your military spouse conquers throughout the year. Asking about their experiences can make them feel supported and understood, while opening the conversation can deepen your relationship and show your loved one that you care.