Congratulations and welcome to a very exciting time in your life! Marriage and the military offer many challenges. The ups and downs you will experience mimic a rollercoaster ride. However, a sense of humor and patience will take you a long way. Marriage is not for everyone, just as the military lifestyle is not for everyone. Combining the two can be magical at times, but it can also be extremely daunting.
1. Maintain your independence. In fact, doing so may help you manage deployments and other times when you and your spouse are separated. Marriage is a partnership. It is not a situation where you have to become wholly dependent on your spouse. Keep working if that is your choice. Continue to enjoy your hobbies. Maintain your friendships with other people. There is no need to lose your identity because you have partnered with someone you love.
2. Spouses have no rank. Your average military spouse does not have any rank. They have no authority to hand down orders to others, especially to their fellow civilian spouses. Do not feel that you must take orders or kowtow to another spouse simply because their spouse outranks yours. That being said, extending courtesies and respect to any spouse is encouraged. In some situations, military protocol may come into play in terms of who introduces themselves to whom and so on. Still, the Golden Rule is really the best overall approach, and if another spouse feels otherwise about this and/or wearing rank perhaps you are not meant to be friends.
3. Communication is the key to an effective partnership. Whether you are expressing your personal needs or working towards a family schedule, you and your spouse will find that clear communication is vital to a relationship. Military couples often get caught up in the rest of life and deployments, and they overlook the necessity to talk to one another – really talk. If deployments and TDY stints have you reeling, make the best use of your time whether it is on the phone, in person, or through email. The best way to communicate may not be via email because of issues with miscommunication and your tone. But more often than not, it may be your only option. Be proactive and encourage your spouse to be a key participant in the communication no matter how it takes place because a one-sided conversation is not going to do either of you any good.
4. Be flexible. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan: schedules change, leave gets canceled, units deploy, members get injured, missions are adjusted, budgets are altered…you get the drift. Things happen and it is important to realize that you may have no control over them. Remember, it always helps to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Preparing for the worst doesn’t mean having a negative attitude, it means being prepared with vacation insurance or planning to go anyway even if your spouse cannot join you. Remind your family that things happen and we do the best with what we have. That could mean celebrating an early anniversary or a late birthday or rescheduling altogether.
5. Rumors hurt. Plain and simple, only the individuals involved in a personal matter may ever know the truth. Perhaps your neighbors in military housing are having a dispute and you are friends with both of them. The best route to take is to be supportive but not get involved. If you hear others speculating or talking about what they heard, it may be the furthest thing from the truth. Do not get involved. Yes, that is easier said than done, but continuing to feed into stories or share stuff that is perhaps not your business to share can cause more problems than not.
6. Medical care is not free. Despite myths of free medical care, service members and their families do have to pay premiums, deductibles, co-pays and sometimes extra costs not covered by their insurance. All of these costs vary on the choice of plan, the size of your family, your medical needs, and where you live. Educate yourself on what your family plan provides and what it does not.
7. You are not alone. The military community is often like a very large family. Make new friends and do not be afraid to connect merely because you expect PCS season will break you apart. Chances are you will meet again later on at another unit and if the friendship was meant to be, it will always be there. Additionally, many posts, bases, stations, and ships have family readiness officials, family advocacy specialists, ombudsmen, chaplains, spouse clubs and associations that exist for you.