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I don’t know any military spouse that went looking to become a military spouse. Every spouse I know, it just kind of…happened. We met our husband or wife and fell in love. For some of us, they were already in the military. For others, it was a decision made after the marriage certificate had been signed. But for all of us, it’s nothing at all what we expected. In fact, most days, it feels like we are married to two people: we are married to our spouse and we are married to the military.
Married to the Military
My name is Lauren and I have been married to my Marine for 8 (mostly) happy years. He was just finishing up The Basic School when we met, so he was already in the military. Some may say, I knew what I was getting into. But I didn’t. None of us really do at the time. Even if you are a military brat and you have experienced military life as a child, nothing truly prepares you for being a military spouse. But in the end I wouldn’t change a thing about our life.
When I met my husband I knew very little about the military. Our romance was a whirlwind. He PCS’d to California three months after we met. We were engaged 6 months after that. I moved to California after I finished grad school a year later. We were married in January and he deployed for the first time that May.
In the 8 years of our marriage, my husband has been deployed twice- once on a MEU (read: he was on a big ship for 7 months) and once to Afghanistan. He hasn’t been deployed for 6 years now as we have been in training commands and B-Billets but change is in the air, and I can smell a deployment coming like a rainstorm.
My husband and I have three little girls and a dog aptly named Pendleton. We have lived on base and we have lived off base. We have PCS’d across the country, twice, and- despite being USMC- to the middle of the country to a small Army base where we are now. We have cried tears of joy, tears of loss, tears of hopelessness, and tears of sadness all because of the military. We have considered leaving this life for the betterment of our family, but like a rip current, the military has a way of sucking you back in.
The Sister Wife
When your spouse is in the military, so are you. No, you don’t wear their rank. No, you are not a service member. But the military is a lifestyle. It is more than a job. It affects every aspect of a family’s life. It affects where you live, where your kids go to school, your income, your career, your weekend plans, your holidays, special occasions- you name it, the military plays a part in it. She is a sister wife that takes your spouse away for days, weeks, or months at a time. She keeps you up at night wondering “what’s next?” for your family. She makes you pack up all your things every few years to move to a place you’ve never been to before, forcing you to ask perfect strangers to be your child’s emergency contact since you don’t know anyone else in town.
This sister wife gives you grief. Oh, so much grief. She pulls on your heart strings, makes you wonder why you decided to get into this marriage with her tagging along, and some days it feels like she’s just out to get you. But she also is there to comfort you. She gives you sisters that you never realized you needed in the form of fellow military spouses. She lends your family new adventures, allowing you to explore foreign lands and places you never would have otherwise dreamed of visiting. She provides a roof over your heads and food on your plates. She cares about you- even though it feels like she’s ripping you apart.
Every month I will be coming to you with different thoughts, feelings, and experiences of being married to the military. If anything, I hope that this column gives you, a fellow military spouse, a place of respite. Something you can come to at 4 A.M. when the baby is awake for the 15th time and there is no one there to relieve you. Or when you’re just awake because you have a half empty bed. I hope that it can be a place where you can laugh, commiserate, and relate. A place where you can say “YEP” because you’ve been there and a place where you can learn (or teach me) things about the military life. I will be sharing things from my life and from the lives of other spouses, because if anything is true, it’s that milspouses need each other to deal with our collective sister wife.
Photo Credits: Lauren Lomsdale