It happens rather subtly. One day you’re rolling along, feeling fantastic about the fact that you’re starting to understand this whole military spouse thing. You feel confident without feeling cocky; you’re able to answer questions and help newer spouses; you feel good about the fact that you’re no longer quite so green yourself. And then someone calls you a seasoned spouse.
Wait, what? What is that?
Did they just say what you think they said? Should you be a little ticked? Something in your gut tells you that this is not going to end well.
Seasoned with Sugar (and Salt)
So what exactly is a seasoned spouse? Like any good label, this can be a positive, negative, or neutral connotation. Basically, you are an experienced military spouse. You can take this to mean that you know a thing or two. You can take it to mean that you’re old and crusty. Or, you can take it to mean that the person who used the expression doesn’t know how to politely say either of the other two without completely offending you. My friends, there comes a time when you’ve been around long enough to know a thing or two, whether you became a military spouse fresh out of high school or not until decades later. And that is what makes you a seasoned spouse.
To borrow a well-used comedy routine: If you understand even some of the letters (TAD, PCS, PII, HHG…) and — gasp — use them yourself, you might be a seasoned spouse. If you don’t worry about orders and duty station assignments until they show up in writing, you might be a seasoned spouse. If you know the difference between a Dining In and a Dining Out, you might be a seasoned spouse. If you actually start to formulate a PCS checklist before each move, you might be a seasoned spouse. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re old, but let’s face it — if you’ve been around long enough to know some of that stuff, you’re not 19 anymore!
Being the Go-To
Most spouses don’t mind the term because they understand it comes with the territory. But they may not understand that it comes with certain expectations from others around them. Because there will be some 19-year-olds who look at you as if you’re ancient. Sigh…it happens, friends. And what will those 19-year-olds expect of you, the seasoned spouse? For starters, it is expected that you know everything. If you can answer a couple of questions, you obviously can answer all the questions. They should be able to call you with every single conundrum, right?
Because you’re the seasoned spouse who knows all the things, often others will also expect that you do everything. Even if you’ve never volunteered for anything in your whole life. Just because you hold the title, seasoned spouse, you obviously do all the things. Spouses’ club? Yep. Boards? Yep. School room-mom? Yep. Soccer coach or snack parent? Yep. Because, well, seasoned spouse — that’s why. And of course, if you’re a seasoned spouse, “Is your spouse a general?” Because if you’re just a wee bit older or experienced, you must’ve been part of the military family forever.
The thing is, as a seasoned spouse, you know these things aren’t necessarily true. As a seasoned spouse, you know that the military is made up of a gazillion different personalities, all with merit and quirks. You don’t get your undies in a bundle when someone refers to you as seasoned. You are cool under pressure, graceful, classy, and always in control of your words and actions (who else is snort-laughing). But, in reality, whether you’re a seasoned class-act or a seasoned hot mess, you still know the perks of being seasoned.
Around the Block
Because you’ve been around long enough to have a few things happen to you, you have fewer freak-outs. Your spouse is deploying next week…surprise! Emotions flare, but you also don’t fall off the edge.
You’re up for new orders two years sooner than expected. But you just got here! Again, you might panic a little, but you also know it’ll all be OK somehow. Not much surprises you anymore because you’ve learned to expect the unexpected. You can roll with the punches a little better than you used to because you’ve had a few punches thrown. And hopefully, as a seasoned spouse, you’ve started to grow more confident in who you are. You’re less concerned with what others think of you because you know you don’t have to know everything or do everything or always be the picture of elegance. At this point, you’re less afraid to ask questions when you need to know things. You know you still don’t have all the answers, so you find out what you need to know.
Most importantly, as a seasoned spouse, you’re a good choice for mentorship or helping point other clueless spouses in the right direction. Because you remember how it felt when you were there…all those years ago…when you were the green one walking around like a deer in headlights, wondering what all those blessed letters stand for.
In the end, you can take the term seasoned spouse however you want. Just don’t forget that above all else, it’s a badge of honor that you’ve earned by being dragged out of your comfort zone time and again, getting kids settled, putting together a new house in a new state (or country), finding a new job, finding all the answers, making new friends, and cultivating the experiences that make you the spicy seasoned spouse that we all know and love.
Want to know how seasoned spouses build community wherever they go? Check out Building Community as a Military Spouse Wherever You Go!
Photo Credits: Unsplash