10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Military Spouse


military-weddingMarrying into a big family is a challenge. Marrying into one with over 1 million other ‘family members,’ might have you feeling a tiny bit overwhelmed. Why didn’t anyone tell me about the ‘family drama’ before I took the plunge?

One of my favorite things about being a military spouse is meeting people who are dating service members. It reminds me of the time in my life where I didn’t know what TDY, Haz Pay, or PCS meant. I find inspiration in the gleaming eyes of those newly ‘dating the military’ and just for a moment, I remember why I loved dating (and marrying) a man in uniform.

But I really wish someone would have told me about the family drama.

Maybe if they had, I could have prepared myself. So, let me do you a favor; here are 10 things I wish I knew before becoming a military spouse:

  1. There’s no room for Type-A personalities. The military is the only Type-A allowed. Everyone else should just get used to a ‘go with the flow, hurry up and wait, organized chaos’ approach.
  2. The health care might be free, but it’s not always the best. I’m glad to have TRICARE, and I’m thankful for this form of compensation. But other days, I think I’m better off chewing on a piece of bark and popping some Advil.
  3. You’ll never understand why/how the military works. And for those of us who are Type-A, you’ll have to get over the idea of procedures and office policy making sense. It just doesn’t.
  4. Civilian job environments don’t translate to military ones. On those days when my husband vents about work, my natural inclination is to use a civilian workplace remedy. But it just isn’t as simple as ‘talk to his boss,’ or ‘why don’t you just let someone else do it?’
  5. The military doesn’t care about Christmas, anniversaries, or holidays. All the perks of a big happy family…with no presents.
  6. Some duty assignments are worth it all. Spending three to four years at a terrible duty station totally seems worth it when your next assignment is somewhere amazing.
  7. You’ll toy with the idea of staying in or getting out on a monthly basis. Because man, the grass seems so much greener on the other side. So scary and unpredictable, but probably greener. Right?
  8. Your spouse will give everything, and sometimes, they leave with nothing. Whether it’s proper care after being medically discharged, or separating from the military after serving 10 years, only to spend months searching for a job. Our service members deserve better.
  9. Therapy will help. Because PTSD, depression, anxiety, and anger aren’t just things service members deal with. Don’t be scared to get the help you need.
  10. Making friends can be tough, but no one will know what you’re going through like another military spouse. Embrace the chaos and keep on truckin’.

When it comes down to it, I married the person, not the job. So some days, it’s hard not to be resentful of the ‘family’ behind the job. Being a military spouse has given me more than I’ve given it, and I guess that makes the family drama a bit more bearable.

What do you wish you knew before becoming a military spouse? Is the ‘family drama’ worth it?

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

21 Comments

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  1. 1
    Kris

    among others I would add…
    -find a portable job and NO licenses don’t transfer state to state
    -be wise with real estate and buying where you get posted
    -kids. situate yourselves to be in a good location for HS

  2. 2
    Amy

    I wish I knew how difficult it would be to be the “one parent” to stay home with the dog and then children. Being away from family and friends (being so isolated). Giving up my life for the military life/family.

    • 3
      Caty

      I couldn’t agree more. Isolation and not having a strong military community around at a new station is tough. Combined with husbands demanding training schedule and TDYs can make for a lot of lonely days!

  3. 4
    kristink428

    I am completely offended by number 2. As a wife of a military physician I know how hard my husband and his colleagues work to provide the best care for their patients. He has dedicated his life to treating military, dependents and retirees many of which are ungrateful and abuse the system (im not saying all because he has some really good patients who care about their health and I’m not going to stereotype like you have). They receive the exact same training as civilian doctors. They actually receive more training in trama and other areas because of deployment readiness. Of course not all doctors are on the same playing field, but comments like the one you made make it difficult for military docs to accomplish anything. Thank you for bashing a profession that causes my husband to miss out on so much of his family because he’s tirelessly working to help his patients.

    • 5
      Shannon Sebastian

      I’m sorry you were offended, Kristen. #2 was not an attack at the providers, like your husband. It was more geared toward the workings of the hospitals, and urgent care centers. I should have been more clear. I had to wait 4 days for an appointment to be seen for a reaction that caused scarring on my face as a result – 4 days! I don’t think that was the fault of any one doctor, but had I been able to go off-base, I would have been see quicker. (This was before Urgent Care existed in my base MTF).

      I appreciate your perspective, and I think it’s valuable for others to know! I hope you can understand that my own perspective was not to stereotype, but to share experiences that have happened in my military journey.

      I’d love to know your journey as a physician’s spouse, and if you have any advice for new spouses – so if you’re ever interested in being a guest blogger, please email me! SSebastian@MilitaryFamily.org

    • 8
      Cree Chancley

      Of course you had to make it about your husband. Sorry, I don’t know why anyone would care that you’re offended. I’ve had crap military doctors…doctors who literally google things in front of me because they don’t know common sense things and I’ve even had to suggest what treatment should be. I’ve had a doctor say I was faking my symptoms and send me off, only for me to continue to advocate for myself to where he finally took blood and realized I had RA. Sorry, but some military doctors shouldn’t be military doctors. There are people who have taken their kid to the overseas military hospital here and they had a seizure but were dismissed as ‘first time moms’ and not really taken seriously. So no, don’t really care that you are offended. Your husband doesn’t have the only job where family is missed out on a lot. Try maintenance and see real missing out. This didn’t have to turn into this. It’s a great list with a lot of truth to what we all wished we had known.

      I’m thankful for the doctors who DO their jobs greatly, actually care etc. Just because your husband does a good job doesn’t mean there is no validity in the statement made on this blog.

    • 9
      JLO

      It appears your spouse is air force medical! Kudos to him! The air force does have good doctors. I’ll bet that the person who wrote this dealt with Navy Docs.

    • 10
      Cindi Clark

      You are so right! People who complain about TRICARE or MTF care have not had a civilian job, paid a ton for their healthcare. You will get LESS and lay more! Trust me. Been there. There are excellent docs and bad docs in every hospital, every community, every healthcare plan. But we LUCKY military families never have decide between paying the electric bill and getting our child’s med refilled. Wake up people!

    • 11
      susan

      I’m sorry that you were offended and I’m sure he works tirelessly but they are overbooked understaffed and SOME just really don’t care. I have had great providers sometimes and terrible providers other times and I’m not speaking of the providers when saying if your really worried go to the ER because half of the time they just cant fit us in.

  4. 13
    Kristi Gifford

    I’d also add:
    Transitions in your marriage when your spouse leaves the military. They are home all the time! They don’t leave you alone anymore! Great… but a new era for a marriage that has cycled around TDYs and deployments. Just a warning that job transitions aren’t the only adjustments that must be made. Parenting and marriage expectations are also changed.

  5. 14
    isabel canales

    i’m glad I didn’t know, might have scared me off. what I did know tho was 1. I would always rate after his job (he has no choice there) and 2. my biggest job is support, no matter how bad my day was my job is to be here for him so he can do his job. whether he is home or not. I think knowing these two things from the beginning is why our marriage has lasted when so many of the people we’ve met along the way have lost theirs. anyway loved the article and I agree that the doctors do the best they can but are often not able to help because of the way the hospital is set up. we have doctors at the va (now) that are great individually but when we look at the va as a whole I am so not impressed. oh well, one day at a time.

  6. 15
    Joe L

    Every single military service member leaves the service with a huge number of benefits regardless of their length of service. The only ones that leave with nothing are the ones that got kicked out for misconduct.

  7. 16
    Jim

    Military life is certainly hard and like Shannon said, it’s never about what makes sense or what’s logical. It’s about what is right for the military at that time and place. It’s a big transition from the life you lived before to what you’re getting into now. All the best.

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