But I Didn’t Really Know What I “Signed Up” for…

News flash: military life isn’t a Goosebumps Choose Your Own Adventure book. But it can be scary, and the choices you make might not turn out the way you think, because I don’t think anyone really knows what to expect when they marry into the military.

I wish people would stop saying “You know what you signed up for.”

Because, actually, I didn’t.


Telling a military spouse that he or she should know what to expect out of military life is condescending and should be banned. Sure, there are some obvious challenges, but no one’s challenges are ever exactly alike, and by bunching them together and saying they’re all the same can make someone feel like their experiences really don’t matter. It makes them draw back from their peers, and disconnect from the ‘support’ network they thought they could count on.

Military spouses, we have to stop telling each other to suck it up. Each time we do, we crack the foundation in our solidarity a little bit more. We need to support each other through the ups and downs of military life. Let’s be in this together.

I didn’t know what I signed up for. I knew the title of the book, but I had no idea who the characters were, what the plot twists would be, or how it might end.

So why do we tell each other “You knew what you were getting into?”

How could we know all the twists and turns of a life we hadn’t even lived yet? Some challenges require us to stand there in a full-blown, can’t-get-through-this moment in order to come out stronger on the other side. How else do we glean the knowledge (and survival skills, am I right?!) to pass along to MilSpouses who follow us?

If we don’t leave the bread crumb trail, who will?

When we marry a service member, we have no way of knowing what plot twists will be waiting. We might not have the tools to fix cracks in our relationship. We might not know how to process the emotional stress of going through labor alone during a deployment. And we certainly won’t ever be able to understand why fate calls on our loved one to pay the ultimate sacrifice.

We can’t read the book of life backwards, people!

I really appreciate military spouses who tell me some honest, raw, emotional truth based on what they’ve lived. There were times they didn’t want to finish the book, but they kept reading. And now they know things others don’t. They have suffered and survived.

Imagine if we didn’t have those people in our lives, but rather, ones who tell us to ‘suck it up’ because we knew what we were getting into?

Did we choose our own adventure? We sure did. Are we strong enough to survive? Absolutely. But should we have to ‘suck it up’ because we ‘knew what we were getting into?’ Absolutely not. We deserve better. And we owe it to each other.

Do you think a military spouse really knows what they ‘sign up for’ when they marry a service member? Tell us in the comments!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager


Add yours
  1. 1
    Cristina B

    I didn’t know what I Signed Up for either. I expected the lonely nights, the dinners for one, the holidays without my first love. I expected to be uprooted, to have to replant myself in a new place far from my own roots and family. I expected that I’d have to be careful when hanging pictures on the wall, and that I would never be able to paint the walls how I wanted.

    But I never knew the love I would experience. I never knew how deep a friendship could truly go. I never knew how it feels to see that hand reaching down to pull you up from the abyss of loneliness. I never knew how hard I could laugh. I never expected that my family would grow beyond the bounds of blood.

    Yes, there are hard times, and ugly people, in the military life. But ABUNDANTLY, there are wonderful women, willing to share your struggles with you, to commiserate along side you, to hold your hand just to keep you going one step at a time. I have been abundantly blessed by being a military spouse.

  2. 3
    Kinzie Nicole

    My husband is a military spouse and I know that he never expected to be raising 3 kids all alone with no family nearby while I was deployed and I know that he did not expect to have to deal with my PTSD once I got back. He is by far the strongest man I have ever known! We have had our ups and downs but I think we are stronger because of it.

  3. 4
    Athene Shoemaker

    I had decent idea of what I was getting into, only because I was a service member (twice, 2 different branches) before I married a service member. I did NOT know entirely and exactly what I would deal with, because I had never done it (married a service member) before. In a lot of ways it’s similar to becoming a first time parent. There IS NO WAY to really know what you are getting yourself into before you do it. There is no way to fully prepare no matter how much babysitting you do, no matter how many classes you attend, no matter how many books you read. The only way to completely understand is to do it.

  4. 5
    Wanda Hawblitzel

    Being the wife of a deployed soldier, most of the time,I believe was nothing compared to what some endure when they return home. I believe we are conditioned to support them, the mission, and their military career. All of this is at the cost of the soldiers’ mental well-being and ultimately their families.
    Most military wives go into this with the same attitude and willingness as the soldier. It’s repeated deployments, and with each deployment returns home a soldier that is becoming a shell of his former self. Some wives end up abandoning the support for the mission and focus on trying to save their family.
    We need to focus on the returning soldier and his family just as much as the family of the deployed soldier.

  5. 6

    I did not know what I signed up for, all I knew was that I fell in love with this guy(now my husband), but I learned as we progressed in our lives. Seeing him leave for deployments, I tried my best to keep busy & be distracted but nothing helps when you feel so awfully lonely, its the most heart wrenching feeling in the world when you are so upset , crying & just want your other half there but he is not, you dont even know where he is, you cant pick up the phone & call him to hear his voice, you can email but you wont know when you are getting a reply. You do everything all by yourself & everywhere you it reminds of him, missing anniversaries, holidays, birthdays & all you can do is cope with it; BUT all the while you are becoming a stronger person, learning to be independent, new places to visit, especially making new friends who become family. I am geateful to all the people whom I met along the way, there have been some not so nice people but you learn from each & everyone of them & I wouldnt trade my experiences ever. You do the best with what life gives you & I am blessed to have the most wonderful life partner ever 😀

  6. 7

    The Forgotten – Children of Soldiers

    Our military soldiers are brave, courageous and heroic in their service. They are willing to lay down their lives for our country. We honor, respect, remember them on prayer lists and pay tribute to them with ‘support our troops’ ribbons.

    Many of these soldiers have children. Children with tears in their eyes, experiencing pain because their hurt goes unseen. In reality, these soldiers only spend time with their children a handful of times over many years of deployment. These soldiers miss birthdays, holidays, first steps, first words, lost teeth, recitals, school plays, parent teacher conferences, ballgames, ice cream cones, school graduations, and endless list of missed memories of bonding, mentoring, disciplining, teaching, encouraging their children. The children pay the ultimate sacrifice of their father or mother choosing to be a soldier.

    Share this because you most likely know at least one child in the same shoes. If you do, please acknowledge them and their experience. Offer to accompany them to the father-daughter dance, or teach them to throw a football. Even the bravest girl or boy will refrain from asking for fear they will be seen as a burden. These children are our country’s future. Support a soldier by touching the lives of their children.

  7. 11

    I hate when people tell me that. I thought i knew since he was reserve but a new unit the past 5yrs have been the most trying, constantly gone, constantly devoting energy, attention, and time to that and less and less the family and our relationship I wish myself and my kids did not have to go thru all the saddness and disappointments that we have however the one positive thing that had come out of this is that I have discovered a love deeper than I ever thought possible. I know when we come out the other side of this there will be nothing we can’t handle. I never thought I could love someone as much as I love him

  8. 12
    Lynette mitchell

    I know what I signed up for because my whole life has been military (I thought), my dad a Korean war vet(deceased) my bother a desert storm vet and then I married Navy and lived my whole life in a Navy town. After a whole life of military thinking I got it all in check, I had to deal with the aftermath of my husbands stint over in Kandahar……That showed me I didn’t have a clue about what I signed up for. The slow change of who I knew my husband to be to a total stranger was a slap in the face. I had to hang on tight for the life ride I was about to take and it was more than I ever thought it could be. But with prayer and time to grow and learn how to love this new man he had become we made it through…… Now that we are retired, I know I got this(and you know I am wrong on that one too! )

  9. 13

    I’ve heard that sentiment expressed in an even worse way. After the film, “The Invisible War,” was released, a lot of people watched with a growing outrage as each subject revealed their sexual abuse (MST) at the hands of another service member while serving. One day, I was sitting with a group of civilians, and one of them said, “Well, I don’t love the film, but I get it. On the other hand, she knew what she was signing up for.” And I thought huh? She knew by enlisting she was going to be raped and traumatized? Is that an automatic expectation that the civilian world has?” Anyway, such censuring statements are meant to demean a group of people going through a struggle. They are to be taken on quickly, and put to rest definitively.

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