It's no doubt that those who haven't lived the military lifestyle have a difficult time with some of the logistics. In everything from decoding thousands of acronyms, to seemingly "hard" dates that change at the drop of a hat, to the mindset of doing without a loved one for months on end, if you haven't lived it, it's a foreign reality.
That's not to say non-military folk aren't empathetic, simply that they haven't experienced military happenings firsthand. However, that is to say they should remain impartial at all times. And they definitely shouldn't tell a milspouse the following three things:
1. You knew what you were getting into.
Yes. That is an actual thing that people say to military members and their spouses alike. A quite common thing.
Sure. We know the main points. But all the details? Some surprises are sure to come along the way with anything in life. No matter how prepared you are, no one can anticipate the emotions of that first deployment (or the tenth).
Saying that a milspouse can't talk about a situation being hard just because they knew about it upfront, is wholly unfair. We are communicators. When things bother us, we discuss them. When we are having a rough time, we tell others … that's part of what helps the situation get better.
But to be shut down by someone who has zero idea of what they're going through and to have them tell you your feelings don't matter because you knew a military marriage would be hard? Hold me back.
It's a harder situation than anyone thinks – and instead of being told their feelings are invalid, military spouses should be celebrated and supported for their help within the armed forces community.
2. At least … it could be worse.The guided-missle cruiser USS Monterey (CG-61) Homecoming
Sigh. Another common response to military lifestyle changes is "at least."
"At least he won't be gone that long." "At least he gets to come home for the birth." "At least he's not deploying." It's a minimizing statement that makes us want to pull our hair out.
Why can't it just be hard? Why do milspouses have to be told their feelings aren't as big as they feel them?
Yes, it could be worse. That's true of anything in life. But we don't need the Debbie Downers of the world pointing out stats about how much worse off life could be. If you can't muster up a sincere, "That's tough! It's ok to be upset," then maybe just don't say anything at all.
3. But you get great benefits.
And? Anything else you'd like to toss in from left field, Karen? Sure, milspouses are grateful for how wonderful it is to get free flu swabs or take courses via the GI Bill. But we promise, that's not the first thought that comes up.
There are great benefits of military life. But it's not exactly an even trade-off for the sacrifices the entire family makes. Really, it's apples and oranges, and if you talk to milspouses about how they should be grateful for all the benefits during month seven of a deployment, they just might throw said fruit in your direction.
When talking to military family members, be careful what you say. Even when ill intentions aren't in mind, be careful not to belittle their experience or denounce what's been gone through. It's a lifestyle that you can't understand unless you've lived it, and sometimes, when things are hard, we just want to be heard.
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