Words matter. And sometimes well-meaning words can sting. It’s been almost 2 decades since I said, “I do” and entered the military family — and its rather unique lifestyle.
Here is my list of the 4 biggest offenders in the “things never to say to a military spouse” category.
4. “You knew what you were getting into.”
Actually, most of us did not. I would go as far as to say that even a military brat who grew up surrounded by the culture didn’t know exactly what it feels like to send their spouse off to war. We didn’t know what it would be like to move our own children across the country multiple times or to sacrifice our career goals for another person’s military service. It’s kind of like having your own kid — you can read all the books and take all the classes, but nothing truly prepares you for the moment when you’re the one rocking a sick child to sleep in the middle of the night.
This is mostly a veiled attempt to say, “stop complaining, you signed up for this.” I get it. No one likes a complainer. But venting is healthy and we all need to get things off our chest from time to time.
3. “Suck it up, Buttercup.”
Embracing the suck is sometimes a necessity. But frankly, a military spouse doesn’t need a reminder of how to do this. Just because he/she puts up a tough front doesn’t mean they aren’t scared, upset, worried, or a combination of all three at times. It’s normal to miss home. It’s normal to be scared about a deployment. It’s normal to be overwhelmed with everything.
If your milspouse friend is becoming isolated or seems to be negative constantly, it’s perfectly fine to reach out and offer resources or just show up and take them to get coffee. Wanting to help is wonderful, but telling someone going through something very real and challenging to “suck it up” is rarely helpful. Tough love in this situation is mostly just lacking in the “love” department.
2. “I could never be a military spouse.”
Yes. Yes, you could. I didn’t marry my husband because I wanted to be a military spouse, I married him because I love him. I haven’t stayed with him for 19 years because I adore the retirement check, I stay because I love him. I didn’t have two children with him because I think the term “military brat” is cool, we had kids because we love one another and wanted to grow our family.
Military families love each other, just like any other family does. And when we love someone, we do things for that person. Do you love your spouse? Then, yes. You could do it, too.
1. “Thank you for YOUR service.”
I don’t know why this one bothers me so much — maybe it’s just me. I know where the sentiment is coming from and, on some level, I appreciate people who recognize that spouses and children also face challenges due to military service. Regardless, the word “service” always makes me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t step on those yellow footprints. I have not deployed. I haven’t sacrificed my own health for this country. I did not agree to die in defense of it.
So, for me, the word ‘service,’ while well-meaning, seems off. When a kind stranger says this to me, I thank them and gently say, “thank you so much. It’s been my pleasure to support my husband in his service.”
What are the phrases that bug you the most?