I grew up as a Marine Corps kid, with my dad serving a full 20 years before retiring. So, in 2019, when my wife wanted to enlist in the Air Force, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. As I’ve learned over these last few years, being a military kid and a military spouse are very different things.
We are currently preparing to leave Ramstein Air Force Base, the first base we were assigned after she completed her initial training. The chaos of a PCS has given me a chance to reflect on what I’ve learned up to this point. Minus the unexpected pandemic that hit the globe right when we received orders to Germany (that is a different story for another day), I wanted to share these points in hopes of making someone else’s introduction to military life easier.
Here are six things I would tell myself (or anyone starting out) as a new military spouse:
- Practice patience: Practice having patience with your spouse. Just as you would in the civilian world, understand that your spouse has probably had a long, busy day at work. Don’t let little things cause a fuss in your household and pick your battles. Nobody wants to come home from work and go straight into an argument or stressful discussion. As the saying goes, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” You are on the same team.
- Remember to communicate: Like my first point, you and your spouse are most likely encountering a new living situation at your first duty station. You may both be starting new jobs and getting used to an unfamiliar routine. By communicating with one another proactively before an issue gets out of hand, the day-to-day life flow can be so much smoother.
- Make time for each another: This one is so important, especially since a military career and/or raising a family can be so demanding: Make time for you and your spouse. It is very important that through the grind of daily life, you prioritize each other. Whether it’s going out to eat once a week or having a movie night, find an activity that allows you to focus on your relationship. It’ll give you both something to look forward to every week.
- Be understanding: Understand that your spouse will be working around many different people. Everybody isn’t a threat to your relationship or the enemy just because they are unknown to you. Most people just want to go to work, get through the workday and go home. There will also be plenty of opportunities for you to meet your spouse’s co-workers. Take some time, get to know them and you may even make a few friends.
- Use the resources: Being part of a military family means you have access to many new resources that can improve your quality of life. Whether it be more financial security so that you don’t have to work a job you’re not passionate about, support to help you pursue a college education or fitness programs to help with health goals, the opportunities are endless. Take the time to research what is out there or ask your military network for guidance.
- Have an open mind: You are going to be in a new place and depending on your spouse’s career plans your journey may take your family to several different places for a few years at a time. So, try to approach each situation with optimism. Every town or city has an identity and is a fresh place to explore. Look for what makes that area unique. Research places that match your hobbies and interests. Look out for acclaimed restaurants or special landmarks. Life is what you make it, and I truly believe that.
Throughout my life I’ve always viewed myself as a “tough guy” and a “man’s man.” I’ve been an athlete my whole life, varsity wrestler, jiu-jitsu champion and even helped a UFC fighter get ready for three of his fights. When it came time to take on the new role of being a military spouse — more specifically a male military spouse — I definitely experienced ups and downs. It does take time to settle in and get used to it — and some days will be tougher than others— but I honestly believe if you focus on working together, it can all fall into place.Read comments