It’s not just a matter of survival. Thriving as a military spouse is a necessity.
“I used to” be a Marine. “I used to” be a city planner. “I used to” run a YMCA camp. “I used to” be or do a lot of things. These words happened in my vocabulary often, at least they did when I first started this military wife journey. More often than not, they transitioned straight to “When he retires, I’ll do….” or “When he gets out of the military, I’ll….”
Even scarier, these words came up during deployments or temporary duty assignments. “I used to” exercise and “I used to” cook. These, too, transitioned to “When he gets back from deployment, I’ll…” or “When this TDY is over, I’ll….” Somewhere in the middle of military life, I began to simply survive, living for some future date or reminiscing about past experiences instead of living where I was.
Conversations with other military spouses opened my eyes to their stories of careers, duty stations and dreams: ones they let go, gave up on or longed for. Others were simply surviving, too.
No more! I am done with getting by, whether for a deployment, duty station or career. I’ve tried that route: flying under the radar, faking contentment and thinking just a few weeks or months or years, and then I’m done. My conclusion? Just because my name is not on some orders doesn’t mean there is no purpose or plan for me in this place today. I am determined to live and to thrive here, wherever here might be.
Thrive? Surely, it’s possible for all of us. Here are three ways you, too, can thrive:
1: Surround yourself with people
Isolation is the enemy. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, we all need people. We need to build a community where we are and do life with folks around us. Tackling this animal over and over can be a serious challenge. There are key things to recognize: (1) We have friends for a season and friends for life, and both are good, (2) the differences in people help us grow, and (3) everyone we encounter doesn’t have to be our BFF. Open all the doors but only walk into some. Both friends and acquaintances are part of life.
Here are some ideas to get started building community where you are:
Open your home for coffee, dinner or something in-between. We make friends by being friends. At our house, we host a game night once a month. Every guest brings something to eat and we hang out. It’s easy, relaxed and we have made some great friends.
Find your gang whether it’s through joining a spouse group, attending a Bible study, participating in the PTA or getting to know your neighbors. Find your place. You don’t have to have a place in all of them, but finding that group you show up to regularly is helpful. Give yourself time after you permanent change of station to find what that place might be, but do go looking.
Say hello, the easiest thing to do. Sometimes it is the simple things that make the most difference. By standing in line at the post office, debating on dinner at the commissary or taking a jog around post, you never know who you might meet. Saying “Hi” is the first step in starting a friendship.
2: Shift your perspective
Our outlook changes everything. As my family has moved from place to place, we have changed our perspective from one of dread to one of adventure. When we first married, we were not overly thrilled with the idea of moving. Introverts by nature, the idea of making a new group of friends, starting over in service opportunities or visiting new churches was not a thrilling prospect.
As we’ve grown over the years, we have changed our perspective to one of adventure. What is the “right” next house and where might it be? Think about the new, amazing friends you will find in the next place? What opportunities for activities and family adventure might there be? From St. Patrick’s Day parades in Georgia to Oktoberfest in Germany, we have had some amazing adventures. Friends have become family in every place we’ve been stationed, and houses have taught us about what our retirement house will (and will not) look like.
Moving becomes a treasure hunt as we go looking for these things in every new place. The recollection that every place has had it’s blessings has changed our hearts in looking toward the next leg of the journey. We’ve started to look for those new friends that will become like family, a church group that teaches us just a bit more, and the culture that gives us an appreciation for new and different things. We’ve learned that we would have missed out on a lot if we would have stayed put in Texas.
Our perspective has changed everything from what we find in the place we are headed to the attitudes of our children. Don’t get me wrong. Leaving our family, and friends who have become family, behind is never easy. The unknowns we face in the new place can bring some anxious moments, for sure. But all of these challenges are overshadowed by the blessings we find.
3: Explore your passions
What are you good at? What gets you super excited? How can you make a difference where you are? These are great questions to start with because passion, those things that make our heart beat, are there for a reason. Many times those passions turn into opportunities to help, encourage or make a difference in someone else.
Seasons change as we move from place to place. Jobs are different, as is our family, neighbors, churches, communities and friends. Truthfully, though, one of the things that has changed most over the years is me. I have learned and grown. I have started to understand my weaknesses and have gotten better at using my gifts. I’ve learned to say yes to less so the quality is better in what I do.
Military spouses are an amazing group of people who own businesses, run for office, have professional careers and volunteer more than anyone I ever met. They are a group that has learned, sometimes through a lot of bumps, to just get after it. As you look for what your passions and purpose will be in a new place, consider also the ones you already have. Our spouses and children are just as world-changing an endeavor as the job down the street or the new business in your home.
Busy does not always equal brave. There is a fine line between brave and crazy. Find what makes your heart beat and do those things while not forgetting about the purpose you have under your roof at home. They are certainly not mutually exclusive! You have a purpose in every place you are planted.
Here are some practical ways to find the right fit in a new place:
Ponder your path. Where have you been? What have you learned along the way? I am certainly not who I was 10 years ago and neither are you. What ways have you grown and how might that tie into current opportunities and your life situation?
Gauge your gifts. What gifts or skills that you have? Is there something that comes naturally to you? Is there something that gets you excited? Answering these simple questions can help you find something that you actually enjoy. Write them down. It’s a good reminder that you are actually good at many things and the visual will help you think out loud.
Survey you circumstances. What’s going on around you? What are the current circumstances of your family? What opportunities are there with regard to children, spouse, community, work, etc? Continually remind yourself that you are not supposed to do everything, but you can do something.
Working through these three areas has helped me many times thrive in the place I was planted as I found ways to invest in my family and community. Getting by is no longer an option. There is more to life than survival and I am determined to thrive regardless of location or circumstance. Through people, perspective and passion, I plan to make a difference in my world.
This hurdle of instability, uncertainty, fear, sadness and loneliness has caused me to jump straight into helping others jump the hurdle, too. Helping others find their hope, joy and stability wherever the military sends them has become my heartbeat. The encouragement we give military spouses who come behind us, is an investment we make into the future. Remind, teach and help military spouses thrive wherever the military plants them.Read comments