Top 10 Things New Military Spouses Learn

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Top Ten Things New Military Spouses Learn
Married at the Virginia Military Institute on May 24, 1980, Stephen and Karen Chase first met in middle school. (DVIDS/Christopher Zahn)

Welcome to the elusive military spouse club. Congrats on your marriage to a wonderful service member. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but marrying into the military is a bit different. The changes you face depend a lot on how long you’ve been dating, your background and the job your service member has.

But, some of the things you’re going to have to learn quickly, and some of them will change your life. Here are the things we think you’ll need to learn right away.

1. You learn how to be married.

Military marriage may come with some unique challenges, but it’s still a marriage. It means compromise, learning to live together, figuring out strengths and weaknesses. You get to see who your spouse really is and figure out why he leaves the dirty dishes in the sink or why she can’t seem to find the hamper with her dirty clothes.

2. You learn that there isn’t going to be time to fight.

This is a hard lesson sometimes. Ask any seasoned spouse about this and they won’t even be able to count how many times an argument ended with “I have to leave for work now.” It’s infuriating but it’s also helpful in that it gives you both time to calm down.

3. You learn how to pick up your life.

Probably pretty quickly, you’ll learn how to say goodbye to your current life and move far away. Far from family and friends. And you’ll do this a lot, sometimes with no notice. But you’ll also learn what’s worth keeping in your life and the relationships that are worth maintaining over the distance.

4. You learn how to make new friends.

Friends are what make this life so special. You’ll forge fierce friendships seemingly overnight. I’ve said many times to people I just met, “And now we’re friends.” And it’s true. Sometimes for that season and sometimes for the rest of our lives. You won’t be friends with everyone and you won’t maintain all of your friendships forever. But you’ll always have friends.

5. You learn you have resources and you learn to use them.

With those friends come resources. Sometimes they are official like a Family Readiness Group and sometimes it’s the spouse Facebook group. Often times you’ll get great answers, but sometimes what you really need is reassurance or an invitation to dinner.

6. You learn your friends and family might not understand your new life.

Just as you’re learning quite a bit, your friends and family will be too. For years my mother would ask me if my husband would be home for the holidays or what our plans were for six months from then. They’ve all learned when to ask questions and when to offer unconditional support. Give them a little grace here and try to help them understand.

7. You learn you might not be able to find the right job.

When you’re moving every few years and trying to balance your spouse’s demanding career, it can be hard to find the right job. Depending on where you are living, the job market, your specific skill set and the other demands on your life, it may not be the right time for your dream job. Or any job. But don’t let it get you down, control what you can.

8. You learn to handle things on your own.

While being married means your part of a team, sometimes you just need to handle business on your own. For some of us, this is a natural thing and for others it’s scary. But you’ll be surprised at how a little bit of confidence coupled with some knowledge can open doors for you. The key is to be respectful but firm. You can do anything you set your mind to.

9. You learn that timing is everything.

Learning this one can be hard. Yes, you want to be able to tell your spouse everything, even the rough, silly things that happen throughout the day. But as your marriage matures, you’ll learn that timing is everything. Your spouse does not need to come home from a rough day to hear about how your toddler colored on the wall. Your spouse will learn how you’d prefer they have all the information before bringing home news. You’ll figure it out.

10. You learn to make the most of your situation.

The grass may seem greener on the other side, but you’ll learn to be optimistic and enjoy the moments you have together. This may mean you hire a sitter and bring dinner to your spouse while they’re on staff duty. Or it may mean getting up really early to make breakfast before a big day at the office. It may also mean sucking it up for a few years at a less than ideal duty station in hopes it pays off with a promotion.

Military life is full of ups and downs, but when you’re a few years into it and start looking back on the memories you’ve made, you’ll realize it truly is what you make of it.

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