Sunday, February 17, 2013

Adjusting to Military Life

A good friend of mine has become seriously involved with a sailor over the past year.  She lives in Florida and he's stationed in VA.  My husband is also in the military and we also lived apart when we first met. 

If you didn't grow up as a military child then adjusting to military life can be difficult as my friend is discovering.  I went through it, too.  It's different from civilian life in almost every way and it can be frustrating trying to adjust your civilian beliefs to fit the beliefs and mores of military life. 

Although in some ways the life of a soldier is similar to the life of a civil servant or high powered business man (they both may work long hours or weird shifts, have to travel for work, etc).  Your spouse is told when and where to travel (or TDY) for work, when and where to move, how to dress, and who to be friends with (no fraternization between officers and enlisted).  And lucky you gets dragged along for the ride. 

There are still times when I get frustrated by my husband's job, usually when he's forced to work late or on weekends.  In order to adjust to military life you have to adjust your mindset.  If you try to hold on to the way things were in your old life then you'll spend your life as a military spouse feeling frustrated and unfulfilled.  Let go of your old beliefs.  Realize that the reason you get a medal when your spouse retires is because you have also sacrificed.  Be proud of the part you play.  Be proud of your spouse!

Here are some tips that may help:

1)  Life is an adventure and being in the military may be one of the biggest adventures at all!  I embrace moving every 3 years.  I love meeting new people, seeing new places, experiencing different things.  Of course the fact that the military will pack your stuff up, move it, and unpack it is an added bonus!

2)  My child will be resilient because of her life in the military.  She will learn to make new friends, adjust, be self sufficient, learn to let go. 

3)  Saying goodbye is a part of life.  Learning to say goodbye with grace and dignity will serve you well.  And while it's hard, the flip side is as you say goodbye to friends and family in one location, you are also saying hello to new friends and military family in your new location. 

4)  It's okay to cry.  Change is hard.  If it wasn't easy then we wouldn't grow through it.  Give yourself permission to cry as needed, but don't spend your days crying.  When I need a cry I usually put a time limit on it (5 or 10 minutes) so that I don't spend the day wallowing in self pity.  When your crying time is up, force yourself to get up and get moving. 

5)  Military life is hard.  It will make or break your relationship.  In the first 2 years of marriage my husband and I moved twice, had a miscarriage, had a baby, and he deployed.  Holy stress!  But every stage of life comes with its own unique challenges.  We choose to embrace chaos.  To try to fight against it is madness.  You can't control the things that happen around you, but you can control how you react to those situations. 

Life is too short to live negatively.  Enjoy the blessings you've been given and the friends you make along the way!

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