10 Things You Should Never Say To A Military Spouse (From A Navy Wife’s Perspective)

Twenty20 / hannahmcswain
Twenty20 / hannahmcswain

Your normal is so inherently different from ours, it makes sense that you often stereotype and pigeonhole us as the archetypes given to you by Hollywood. Of course, I can’t speak for all service members and their spouses, but I think most of us would say that we understand that you don’t understand. How could you? We get it. It’s ok.

But we would like to politely request that you stop saying a few things that we are really tired of dignifying with a response.

1. “Well, you chose this life, so you can’t really complain about it.”

Oh! Ok, see I didn’t realize that it was no longer socially acceptable to air any grievances about your life that are at all related to your spouse, because well, you married ‘em! So tough titty! Guys nights and ladies weekends are sure gonna be a whole lot different now that complaining about your spouse, your spouses job and where you live because of your spouses job are all off the table! I mean seriously, how can you not see what a callus double standard this is? You really think anyones hoping their soulmate will happen to have a dangerous job with a high divorce rate? We didn’t choose a lifestyle, we fell in love with a person.

2. “Can’t you just call/email/text/skype them?”

Fun fact: Nope! Communication during deployment varies from daily checkins and occasional Skyping to absolutely zero contact for months and everything in between. Even if they should in theory be able to contact you, most places the military deploys too aren’t known for their great cell service or awesome high speed internet. We’ll hear from them when it is physically possible on their end and not a moment sooner.

3. “I wish my spouse would leave for awhile!”

I’m truly sorry that you haven’t found a healthy balance in your marriage and that that has led to you to being so resentful of your partner, you think it’s funny to joke about needing them to leave you alone for months on end. You don’t need a deployment booboo, you need some marriage counseling and a little sensitivity training. Everyone needs space from their spouse, thats what hobbies and girls trips to Vegas are for. We don’t get to pick and choose when a deployment would best suit us. In fact, they often happen at the worst times, when you could really use your partner by your side (ie moving, giving birth, falling ill or being seriously injured, etc.) It’s a deployment, not some married life sabbatical.

4. “How can you NOT know when they’ll be home?”

Short answer: OPSEC (Operational Security.) Military speak for, “It’s none of ya damn business!” Long answer: The military is not the well oiled machine that you may think it is. Nothing is set in stone….it’s set in something the consistency of unrefrigerated jello. So no, we really don’t know when they’ll be home, or when they’ll leave again or how many more deployments are ahead of us.

5. “Well, at least they’re not getting shot at/ in combat/ in Afghanistan.”

First of all, you actually have no idea the level of danger my spouse is in, because I don’t even know. Because OPSEC. Secondly, every job in every branch of service has it’s own unique struggle and so does every spouse. Saying, “at least they’re not in Afghanistan” is like the military equivalent of saying, “someone always has it worse.” While perhaps factually true, it does not ease my burden or struggle one fucking iota, so kindly bugger off with your irritating platitudes.

6. “It must be nice that you don’t have to work because you make all that money.”

AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!! Biggest misconception about military families, that we somehow make piles of cash. Yes, my husband earns a paycheck for doing his job. Yes, we get by from month to month. Yes, part of that paycheck includes money for housing. However, if you add together his salary and our housing allowance, the total still falls at or below the median wage for a single income adult in the U.S. That puts us about 20-30k below the median for a 2 income household. So yes, we can survive without me working, but barely.

In my personal experience most non-working spouses aren’t that way by choice. It’s rather difficult to pursue a career or start a business when most of your life is a giant question mark, you’re always moving and your job history is a connect the dots map of the United States. Some of us manage to do it, despite the challenges and we’re the lucky ones. Life on a single salary ain’t easy, and there’s a reason our military grocery stores have to accept food stamps…

Side note: In case you didn’t know, all that extravagant military spending Washington does mostly goes to government contractors (ie F-35 program, Halliburton, etc), not service members.

7. “I was in a long distance relationship, so I get it.”

I don’t know about you but I’ve never heard of anyone staying in a long distance marriage while raising children for 20 years. Yes, you understand distance and that means you can more easily empathize, which is wonderful! But let’s just stick to that and not get all lofty with “I get it.” Cause, well, you don’t.

8. “Why don’t they just get out and get a normal job?”

Where would you like me to start? With the fact that quitting your job isn’t an option in the military? They own your ass for as long as the contract you signed says they do. Or maybe with the fact that many military jobs are hyper specialized and have no civilian equivalent? Or, both of those aside, please tell me where all these good jobs with health care and benefits are for 20-somethings in the U.S.? Last time I checked, even a lot of my college educated and highly motivated friends are barely making it. Most importantly though, many of our spouses actually LIKE their jobs. Crazy, I know.

9. “How can they do that (insert some situation that does not translate to civilian life) to him/her/you?!?”

As stated above, they OWN your ass. Your spouse is government property first and your sugar bear/honey bunches/love machine second and they’ll never let you forget it. So…you embrace the suck.

10. “I feel so sorry for you/ I’m glad I don’t have to live that life.”

This always makes me want to say something super rude, because to us this feels like a patronizing pat on the head. You can respect us, admire us, put us on a pedestal or send us a year long subscription to a mail-order wine club, but do NOT pity us. Our life is different than yours, but it is not less than yours. We do not require or desire you to feel sorry for us. Just your respect and occasional empathy, will do just fine, thank you. TC mark

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