After considering many topics to start writing about I decided to go in chronological order of my married life. It all started on the day my soon to be husband checked-in to the command I was stationed at. Yes, I, too was once on active duty. This is how we met and I would be lying if I said it wasn’t love at first sight. I can recall that moment like it was yesterday and it has been over 12 years!
I was manning the phones and he walks into the office to meet with the OIC (officer in charge) and I teased him about standing at “attention” or was it “at ease”? (s0me things escape me). He didn’t find me to funny but here we are 12 years, two kids, and three duty stations later. He found something attractive . So how did I go from single sailor to military spouse? It wasn’t an easy thing to do but I did it and have survived. Here are the ways I have learned from my own experiences and those of the women I have met….
1. When this dashing man in uniform asks you to marry him and you say yes (because let’s face it, who is going to say no?) stop and really consider what you are saying yes to. Most couples say vows on their wedding day and they are all about the marriage itself. When you marry a person in uniform you marry the military life, too. It is important that the person (and even the one who is) not in uniform understand the life they are about to lead. Do you truly understand that there will be moves and you will move far, very far away from your mommy and daddy? Do you truly understand that you will raise children (if children are something you and your partner want) alone a lot of the time? Are you as the spouse ready to run a home as a single parent? I will say that even with my nine years of experience serving our country I was not prepared to answer these questions. I thought I would always have a husband and father around each and every day. I thought I would always see my mother once a month and call her at any given moment. I certainly wasn’t prepared to be a single parent! Which, is how I feel a good majority of the time. This is the most important aspect of married life the spouse must understand. You aren’t just marring a handsome man in uniform you are marring his way of life.
2. Now that you have talked with your future partner it is time to make the transition from a civilian, living a civilian life, to a civilian living a military life. It won’t be easy……To receive all your benefits your husband (or wife) must go their personnel department and put your information on what is known as a Page 2. Make sure your future children are on this as well. You might think, how would my dashingly, handsome man not know this? Trust me when I tell you sometimes they don’t! Especially, if you have to be separated for a little bit. Just because you aren’t together doesn’t mean you don’t get to go the doctor for free! Once that is complete ID cards are issued and you can start to receive all the benefits you so deserve.
3. You must educate yourself on the health and dental care, all information on this can be found at http://www.tricare.mil for TriCare (health insurance) and http://www.ucci.com for United Concordia (dental insurance). After a total of about 12 years being with the Navy I had no idea that when we changed our TriCare status from overseas back to stateside we had to sign up for our dental care separately. Two separate insurances, two separate phone calls! Don’t forget that!!! We had to swallow several hundreds of dollars in dental bills.
4. Most spouses at this point will feel so overwhelmed with this process. They have moved away from home and many for the first time ever in their lives. You have spent days in this process and now here you are at home and alone and thinking, “Well, this sucks! Now what?” Get out of your house and volunteer! All bases have a Fleet and Family Support Center and they are chock full of opportunities. I find volunteering to be a great way to meet people and it gives you purpose. As the spouse it is crucial you create a life for yourself and volunteering is a great place to start.
5. Get a job! Working is such a great thing; it creates an instant social environment. Most junior enlisted couples struggle financially mostly because it costs a lot to get married and move and having the extra income will help ease that. I am the first one to tell you it is hard being in a strange city and not knowing where to start. Most major bases will host job fairs or at least know of them. Again, call the local FFSC or the command Ombudsman and ask. Look into job availability on the base. Those jobs are great because a lot of the time they will transfer with you. Working has so many benefits other than the money. Again, don’t sit home waiting for your spouse, get out and create a life for yourself, WORK!
6. Be connected to other spouses in the command. You can do this by contacting your command Ombudsman and asking if there will be any command events. The majority of commands will have an FRG (or the equivalent in other services). An FRG is a family group that host social events for the command’s families. Those are good places to meet new people. These people will so important in your life because they are the ones that truly understand how you feel. They will support you through the first deployment. The people you can call when you feel like the loneliness will consume you. Do not be alienated from these people because they are your family!! I love my mother and sister more than words can describe but they don’t understand my life the like some of my military friends do. You will need friends and the command spouses are a great place to start.
You may be wondering why my transition was so tough. How is it possible for me to have found life after active duty so challenging? Well, I went from being with my husband each day all day (except on occasion) to him being deployed and I was in a strange country with an almost two year old (who I wasn’t used to being with) and pregnant. I thought for sure I would have it easy, after all I had spent 9 years on active duty but in the end I was treated just like any other spouse. I had to find my way on my own. It wasn’t easy and I thought for sure I would fail but I didn’t and I am stronger for it. I find that being a military spouse makes me a better wife and mother. I feel like I can endure anything life throws my way. And you, too, can feel that way! It will take time and lots of wine and phone calls home while drinking wine but you will survive. This from a woman who had a baby and then ran home to her mommy for two months because the wine and phone calls weren’t enough. So I do understand the how hard those first few months, years or even the entire first year can be. I can’t say how long it will take because we are all different but just take one day at a time and every day will be easier.