So you’re getting married to a military man, huh? Welcome to the club! You’re going to love this lifestyle! Being a military spouse (milso) is an experience like no other. You’re going to get the opportunity to see different parts of the world/country, opportunities to better your life, and so much more.
While the military life is extremely exciting, it can be extremely isolating for the spouse especially. Hubby and I have learned a lot since he joined the military. Here are the top 10 lessons I’ve had to learn when adjusting to this lifestyle, but hopefully this makes it easier for you.
Build a life for yourself
It’s tough, we’ve all been there! You uprooted your entire life, gave up everything you ever knew, and now you’re on the other side of the country (or the world) and you have no idea what to do with yourself. It’s very easy to start living for your spouse.
You don’t get a job, wait for him to come home all day, and live through his stories and experiences. You forget to make a life for yourself and there is nothing good that can come out of this. It leads to resentment, loneliness, and has you questioning if you made the right choices.
It wasn’t until after I got a full-time job, got back into school, and made some civilian friends, my life became so much fuller. It’s nothing against my husband or any other military wives, but building a life for yourself outside of the military is full of satisfaction because you are living for yourself. Your conversations with friends and co-workers don’t revolve around the military. You get to build a whole new world for yourself, it’s exciting and fun! You’ll be surprised what it does for your marriage as well!
The military comes first, you come second
I never understood this one at first, thinking “why would my husband want to put the military first?” Truth is, most of them don’t put the military first. The military forces their way into the number one slot in their life. Not on a daily basis kind of thing, but in the more important parts of life. It always has a way of ruining vacations, disrupting plans, and taking him away when you need him most.
Understand that this lifestyle is not about you. It’s about the military’s needs and then yours. I have heard a couple of wives say, “I can’t believe the military would do this to me. This isn’t fair.” I don’t mean to be rude, but if that’s going to be your attitude, you’re going to need to get out of this lifestyle or change your tone, like yesterday. It’ll save a lot of heartache and resentment.
Take advantage of your benefits
Tricare – understand the benefits of Tricare and enroll in Tricare Prime, if possible. In the past four years, I have racked up over $100,000 in medical debt between therapy, hospitalizations, surgeries and more. Over 100 therapy sessions, countless gynecologist appointments, dentist appointments, four appointments with a specialist, two hospitalizations in a psychiatric hospital, 4 years of medications, and two gynecological surgeries and guess how much I paid for all of it? $0. Not a single penny!!! If it wasn’t for Tricare Prime, hubby and I would be in debt up to our eyeballs, declaring bankruptcy, or something not very good!! What a blessing!!
Military discounts – Don’t forget to ask if places offer a military discount! You will be so surprised at how many places offer different discounts, free foods, etc. Even though it sometimes isn’t much, it’s still savings! We like to take our savings from the military discount and put it in a savings account. You’d be surprised how quickly it adds up! You were going to spend it anyway, why not save it!
Travel – Don’t even get me started on the travel discounts! Mind = blown!! Between the USO, Space-A, free baggage, discounted flights and hotels, free tickets, and more. You HAVE to take advantage of the travel opportunities that the military can bring you. Appreciate that you get to see the world in a way that very few get to. Here’s a post I wrote specifically about military travel discounts, you don’t want to miss this!! It has saved us SO much money! We are very frequent travelers.
Don’t start drama
Do not be that wife. The spouses FB page is a wonderful tool to learn all sorts of information about activities on base, recommendations around town, etc. Don’t start drama on the FB page, don’t start drama between the wives of your hubby’s coworkers, and if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all!
Some of the wives have nothing better to do but sit at home and start problems with other people. I hate to be harsh, but it’s true. The majority of wives are amazing and super sweet and just want a friend who understands what they are going through! So please don’t think that every wife is waiting to start drama, that would be only a select few!
Take advantage of going to school and bettering yourself!! Look into MYCAA, it’s a military spousal program that pays for almost any certification or associates degree! You can’t beat free schooling!! If you’ve already got your Associates, there are plenty of scholarships specific to military spouses and dependents. Apply for any and all of them, you’re likely to have a better chance of winning one of these than any civilian scholarship.
Don’t forget to have your spouse finish schooling. While in the military, this is the best time for them to finish their degree. Even though you’re just starting out with the military, that first contract is going to FLY by. You need to start preparing about a year in advance for any changes that are to come. If he decides the military isn’t for him and discharges, he needs to have some kind of degree, certification, or licensure to be able to thrive in the civilian world.
Don’t rush into having kids
This is your own personal choice, and I’ll probably receive some backlash from this one, but as a therapist and military wife, bringing kids into the picture when you’re newly married is very rough on your marriage. You need that time to grow as a couple, become stable in your relationship and finances, and to figure out what your plan is for the next few years.
I have had many conversations with higher-ups in the military about this. One piece of advice from a Master Sergeant that I received shortly after arriving here was, “Wait at least three years to have kids. Most of the kids I see joining that have kids within the first year or two are divorced before their first contract is up. You will have an incident within the first 3-5 years that is going to make or break you guys, bringing children into that only escalates everything.”
He went on to talk about how it’s more stressful for a military couple because of their situation and being away from family. It just stuck with me, he was right! During year 2, we had our make-it-or-break-it moment (my mental health and hospitalizations). I’m happy to say that we made it and thrived! Having kids during that time to deal with would’ve really made things a lot harder.
Finances – the good, the bad, and the ugly
Let’s be honest, military members do not make that much money, especially the lower ranks. To be fair, the benefits make up for it though! They make sure you have enough money for housing and food, not to mention the free insurance and medications!! For us, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. We have been so blessed and I am thankful that we have been able to live very comfortably on his salary while I finish graduate school. It took hard work to get to where we are though.
PCSing is going to cost you a lot of money. It is expensive! We moved ourselves and the military paid us back, which was great! We made a good chunk of money from that. You also get an allowance for moving, a couple thousand dollars. That doesn’t come immediately though. Make sure you have enough saved up for a security deposit and first month’s rent!
It can be very easy to save money while in the military, even if you’re not working. The military has it to where you can take out an allotment every month. This money is placed into a separate savings account before you can even see it. Even if it’s just $50 a month, take advantage of that! Also, make sure your retirement is set up. The earlier you start, the better off you are!
Understand that your friendships from back home will start to fade, milsos are a whole different type of friend
It was extremely hurtful at first, but you have to remember that you are the one that moved away. Everyone else is going to continue on in their lives and this is just a teeny two-second bump. Once you’re gone, it’s very easy for them to forget to keep in touch. Do not be alarmed if your friends from home don’t text, call, or visit you often. It’s completely normal when you don’t see someone very often, you’ll automatically drift apart. Once you accept that, it’s easier to get over the resentment and more fun it is to see them when you come home.
Military spouses are friends that understand you on a level that NO ONE else can. It’s likely that many of your friends and family have not had to do what you have just done or what you will go through. These fellow milsos will be there to get you through deployments, TDYs, PCSing, and everyday life. They understand your lifestyle and you can say things without even having to say them. They just get it. Your goodbyes to these friends will be 100 times harder than saying goodbye to your friends at home. These military families are your family now. Saying goodbye is extremely hard.
Try to not get overwhelmed, it takes time to learn everything
There are so many acronyms, dates, uniform pieces, work terminology, etc. that will become everyday jargon in your house. It is extremely overwhelming at first, but you’ll get used to all of it!
Don’t forget the deployment rumors, promotions, shift changes, and more. Every single day, there is different information about it. One day they are moving to mids, the next they are off to Iraq for six months, the day after they’re staying right where they are and nothing is changing. Just learn to go with the flow and you’ll be okay. Take it one day at a time, it’ll end up with a lot less disappointment!
Coming from someone who is an extreme planner and has anxiety attacks every time that something doesn’t go according to plan, learn to LET THAT GO!!! It is extremely hard, but your life is going to be so miserable unless you learn to just stop planning. It will come in time, don’t worry.
In the end, do what makes you happy
In the end, this is your life and you need to do what you need to do to be satisfied. Honestly, this blog post isn’t going to change anything. Hopefully, it’s just a little bit of advice that can help you understand all the changes that are going on. It’s overwhelming and scary and exciting all at the same time! Just enjoy every single day of this lifestyle, because there will be an emptiness when it’s gone.
What are some of the most important things you’ve learned since joining the military that you would share with a new milso? Let me know below in the comments!