Dear Ms. Vicki,
My wife will be going to SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training. At the beginning, it really scared me due to the physical and psychological nature of what it entails.
After doing a lot of research and speaking with SERE trainers, I have come to accept those things that first caused me concern.
But now I have another problem with all of it that I hate to admit. I feel jealous.
She is volunteering to make herself more physically vulnerable to these men than she would (or should), to my mind. I would never want to treat her in these ways, yet I can't help but feel betrayed that she would allow them to do these things to her.
I know it is not rational, but in my gut, it feels like a betrayal. I have not spoken to her about these feelings as I do not want to get in the way of her success, but it is eating at me and I can't seem to find a way to rationalize the feelings away.
I do not come from a military background, so when I go on the military forums to try and ask for advice, I tend to receive a lot of negative and judgmental comments -- mostly just telling me to "get over it" -- but we know that doesn't work from a psychological standpoint.
I can continue to stuff the feelings, but eventually they will come out and probably not in a positive and constructive manner. How can I be supportive, and also not feel emasculated by this?
-- Mr. D.
Dear Mr. D.,
I think you are doing a good job of verbalizing your feelings because you are being very honest about how you feel. As you know, you could use some type of defense mechanism to help you cope with the feelings of betrayal and the anxiety.
You have some insight because you recognize what this jealousy is doing to you and you own it. You get my applause for that because there is nothing dysfunctional about your verbalization.
I think you express another good point. You don't know a lot about the military, and you probably never heard of the SERE training until your wife mentioned it to you. This is nothing to be embarrassed about. Many military spouses learn as we go and as a result of the trainings that our spouses participate in.
I think the more you learn, the more you will decrease your anxiety. You can show your wife that you are being supportive by increasing your knowledge and "talk the talk with her."
Now, it is quite common for students attending the schools to form a camaraderie, even though it's about individual performance and not group performance.
I remember when my husband (then boyfriend) went to Airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia. I was a nervous wreck. I went to the military science building and read every book they had about the training. He was impressed that I knew so much about it.
I can also understand your concerns as your wife is in a male-dominated profession. You said you worry that she is making herself more vulnerable to them. I assume you mean talking to them more than you, perhaps?
I think it's important that you discuss your feelings with your wife. You may not be a SERE guy, but you are still a man. It's OK for you to discuss important boundaries you think your wife should have with the other students.
She is your wife and a grown woman, but it's only normal that you love her and want to protect her. Keep in touch with an update.
-- Ms. Vicki