In the weeks since my husband opted to trade assignments and return to Iraq, we've had several people think we're certifiably insane. Here on SpouseBUZZ, we all laughed along with Navy Reservist/Cop Wife's comment on Andi's post about well-intentioned civilians who are shocked that we just "let" spouses deploy, but in my situation right now this question is valid. I have to keep explaining why my husband wants to go and why I'm letting him go. Few people so far have wrapped their heads around my answer.
I have a good friend from Sweden whom I've known for many years. She and I couldn't be more different in our views on society, politics, social issues, or patriotism, but through it all we've managed to keep a close friendship and a mutual respect. But of all the people who asked me how I can "let" my husband go, she's the one I've had the hardest time explaining it to.
You see, she means something totally different when she asks the question.
When most people ask you why you're "letting" your spouse deploy, they obviously are thinking about the dangers of deployment. We shouldn't "let" our spouses go because it means they might die. Few people come right out and say this, but it's always the hidden message behind their concern. We shouldn't "let" them go towards the danger. I can completely understand this concern.
However, my standard reply to why I "let" my husband switch jobs didn't satisfy my Swedish friend. The danger wasn't her main concern. My friend wanted to know how I could allow my life and my happiness to be dictated by what my husband does.
And that threw me completely off guard.
She wanted to know why I "let" the Army completely control my life. Shouldn't I get to do what I want to do? Given the choice, shouldn't I jump at the chance to have my husband right there by my side after a day of budget/comptrolling? Why would I dutifully stay home while he goes off to change the world? And how could living vicariously through his happiness make me happy?
Man, those were tough questions. My first thought was that she obviously has never been in love if she thinks that my husband's happiness and mine are mutually exclusive. My second thought was that, as a through-and-through multicultural European, she has no understanding of how I can put my country's needs above my own. And my third thought was, "Why haven't I ever thought of this before?"
We as spouses feel varying degrees of "oppression" put upon us by the military. I've met wives who completely resent the fact that they have to follow their (sneer) man around. I've met other wives who thrive in the military community and enjoy the lifestyle. Many of us treat the military with an in-goup/out-group mentality: it's OK for us to rag on Tricare and Finance here on SpouseBUZZ, but we'll immediately stick up for the military when someone outside of it gets too critical.
But my friend wasn't being critical. She really just didn't understand, and I'm afraid I stuttered and false-started and never really came up with a satisfying answer. I still don't have one.
Why do we "let" the military steer our lives?