When "Nonmilitary" Means the Opposite


I try not to be the "guy who only writes about guy stuff," but Amy recently sent me this story about some of the challenges faced by male military spouses. The article doesn't really cover any new ground for those of us living the living day-to-day life of a military spouse -- Amy herself wrote about it not long ago, and it seems the same issues have been around for as long as I've been a military spouse.

Still, I'm always happy to see coverage of military husbands. A few paragraphs did catch my attention and got me thinking about the different experiences we bring to our lives as military spouses.

Brian Campbell knew some challenges were in store for him after he left his Navy career to follow his military wife across the country.
This first paragraph sounds wrong to me, calling a prior-service military spouse "nonmilitary." I understand that he's not in the military today and husbands like me with no military service are hard to find, but I don't think, in this situation, "nonmilitary" and "prior service" are the same thing.

Even four years of service can permanently change a person, everything from how they view the rest of the world to how they fold their shirts. A husband with prior service knows much better what to expect from the military lifestyle, from the constant moves to the ever-changing schedules to the impenetrable bureaucracy.

A veteran is also better able to relate to those currently serving than someone who never served:

Campbell eventually found the social interaction he craved by reaching out to men within his wife’s command.
While it works for Mr. Campbell, it's not a strategy that's necessarily open to a man with no military service. It's not impossible for me as a civilian spouse to make friends among those currently serving … but it's harder to do.

I can't vouch for other husbands, but in my case the question "So you were in the military?" seems to come up every time I meet someone new around the base. I've noticed, when a sailor is asking the question, that my answer changes the way they speak to me…if they continue speaking to me at all. Not that it bothers me if they don't know how to talk to me -- I know from my wife that getting out of "Navy mode" can be a challenge.

I also wonder who really wants their spouse to seek out friends in their workplace. There's some great people at my wife's command, but more often than not she's trying to stay away from shipmates during her precious non-work hours.

Compounding this, some men may find their spouse role clashes with their sense of who they are as a male, or their perception of who they’re supposed to be. And in some cases, he said, men may be less inclined than women to seek support or to open up about their struggles. "They may feel extra uncomfortable, at least some men might, because of the nature of this: ‘Well, my wife is going off to war, and I’m here watching the kids,’” he said.
This is definitely an issue peculiar to former military, and not "nonmilitary" -- if I might speak for men I know who've never been in the military, "going off to war" has never been part of how we wanted to define ourselves -- if it was, we probably would've joined.

I don't want to make this out to be a poor article, because it's not - I think it demonstrates a point I'm always trying to make about military husbands: Generally, it takes us more than simply shared status as "military spouse" to build a friendship -- we tend to bond over shared experiences. No doubt, a military husband with fresh ink on his DD 214 will probably be more comfortable telling sea stories than strolling confidently into a Pampered Chef party.

But for those of us with more experience watching kids on the playground and putting dinner on the table? Well, it's going to be a little harder to find men who share those concerns, but in the meantime I WOULD love to hear about that new oven-safe dish…

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