The "I Am Nothing Like Them" Effect


As a new military wife ,I read “Why We Hate Military Wives” and thought a lot about how military wives are viewed.

I’ve only been married to my husband for seven months and have yet to live on a military base, but there is one point that really made me think back to my sociology/psychology courses in undergrad.(Let me take the time right now to make the disclaimer that I am NOT a sociologist or a psychologist and do not play one on TV! )

The “I am nothing like them” effect Jacey Eckhart writes about fascinates me. I have read this phrase in other articles and blog post on spousebuzz and continue to come back to this idea that all military wives are the same--but "we" are nothing like "them.” Honestly, that doesn’t even make sense!

Here is my take: Military wives are grouped together. As human beings, and maybe even more so for women, when we are categorized as part of a group we want that group to represent who we are. We want to have a sense of belonging and pride that is associated with being part of that group.

The problem with being categorized as a military wife is that we are all so very different. There is nothing in the military by-laws that says who service members can fall in love with and marry. There is no pre-requisite for being a military wife.

This is one of the biggest reasons why when we see behavior in others that does not resemble our own we are quick to disassociate from it. The “I am nothing like them” effect kicks in.

The truth is you’re right in thinking you are nothing like them! More than likely, you are nothing like that other military wife. We see their behavior and because we are all in the commissary and know that we belong to the same group our mind almost automatically goes into defense mode….”I am nothing like that!”

Here is the thing, if you weren’t in the commissary would you have the same response? What if that same thing happened at Macy’s or Wal-mart? When placed in the same situation outside of a military-wife-saturated environment we would probably think, OMG, what is that lady wearing? And then move on with our day.

Or maybe you wouldn’t even notice. Why? Because you aren’t in a place where you are being clumped together to represent a group of people-- military wives.

Outside that military environment, that other military wife's behavior is not a direct representation or link to who you are.

Essentially what other people do does not matter when you are not being linked to it, but when our own character is linked to their behavior we jump to the defensive.

I can’t claim to know if there is a way to avoid the “I am nothing like them” effect. Part of it is an automatic response.  Part of it is a conscious awareness of who we are, who we aren’t and who we never want to be.

It is true that we are all military wives, but we are still very different.

As a new member of this group I would like our overall representation to be a positive one. Embracing the differences in one another is only the start. We all may share one commonality but that is far from what defines us.

So next time you see that military wife who’s a hot mess at the commissary just move on.  It has nothing to do with you! And maybe cut her some slack, who knows what she is going through right now.

Karina Taufi is an Army wife and currently residing in Chicago, IL while her husband is stationed in South Korea for a year.  Karina told us, "As a new Army wife I am learning to embrace "military life."  My husband and I have been extremely fortunate to have great leadership in all the units he has been with and I have met wonderful people from all walks of life.  I look forward to living on a military base, or at least near one, where I can contribute to the community and assist other families and service members.  One of my life mottos:  Live life with gratitude!"

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