What Advice Would You Give to New Military Spouses?

Advice for New Military Spouses
A military couple takes time out of their schedules to train for a half-marathon together. (U.S. Army/Jason Hull)

What is the one piece of advice YOU would give new military spouses? I was asked once to share a  brilliant piece of advice for new military spouses. 

Oh no. I can never think up anything quickly for that kind of thing. I wanna talk it over for hours.

Vivian Greentree of Blue Star Families already came up with: “Normal” is a setting on the dryer.” She said that her nine-year-old told her that trying to fit in at his new school was exhausting, so he was just going to be himself. Always a good plan for military spouses.

Writer Kim Place-Gateau advised new spouses to remain staunchly civilian in their daily life. “I find people in our area who inspire me, and who make me feel like my authentic self, and I become part of our local community.”

Elise Weimer who started the first LGBT and Ally organization in the US Air Force quoted Tina Fey. “Her motto is, “Yes, and…” Being open, and being ready to contribute leads to all sorts of wonderful things!”

There are so many things new military spouses, partners, boyfriends and girlfriends could use. How do you choose? Here are a few more that I have collected. What have you got?

1. Marry well. In his creativity manifesto, Justin Kleon wrote: “Marry well. Who you marry is the most important decision you’ll ever make. And “marry well” doesn’t just mean your life partner -- it also means who you do business with, who you befriend, who you choose to be around.”

To be happy in our lives as military spouses we gotta surround ourselves with people who make us feel strong—and we gotta do the same for them.

2. Stop being so tedious. Author Martha Beck disputed Tolstoy’s old thing about happy families being all alike.

“Happy people are as unique and beautiful as snowflakes,” wrote Beck. “While unhappy people are tediously, monotonously, excruciatingly the same.”

In military life you can find plenty of people unhappy about the same old things. Bleah. Be one of the originals who find their own unique way to love someone in uniform—and be happy about it.”

3. Be surprised about what love can do. One of my favorite bits of advice about military marriage came from some anonymous person on Pinterest: “Distance is not for the fearful, it is for the bold. It’s for those who are willing to spend a lot of time alone in exchange for a little time with the one they love. It’s for those knowing a good thing when they see it, even if they don’t see it nearly enough.”

Too many people in the world think that having a partner who is gone so much is just plain wrong. Having the right partner -- even if they have a profession that requires their absence -- is really the way to go. And love makes that possible.

4. Have more sex. Novelist Amy Bloom understands how your love life is awesome when you first meet, but jobs and chores and kids and the everydayness of life makes sex kinda fizzle.

“Never, ever, ever, ever give in. Do not give in to creeping celibacy. Keep making deposits in the love bank so you don’t run out of currency -- which in this case is romance and inclination.”

5. Kind is something you do, not something you are. Novelist Kurt Vonnegut wrote “There’s only one rule I know of: You’ve got to be kind.”

That is probably the rule of a long military relationship, too. You have to be kind to each other. Working for the military is always about what you did wrong, what you shouldn’t have done, how you could do better next time. It is a constant bath of criticism. A little kindness and encouragement goes a long way at home -- for both partners.

6. Write your own advice. No list of advice would be complete without a thought from Maya Angelou: “You alone are enough…you have nothing to prove to anybody.”

I think when we are new to something (like military marriage) we think other people must know something that we don’t. Or that we have to conform to some traditional way of living in order to make military life work.

I just don’t think that is true. Instead, I think that military marriage is a kind of grand experiment. It is observing cause and effect. You do something and you get a reaction. If it was a good reaction, you do that again. And again. And again! If it was a bad reaction, you just stop doing that thing. Then think it through as if you were going to give advice to the next person traveling this same road.

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