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Top Ten Things I Learned From Reading Ms. Vicki

Is Ms. Vicki real? When I first started editing Military.com’s Ms. Vicki column, people asked me some strange questions. Is Ms. Vicki real? (Yes.) Is Ms. Vicki a man? (No.) Is Ms. Vicki a woman-hating man(Again, no.) Are you Ms. Vicki? (See previous question.)

Love her or hate her, Ms. Vicki is one of our most popular features on Military.com. She started writing her advice column when she was a counselor at Ft. Campbell. The war was on full force and the line for mental health services stretched out the door and around the building.

People kept leaving notes on her car about cheating husbands, messed up wives, troubled children, stupid bullying so she started writing. Whatever the problem, Ms. Vicki had a no nonsense answer and the number for free counseling at Military OneSource (1-800-342-9647).

Even though I’ve been a military wife for 27 years, I have learned a lot from reading every single Ms. Vicki. Here is what you need to know:

1.Having ugly problems doesn’t make our community ugly.

Some of our readers think the letters in the Ms. Vicki columns make the military look like it is full of lyin’, cheatin’, drinkin’ lowlifers. “People in the military do have these problems,” Vicki told me on more than one occasion. “They need someone to ask.” Roger that.

2. Love means never asking for money.

No matter how often Ms. Vicki writes about military scammers, there are women (so far no male writers) who write in because they are sure that their online soldier boyfriend really does need money for a plane ticket to come home from Afghanistan. If you want to know whether this guy is for real, ask yourself one question: did he ask you to send money? If he did, he is a scammer. Ms. Vicki wants you to report them to the FBI.

3.Facebook stalking is not a good use of your time.

Ms. Vicki counsels our Spouse Experience audiences that social media is a factor in most of the divorcing couples she sees in her office. Spending your time looking up old loves or spying on your service member via Facebook always causes trouble, If you think something is wrong in your relationship, seek counseling instead.

4. We stay with a bad thing too long.

Behavioral economists point out that sunk costs will make people stay with a bad thing long after they should have dumped it. We will keep a crashing stock or a crumbling property long after we should have sold it-- even at a loss.

Same goes for military relationships. So often letter writers will tell Vicki how they have stayed with a soldier who has cheated on them, lied to them, or abused them for years. Ms. Vicki likes to quote Maya Angelou, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”

5. Always get your own attorney.

The research shows that the military offers a lot of protections against divorce, yet not every military marriage lasts. Military couples do divorce. But even though divorcing couples are constantly encouraged to retain their own attorney, so many letter writers fail to do so. They write Ms. Vicki about the results of botched child support and unfair settlements. Follow Ms. Vicki’s advice and get your own attorney.  That means if you suspect things are headed south in your relationship you need to start saving.

6. Overseas living makes life harder.

Living at an overseas location is one of the hallmarks of a military family. Many people hope for orders to Germany, Italy, Japan. Yet it is easy to see that somehow living overseas adds a layer of complexity to every problem you have. Work on the relationship before you go.

7. Cheating hurts everyone.

Cheating isn’t just about you. It isn’t just about your service member. It isn’t even just about your kids or your unit or your parents or the life of the person you are cheating with. Read Ms. Vicki’s column and you are made aware how far reaching the consequence of infidelity really are.

8. There is no such thing as Military Wife Pay

When a young wife wrote Ms. Vicki that she hadn’t received her Army wife pay, lMs. Vicki had the opportunity to set her straight. Even though there is an increased housing allowance when a service member is married, there is no Army wife pay.  No one will ever, ever, EVER pay you to be a military spouse. Spouse Employment is something you figure out on your own (with a little help from the DoD’s SECO counselors).

 9. A job floats all boats.

Ms. Vicki is the first to recognize how important a job can be in the life of a military spouse. While it is hard to keep your career going while married to a military member, that employment provides you with money and friends and a schedule and a support system outside your service member. Pursue it.

 10. Therapy is like dentistry.

Since Ms. Vicki is a certified counselor, nearly every writer is encouraged to get some therapy through Military OneSource or Tricare or through the Military Family Life Counselors. Sometimes therapy is like visiting the hygienist—you get a little career help or some advice on a difficult transition. Sometimes it is like getting a filling taken care of—troubling but quickly handled. Sometimes therapy is a root canal—painful and expensive but so necessary. However you get it, get it.

In the meantime, Ms. Vicki is always there to listen to the problems we have in the military community-- the good, the bad and the ugly.  Because there is always a solution to your problem that you haven't tried quite yet.

 

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