The phrase “military spouse” is sure to invoke a certain image for most people. One image your mind probably does not instantly go to is that of a male. But with over 15 percent of the US military comprised of women, a male military spouse isn't quite as rare as you'd think.
Interestingly enough, I’ve never come in contact with a single one.
After asking around, many of my friends know a couple or two where the wife is active duty but overwhelmingly most didn’t have a real life example in their circle of friends or acquaintances. Not only that, in as many articles, discussions and conversations had about the military spouse experience, the subject of male military spouses almost never comes up.
Why is that?
I consider myself well-versed in most things military lifestyle; I’ve been a military kid, active duty and a spouse. My hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee, neighbors Fort Campbell, Kentucky, meaning throughout my life I've been surrounded by men and women in uniform. While the idea of women being in the military was very normal to me, I still hadn’t encountered many active duty wives with civilian spouses.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much of a role female military spouses play a part in not bringing male spouses into those very same conversations. In most cases, when there’s a minority group, the goal is inclusion. The majority helps ensure the needs of the less-represented group are being met. As women milspouses, we generally do a pretty great job of supporting each other. That begs the question, have we done enough to seek out and support our male counterparts? Personally, I have no idea if their needs are being met as a military spouse, simply because I don’t know where they are ... only that they exist in many forms:
Husbands with no children.
Dads who work outside the home.
Dads that stay home with their children.
Is it possible that the image of the military spouse as the woman waiting for her husband to return from war is so ingrained in our society that we’ve let down an entire demographic of spouses? Seemingly so.
While a male spouse’s idea of a good time may not be the same as ours, I would think that they could benefit from a support system that can relate to their own experience, like knowing what it’s like to live through long separations. Or having someone that can help when in a bind with the children. Most of all, it would be helpful to just be acknowledged at times -- a quick, "Hey, we see you and you’re killin’ it!” wouldn’t hurt.
Outside of being regularly included as a part of the military spouse community, there should always be a space for male military spouses to know they’re not alone. That is not an anomaly, being a minority myself; there is something to be said for representation -- seeing other people who are like you. It could be said that women need support and emotional connection more than men. However, the truth is in this lifestyle, doing it alone is not possible or healthy -- and that goes for both the service member and spouse.
I imagine that no matter your gender, being a military spouse has many of the same obstacles and rewards. Male military spouses probably have more stereotypes than female spouses (I know, I didn’t think it was possible, either). The male spouse experience is one that deserves to be heard. They have a unique voice that, if elevated, could change mindsets, forge new communities and support systems and give faces to a demographic that, from where I’m sitting, seems almost invisible.