What do Civilians Misunderstand About the Milspouse Experience?

About a month after my husband deployed a work associate asked how I was doing. She was kind and genuine, and when I made a comment about an "adjustment period" she said, "Well you knew what you were getting yourself into when you got married." I felt my face turn hot and I abruptly, albeit politely, ended the conversation.

Bethaney Wallace, Army Spouse 

Bethaney Wallace, Army Spouse 

She wasn't trying to be rude – most people aren't when they make this oh-so-common statement, yet it gets under my skin every time. Folks think that we milspouses seem to like deployment, why else would we have married a soldier? That we're used to it, or excited, even. After all the money's too good not to be!

Only none of this holds true. No one can ever prepare themselves for a deployment, not even spouses who've experienced it multiple times; it's a level of stress that the brain tends to discount for sanity. We certainly don't like being away from our spouse, and no amount of money makes up for them missing daily life, only to be put in harm's way.

This, of course, isn't the only misconception. Civilians also tend to over-estimate benefits and available discounts for military dependents, as well as military pay. When in reality, in comparison to civilian equivalents and even with benefits, compensation is lower. Not to mention added danger, 24-7 duty, and restrictions on one's clothing, hair, skin, etc.

When pointing out data as a simple fact, however, it's seen as a complaint and the landing place of another, "Well you knew what you were signing up for."

I'm not sure how this saying became so associated with military life, but it's stuck like glue. Industrial, super-strength, don't-accidentally-touch-your-fingers-together glue.

Civilians also seem to think we know anyone in our spouse's branch of service; apparently we've all met and stay in touch on the regular.

Countless times I've been asked if having other spouse friends is anything like Army Wives. I've never seen a single episode of this show, but if logic tells me anything, TV shows are never realistic; they're made for entertainment.

Others think we have minimal belongings because we move so often. Nope – we just keep it all and struggle with moving later; it's not a great plan, but it works.

Like any group of people, there are unfair and unrealistic stereotypes. But that's another blog altogether.

All-in-all, civilians have their own idea about military life, most of which is wrong. Unless you've lived it – or been close to someone who has – there's no way to fully understand. It's just so far removed from "normal" life. It's ok that you don't know the Milspo life. But instead of assuming we're in love with our SOs being gone, or that we endorsed it, have some compassion. Ask if you like, listen if you can, and never assume we have a good answer for you: everything is always changing.