I remember the first time my husband called me after returning from Iraq. I was a military girlfriend and living long-distance at the time. Hence the phone call.
So…We were chatting away, and I was feeling all sorts of happy butterflies because he was finally home. And we were—finally—going to see each other and spend time together! Woo!
Then he dropped the bomb.
He said, “I can’t wait to go to Afghanistan. I’m looking to volunteer for the next rotation.”
In a single instant my butterflies disappeared and a gaping hole burned into my heart. Seriously. For real. He just got home. I was speechless.
What military spouses won’t tell you.
Finding the good in the bad is key to thriving in military life, and this is something strong military spouses do insanely well. But…
While most military spouses confide in close friends and family members, they typically hold it together and put a smile on their face for the rest of the world. There are several things they won’t tell you about deployment.
1. They worry even when “they’re fine.”
Even the safest deployments carry risk. No matter where a service member is in the world, there is always a pit deep down in the stomach of the military spouse.
They carry a deep secret fear that one day there will be a knock at the door. When she looks at you and says, “I’m fine,” know better.
2. They would love an invite to coffee or lunch.
Military life gets a little lonely sometimes. Whether the invite comes from a civilian or a military spouse, it doesn’t matter.
Most days, distraction is a welcome change. And coffee is an added bonus.
3. They struggle to ask for help.
More than likely, they won’t go out of their way to ask for help. It doesn’t mean they don’t want or appreciate help.
It just means spouses are stubborn and independent and want to stay strong for their service member. Keep trying. Eventually they will accept help. And help always helps.
4. They don’t appreciate dumb questions.
If you ask dumb questions, they will respond graciously even though they kinda want to punch you in the face. Examples of dumb questions are as follows…
“Are you scared he is going to die?”
“How do you do it?”
“You’re used to it by now, right?”
Those types of questions. Yes, skip those.
5. They do appreciate encouragement.
If you see a military spouse, and you don’t know what to say, and you’re afraid all your questions will come out entirely wrong, a simple phrase of encouragement will make her entire day.
“I admire what you are doing as a military spouse.”
Or you can just give her a hug.
6. They don’t equate deployment to all separations.
They don’t want to hear about how much you miss your spouse who’s away for a week on a fishing trip. Common sense people. Combat zones and fishing trips are not the same thing.
7. Their phone means everything.
A fellow military spouse once said service members live inside the phones of military spouses, and this is so true.
To military spouses, phones are more than a place to mindlessly scroll Facebook or send emojis to your third cousin in Cali.
When military spouses are separated from the person they care about most in the whole world, they want to be there when the service member calls. Missing a phone call can ruin their whole day.
8. It doesn’t get easier. Ever.
It’s a complete and total misconception that being apart gets easier over time. It doesn’t. Do military spouses learn to use tools and resources to get through it? Absolutely.
But there isn’t a day that goes by that a military spouse doesn’t wish her service member was home.
9. Being faithful is the easy part.
Trust me. Military life and keeping a strong military marriage is complicated enough without bringing another person into the mix.
Of course, there are a few bad military spouse apples, but they do not make the whole tree rotten. Military spouses love, adore and respect their service members, even when they are away.
10. The uncertainty is the hardest part.
You never know when they are going to call, leave or come home. There is some ballpark of an idea, but dates typically change. Everything is ambivalent, not just deployment.
Where you’ll live, your career, your friendships—all of it is a big fat question mark. The only thing certain is that the plan you start with will always change and change and change.
Afghanistan happened. Twice.
At a loss for words, I hung up the phone trying to make sense of our conversation. It took me a while to adjust to the idea of another deployment. Okay…a good long while. I can’t say that I ever got comfy cozy with the idea, but I did reach a place of acceptance.
Since then, I’ve learned to brace myself for the surprises of military life. And he’s learned there are just certain things best left unsaid to a spouse immediately after deployment (like that you’re leaving again on another deployment).
Want more posts on military life?
- How Strong Military Spouses Rock Deployment
- The One Thing You Miss Most During Deployment
- What a 2-Year-Old Will Teach You About Surviving Deployment
- 15 Must-Do Things to Prepare for Deployment
Wow you ladies are such an inspiration for me! I’m a divorced women but have found the absolute love of my life, who happens to be a service man. As a couple we are going through our first deployment together and he always told me that I would understand more so when we are put in this situation. Btw this is his 5th deployment as a solder, my first even being a part of this lifestyle. So with that being said I see that deploying and leaving your loved ones behind for months or years NEVER gets easy!!! The time is still missed out whether it be birthdays, Christmas or just day to day interactions with your spouse, boyfriend or close family member. And with the that being said, first off the fact that people can just openly say, “ well this is what you signed up for”, just makes me irate bc I’m sure it’s same people who have never experienced anything like this nor probably never will. Secondly quite acting like this is just a long dinstance relationship when it’s not bc our loved ones are away fighting for not only their loved ones freedom and safety but all the other arrogant jerks here too! Ugh and thank you ladies for the stories too!
Hi, im a military wife and my husband is currently away. My children (aged 7 and 5) just had tummy bug. I am really upset with him although I support him but sometimes I feel like signing up for this kind of life is too selfish of him. I am really really down. I have no family or friends nearby. My family is 2 hour drive away and they dont care much. Its just too depressing sometimes. Im happy to find your blog. Its good to know that Im not alone
Sometimes that’s how you find out who truly cares for you in life, though it hurts since it’s your own family I believe that’s a gateway to find and let in individuals who will be there for you. During our first deployment, I truly did feel alone. I had no idea of support groups/pages existed, luckily I found a great person on Military SOS to keep me sane. We emailed each other whenever we could. It’s tough when he is gone. I have felt that way in our relationship even though I am aware of his career I would build this hatred in my mind and heart projecting it’s HIS fault and how I can’t stand how inconsiderate he is. That being said I dealt with a lot of self-reflecting. In our relationship we’re very transparent with each other, so the first I did was apologize for not addressing it ASAP. It’s not healthy to hold in your feelings/emotions, spill them out. Your partner deserves to know too plus you two are one step further to finding a resolution. Also never feel bad or apologize how you feel, that’s your true emotions no matter how ugly you think it is, it’s just the truth. If that makes sense. Always express them to relieve them.
My partner of 4 years is on his second deployment. Afghan and I’m finding it so hard. I feel like no one really gets it or when i get upset about it (which is a lot) family and friends get annoyed? I just find it hard that there is not a lot of support especially when your not officially married but i love him just the same? I can’t wait till he gets home already and I’m counting down the days already
my husband is gearing up to leave for a short tour in korea so not a deployment but most of these still apply. I’ve done 4 deployments and i really wish other spouses would have reached out. now he’s leaving for a year and while its not like i haven’t been through it I’ve been finding myself very sad and emotional lately. i cry almost every day and feel very alone even though i am moving home to be near family. i guess it doesn’t help either when my mom told me there are other mom’s doing the same thing and im not the first and i wont be the last. that cut pretty deep.
I really liked this post and agree with gist completely. I wish, however, it would include a single pronoun to include spouses of female service members. Although the title says “spouses” every pronoun for a spouse is she. I don’t think your post speaks to items unique to wives. When he says he is fine, I hope people know better too. Also she may be missing her wife every day too. The title uses spouses, which appears inclusive, but then it is followed up with non-inclusive pronouns it makes it even harder for other spouses to feel included. My hubs will have a 1 year old when I first deploy married and I hope he feels included by experienced, compassionate spouses while I am gone because he will do a great job, but he won’t be fine, will need a hug/coffe/text, and being faithful is the easy part but uncertainty is so hard.
I think that’s kind of a tall order. The blog is called the Military Wife and Mom because this is the author’s perspective. She’s simply writing from her own experience and speaking to others who have a similar experience. I don’t think her intention is to exclude and I don’t think her platform is to speak to situations she’s not as personally familiar with. There’s nothing wrong with writing an entry from personal experience. If she were to write from perspectives she doesn’t share, her writing wouldn’t be nearly as powerful. Some will find her posts very helpful (as shown by the many affirming comments) and I’m sure there are those this doesn’t apply to. No big deal.
Yes! This list is so accurate!
I have two babies and a preschooler and a deployed spouse. One thing that bothers me that people keep saying to me is “Wow! It feels like his deployment is just flying by!” Seriously?! I’ve had more than one person say that to me recently and it is usually an acquaintance who will say something like this. Of course it is flying by to you! You aren’t living it. For me, days have been so long and hard, especially since cold & flu and stomach bug season is upon us and the kids seem to be catching every sickness.
I feel as though I am going to be looking at this blog a lot. I am currently in a “new-ish” relationship and my significant other is deploying next week for 7 months and I have not experienced this with her yet. We are very much in love and she has been in the military for about 6 years so far. I am so damn scared about her safety, but also my mental health and hers while the time passes. I am going to be looking for help with coping and hopeful to be the best military girlfriend/support system I can be. So, I look forward to these next few months and seeking guidance. Thank you in advance! (:
My husband is currently deployed, but within the states. It is still worry-some with that “what if”. I’m currently staying with my parents, and I get annoyed with my mom constantly asking if I’m ok. I’m raising two kids that 15 months apart. When I do get a call from my husband all he’ll talk about is our finances or himself. I’d hate to say it, but sometimes I don’t want to talk to him, because never asks about me. He will ask about our kids, but rarely. I do love hearing his voice, but I just wished it wasn’t the same conversation everytime.
A note from the otherside. Your feelings are valid, felt by almost every spouse who keeps the home fires burning and worthy of discussion.
Your significant other seems self involved while deployed for a couple reasons: While away from home (especially if he is in the field frequently) his brain is mission tracked almost to the point of single mindedness. He hasn’t lost his feeling for you but rather is in a situation where mission (accomplishing it, doing it better, trying to foresee problems ahead of time, remembering lessons learned, accounting/caring for juniors, and about a million other things) is foremost in his head 24/7. In addition, almost every one around him is in the same mind set and nearly every interaction just emphasizes it.
When it comes time to shift out of this track, like talking to you. Some do it well and some do it “less well”. I gurantee you your signicant other will think of 5-300 questions for you about an hour after getting off the phone!!! Feel bad for not asking and then forget all of them before calling again. (There is a bucket load more to this–but I’m already too long!)
You do need to discuss this with your service member. And you know him better than we do, but ensure you pick a time when YOU KNOW YOU HAVE HIS ATTENTION. Probably on the phone, while deployed is not a good time.
Hope this helps. Thank you for your service.
I understand this completely! My fiance has been in Afghan for 4 months now. He’s deployed for a year. So whenever I’m on Facebook and read posts like, “Oh haven’t seen my boyfriend in two days, I miss my babes.” You can miss your s/o all you want, just realize military spouses or s/o are going through a difficult time and reading those posts are laughable. Try going for 6 months, 8, 1 year, etc knowing your loved one is at risk.
Also it really helps me being around military wives/girlfriends because they understand. They will have advice and be there because they’ve been through it or are still going through it. I am always on my phone, even at work. Just to see if he is active or left me a message online. Because just one text to let me know he is okay is everything to me.
This is the first time he’s been deployed while we are together and reading this made me feel comforted. Right now he’s in the field so this is what I needed to read. I’m happy to know I really am not alone with this life.
I totally understand. It is so hard to be i. This situation, i am a military gf and it is not easy. Sometimes he will just message you in the morning and will reply after two days or more. You don’t have regular phone calls because they are always busy. My bf warned me about this on our few weeks that military relationship is not going to be easy and it is not for everyone. At first i thought yeah i can do that. But the more you go deeper to the relationship the harder it gets. But as long as both of you being trust each other and keep the faith then everything is possible. Btw thank you for this article.
I wish people knew how hard it is for military spouses that have their wife as the soldier. My wife had been in the Army 17 years and when she is away or deployed no one cares. It feels very lonely to be a husband with small kids and no one even thinks about it because you don’t fit the norm.