I watch a lot of crap TV. I do. I own that. Wanna know what happened on Teen Mom, call me. Wanna get the run down on Survivor, the Amazing Race or Big Brother, all you gotta do is hollllaaa. Don't even get me started about The Shore. I've been watching a lot of Mob Wives lately. And the more I watch the more I think...these crazy bitches are closer to my reality than any other show.
And I know what you are thinking...seriously Laura, wise guys and soldiers are no where NEAR in the same league. And in some respects that's completely correct. But sit and listen to those women talk about things using "code", listen to them talk about how they live a "lifestyle", watch them cope with marriages falling apart due to distance, see their faces when they get a phone call. Those things, those are MY everyday experiences.
How many of my Army wife friends out there have told their mother "he'll be back from 'blankets' 10 days before my birthday in the month my 2nd son was born". How many have been asked "how do you do that? Be apart for so long?" and your only response is "it's just our life. I choose to be with him so this is what I do".
So that brings me around to the point of all this. Sometimes, when you marry into "our lifestyle", you are completely unprepared. I read a blog not too long ago called Dear Future Military Wife (read it here), and I thought it was brilliant. It summed up anything I could ever think to say to someone marrying a military man. It said things I can only WISH I would have thought to say to some of my newly married friends. But I was also thinking that someone needs to tell those guys, that marry these naive girls, things they should do to help prepare her for what with surely be the best, worst, most awesome, horrific experience of her existence. And since this is my blog, well I'm gonna lay it all out there...
Dear Future Military Husband,
Congratulations! You are getting married!! What an exciting time for you! Filled with love, hope, happiness and...trepidation. It's scary to think that you are responsible for someone else. So it's your job to make sure she is prepared. Educate her.
You have to tell her a few basic things. Starting with your duty station. Explain to her about your division. About your brigade. About your battalion. About your company. Your platoon. Your squad. Your team. Show her where you work. What you do.
Help her make friends. Introduce her to your coworkers. And introduce her to their wives. Encourage her to try out the FRG, even if you heard its awful. Let her make that decision. Encourage her to join the Enlisted Spouses Club. Or the officers wives club. She can have 750 million "civilian" friends but one good fellow military wife will trump all those people in a second.
If you are deployed, teach her OPSEC. Tell her its not ok to put information about you on her Facebook page. That she can't have a countdown that says only 43 more days...only 42 more days...only 41 more days. Can she say "I love tomorrow" ABSOLUTELY! Can she say "OMG my hubby is coming home tomorrow at 730!!!" No. But she doesn't know this unless you tell her!!
Remind her that mail service is slow, at best, and the Internet is inconsistent. Sometimes you won't talk to her for hours, days, weeks at a time. make sure she knows you are going to miss Christmas and birthdays and anniversaries and the birth of children. Its not fair, and none of us like it, but its unavoidable. Tell her you can NOT spend all day day online waiting for HER to get on. You have a job to focus on. And on the other hand, she has a job too. Whether its an actual working out of the house job, a going to school for a better education job, a managing the household job. Sometimes she doesn't have time to sit around all day and just wait for you to get online. Life doesn't stop on the home front, just because you are not here. Let her live, let her breathe, let her be an adult.
Know that "those" wives, the ones that whore around any chance they get, are the exception, NOT the rule. It takes a pretty awesome woman to marry you. It does. Not everyone has the patience for this. But if you married her, you know SHE does. She is the RULE. Don't treat her like the exception.
Tell her no matter how many moves, in how many years, home is where you make it. "Home" is not always where you are from, where your parents live, where granny and gramps live. "Home is where the Army sends you" was such a major theme of the first 13 years of my marriage. And its true. It's all true. I know women who can make a home of a spacious 5 bedroom single family house on a military installation and I know women who can make a home of a 1 bedroom apartment in a not so fantastic neighborhood. Every new assignment brings around new places to explore, new food to taste, new friends to find. Embrace that. Teach her that moving isn't scary its an adventure! Plus there is the whole upside of having someone else do all that packing for you. =)
Reassure her that even though conversations may be short, time together may be sparse, that she is always in your heart. The things your do are for her, to better her life, to better YOUR life. Never hang up the phone, or sign off an IM or end an email without saying "I love you", you never know when the next time you get to tell her will be, so do it every time.
And I'm sure there are so many more things I could tell you to help her, but hopefully, you'll know what to do. Maybe you'll even have a more experienced, higher ranked guy around who can show your the ropes. Maybe you'll have a soldier in your platoon or your squad who has been married a few years and has been right where you are sitting and he can offer a little advice. My wish for you, as I close this out, is a life full of happiness, short deployments, easy moves, smiley babies, awesome neighbors, great duty assignments and a fantastic slice of pizza =)
With all my love,
A Wife Who Has Been There <3