Younger & Seasoned Military Spouses: We're Not So Different After All
If you’re a spouse new to the military lifestyle, you know that walking into a room of seasoned spouses can be a little intimidating.
They appear to be more calm, more comfortable, know more than you, and their spouse outranks yours. It's okay to feel intimidated at first, but this is no cause to be insecure during your initial years in the military life.
In fact, new and seasoned military spouses are not so different after all, and here's why.
What I’ve Learned from Other Military Spouses
“I’m now considered a ‘seasoned spouse,’ a mentor, an advisor. But if I dig a little bit, down deep inside, I’m still that brand new military wife.”
At one point, that spouse sitting next to you--you know, the one whose husband has served 20 years and looks like she has it together?--was once a new spouse, too. She was insecure and arguably less knowledgeable than you are now. MilitaryByOwner Content Editor Jen McDonald reminds us that years before social media existed, there was little to connect you to other military families and installations.
“There was no texting my mom or friends, no calls back home (because, long distance bills). We were alone, just the two of us,” she shares in Dear Young Military Spouse.
So not only do seasoned spouses know what we’re going through, but they lived it at a time when our current challenges were even more difficult to cope with. This fact alone should tell us to lean on them when we're in need.
“No matter how long you're around the military, each of us is the 'new kid' every time we move. We all experience the pain and frustration of deployments, PCS, and living far from family. So I think we can all learn from each other and help someone!”
Seasoned spouses are a valuable resource for those of us new to the military lifestyle. They're a group of people who can offer comfort and advice in situations when most other people cannot. And guess what? They're usually willing to provide us that encouragement and support we so regularly crave!
Seasoned Spouses Need Us Newer Spouses, Too
This is a new concept for me. As a younger spouse who feels like what I bring to the table is extremely limited in comparison, I found it difficult to accept that seasoned spouses also need us. Jen reminds us that newer spouses are needed because we offer fresh excitement, enthusiasm, perspective, are willing to listen, and also remind them how hard this lifestyle is that they take for granted sometimes.
After 25 years as a military spouse, she says that the initial excitement for events wears down and can feel more like a chore at times. Seasoned spouses appreciate when newer spouses come in excited to get involved. When they're able to see our fresh perspective, they relive those moments they had and are less likely to take the little things for granted. Additionally, we can provide insight on situations they may not realize are outdated and need a little face-lift.
“We all battle with the same struggles that come with moving to a new place --learning the area, making new friends, changing our mindset, etc.”
PCS'ing is hard, whether you're a new or seasoned spouse. Pamela shares that it doesn't matter how many times you’ve moved, making new friends, learning a new area, and adjusting your mindset are things you face every time, whether you’ve been a military spouse for one year or ten.
In her case, she grew up as a military kid and her dad, in all of his 20 plus years of service, never received orders to move. So while she knew a great deal of the military lifestyle, she knew nothing of moving. She didn't learn what it was like to handle relocation physically or emotionally until years of marriage to her active duty spouse. Even now, she notes that “each move is different and it never gets easier.”
While those words may not provide comfort right away, they should. They should remind you that we're all in this together, that moving is difficult, and that while you can try and prepare as best you can, it's just difficult and that's okay because it is hard for each of us!
“We still can have really bad days.”
It doesn’t matter if you have 15 years experience as a military spouse or three, we all have bad days, and there is no getting away from that fact. When your spouse is deployed and you're worried, missing them so badly it physically hurts or feeling completely alone, you're one of many new and seasoned spouses who are having the same bad day.
When you just wake up feeling void of direction, alone, and missing your family, you are one of countless other new and seasoned spouses waking up to the same disheartening bad day.
The blatant truth is, we have bad days. Our friends and family at home, while they want to be there for us, cannot fully understand what we're going through. These bad days are best spent in community with other military spouses whose presence alone is comfort enough.
“We all have to motivate ourselves to get 'out there' and meet people or attend events as a third wheel or solo.”
It doesn’t matter if you're at your first duty station or last, we're all new at some point. It takes some pep-talking to decide to put ourselves out there, even if others look like they do it effortlessly. Understand that it requires a level of vulnerability for each military spouse. You’re not the only one feeling insecure or unmotivated to get involved. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it, though!
To New Spouses
It took a lot of motivation to overcome my fear of “seasoned spouses.” It sounds silly because we really are just alike but remember, if you have these emotions you're not the first or the last.
These spouses have been where you are and are usually happy and excited to pour into you. Give them the chance to support you and love on you, and you may find that they make some of the greatest friends you’ll ever have.
To Seasoned Spouses
Please know that as newer spouses with little experience in the military lifestyle, we look up to you! We may come across closed off or the opposite, over-excitable, but this is simply because we’re trying to figure out how we fit into this complicated lifestyle. We want to learn from you, we want to be able to ask questions, and we want to provide support for you just as you do for us.