The mil to mil life has its good parts and bad parts. For my husband and I it was great that we could move around the country together and both have jobs where our benefits went with us. But then there is the whole part of ‘move together’. That wasn’t actually how it happened. He moved, I would follow a few months later. And for some military couples a few months could be a lot more months spent apart.
The Mil to Mil Life Isn’t Easy
My husband and I met during college doing the Reserve Officer Training Program (ROTC). And when it was apparent that our courtship was more than just a fling we were often told that depending on how long both of us stayed in one of us would need to make a sacrifice for the others career. No one we talked to actually was a mil to mil couple. And looking back we probably should have gotten some advice as we embarked on our military adventure. But in ROTC you don’t have a lot of options for military advice.
We each followed the career path that fit best with our degree. Looking back it would have made mil to mil life a lot easier if I had picked to follow his career path instead of mine. If we had both started in the same career field it would have made it a lot easier to get stationed at the same location. As it turned out, my husband was in a career field that didn’t have jobs at bases I could go to.
The military had changed a lot with privatization. This was a problem that we didn’t see coming until we found out that I couldn’t go to his first assignment. We had to work with a Colonel to get his assignment changed at the last minute.
At least we thought it would be smooth sailing, but the longer we were in, the more we found that our two career fields were like oil and water. In the end I chose to leave the military when my son was born. It didn’t make sense to stay in a high deployment career field with the added stress of having to manage our careers so that we could both live in the same location.
The military would have required us to make a lot of sacrifices. In the end, it didn’t feel like they were worth it. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss it. And I guess that is the hardest part of military spouse life, often a result of mil to mil life. Still being connected to the military, but in a different way.
Connected to the Military, But Not In
It is weird to be so closely connected to the military and not be in. My husband talks about Officer Performance Reports (OPRs), PRFs (sorry I don’t know this one) and all kind of acronyms that all point to his career progression in the military. And it is hard when certain dates, like when the major list for my year group is announced, to not feel a slight tinge of what if. What if I hadn’t left? What adventure would I be on today? Would my name be on that list too?
You leave the military and don’t think about how much your life changes. It isn’t just like leaving a job behind. Or maybe it is, but walking away from something that is bigger than yourself to take a back-seat role is really hard. And you might not expect this to be so hard, but it is.
The Role of a Military Spouse
The back-seat role of a military spouse is a difficult one in its own right. The military never asks if your spouse is ready to move or if the timing is right. A military spouse has to put their dreams on hold sometimes and fill in where the gaps lie. Long training, back to back business trips, deployments, exercises, strange hours just to name a few of the stressors that make being a military spouse hard.
And what do we get in exchange for our sacrifice, people telling us that what we do doesn’t matter. Or even worse telling us that we don’t know what it is like to have served in the military. But in all actuality, we have already checked that box.
For me the hard part of being a military spouse is when someone tells me the job I’m doing today isn’t as important as someone who has served. As a person who once stood beside my husband a service member and not a spouse. I actually do know what it means to serve. And they both have hard parts and they both have good parts.
I know that I’m lucky because I get to be with my kids when my husband has to leave, but that doesn’t mean that what I am doing is easy. It doesn’t mean that what I’m doing doesn’t matter.
So therein lies the struggle of mil to mil life. When I was in I received accolades for really just doing my job. And now I do things everyday that go unnoticed and am regularly told I do not matter. How do I deal with these emotions? Mainly by ignoring that they exist, but obviously they are there hidden deep inside.