Help! My Spouse Wants to Join the Military

What to do when your spouse wants to join the military

Many people marry into the military by falling in love with someone that already is a service member.  But what do you do if someone that you already are married to, and possibly have children with, decides that they want to join the military?

9 months old.  That’s how old our baby was when my husband told me that he wanted to join the Navy.

He was going on his fourth week of being out of town for his previous job.  He was working 12 hour days, 6 days a week.

I had never had any family or friends who were in the military.  All that I knew about the armed forces was what I had seen in movies and television shows.

So, when my husband dropped this bombshell on me over the phone, as he was 3 hours away, I was shocked.  And scared.

He gave me the reasons behind why he wanted to join.

But all I could think about were the risks. 

The danger, the extended time away from our family for deployments, and the stereotypes of how all men would cheat on their wives because they were gone for months at a time.

I didn’t want to discuss it.

He asked that I would at least research it and pray on it.  I agreed that I would.

And then, we didn’t talk about it. For days, he didn’t bring it up again.

During that time, I scoured the internet reading articles and forums from military spouses about what it would be like to be part of a military relationshipI prayed over it, as well.

Then one morning, about a week later, I woke up and felt at peace with the idea of it. 

My husband and I discussed it later that night, and continued to discuss it the next few weeks.

And now four years later, here we are.  A military family.

It’s so odd to me.  I never imagined this life for myself or my children.

I never wanted to be apart from my spouse, raising my kids alone for months at a time in a town far away from my family.  But as a couple, we made the decision and now, we are managing.

Here’s what to do when your spouse decides they want to join the military.

What to do when your husband wants to join the military

Research what it’s like to be a military wife

Before my husband joined, I knew absolutely nothing about the military.  After he told me he was interested in joining, I did tons of research about what it was like to be in the military, and what it was like to be a military spouse and family.

I browsed websites, forums, FB groups, and binge-watched many military YouTube videos.

It made me feel like I wasn’t alone.  It made the idea of him joining a little less scary.

I know that each branch presents its own difficulties (with some branches going to more dangerous locations for deployments).

That’s why it’s important to research and learn as much as you can, so you can see how other spouses cope with this type of lifestyle.

By joining military spouse forums, Facebook groups, and watching YouTube videos, you are also creating a community for yourself.

Even if you never meet these other wives, you will feel less alone knowing they are going through the same things as you.

Pray over the decision to join the military

If you are a religious person, you should pray over this decision.  Ask God to bring you guidance and comfort as you and your husband/wife decide what the best move for your family is.

I prayed over the idea at my husband’s request.  The next day, I had an immediate feeling of peace about the situation.  I knew that it would be okay.

Maybe you need to talk to a pastor or elder at your church to help you pray over the situation and help you find guidance.

And while there have been difficulties adjusting from being a civilian family to a military family, we have been okay.

My faith is extremely important to me and has only grown since my husband left for boot camp years ago.  Praying can bring you a sense of comfort and help you know what you should do.

Talk to your spouse about why they want to join the military

I believe that if you marry someone who is already in the military, then you should be supportive of their career choices.  You can’t expect them to change their career if they had planned to do a full 20+ years in the military before they met you.

However, you still want to be open with them about your feelings and to be on board with everything as you grow as a family.

But if you are already married to someone, and possibly have a family with them, and then they decide they want to join – then it needs to be a decision you talk about and thoroughly discuss together.

You should be supportive if this is something that is important to them, but you also should have a say in this decision because you already have established your marriage and family life.

And this will be a huge change to that lifestyle you and your children have grown accustomed to.

Listen to your spouse’s reasons for wanting to join, as well as the benefits for your family if he/she does.  Talk to them about your concerns and your fears.

Make sure each of you is able to talk about the pros and cons, and really listen to each other’s feelings.

Sometimes when we are scared or unhappy about a situation, we don’t want to hear about the possible benefits it could bring.  But it’s very important that you let your spouse talk about why this is important to them, and listen to what they say and consider it.

Learn to be flexible

If your spouse decides to join the military, then your lifestyle will be changing dramatically.  It’s important to prepare yourself mentally for the changes that will take place.

The military is notorious for making you wait to find out your future plans.  And it is also famous for changing those plans you waited months for at the very last minute.

If you are someone who likes to make plans in advance and be in control (like me), you need to work on having a more flexible mindset.

PCS orders (where you will be moving to for your spouse’s duty station) can take months to get, and they can still end up changing at the very last minute.

You can have everything arranged and ready to go, and things can change at the drop of a dime.

When my husband got orders to his first duty station, we made plans for the movers and to go check out houses together.  Then the week before we were going to move, my husband found out he had to report for duty the very next day.

So he packed up what he could fit in his car and left.  Then I had to deal with the packers and movers, cleaning up our old rental, and moving two kids (one under the age of 2), by myself.

That was our first welcome to military life.

Duty stations can change at any moment.  Deployment orders can come at the very last second, or be delayed or extended.

It’s important to prepare yourself mentally for this because the more open-minded and flexible you are about where you live and your future plans, the better off you will be.

It will become important to learn to be independent because you should expect to be on your own without your spouse for months at a time.

Expect the worst

This goes along with being flexible.  You should go into every situation hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.

A four month deployment can turn into a year deployment.  Orders to Italy can change to orders to Mississippi at the last minute.

It’s important not to get too attached to the little details and know that things can change for the worst.

The more prepared you are for negative changes, the happier you will be.

Prepare to be a single parent for long periods of time

If you already have kids, then it’s important to know that this change will profoundly affect them.  If they are young, they probably won’t understand much or know why Mom or Dad might have to leave for long periods of time.

If they are a bit older, they can become very sad, or might act out and have behavioral issues because they can’t deal with their parent disappearing all of a sudden.

It can be harder for older kids who were used to their parent being at home all of the time to make this transition.

You should also prepare to be able to handle being a single parent for long stretches of time.  You may spend your entire pregnancy alone, going to doctor appointments and learning your baby’s gender without your spouse there.

You might have to give birth without your partner there to support you.  Your partner could miss out on the first year of your child’s life and many other big milestones as they grow up.

You will be required to make the big decisions for your children.  You will have to be Mom and Dad at times; dealing with school, sickness, discipline, holidays, appliances breaking, and more on your own.

During our first deployment, my son ended up in the ER, and I had to go to the hospital alone with both of my kids because I didn’t have a support system in place yet.

You have to be prepared to handle big things on your own.

Prepare to face big life changes on your own as a military spouse

Along with the above, you must be prepared to handle big life changes on your own.  Not only do you have the possibility of giving birth alone, parenting alone, moving across the country alone, visiting the ER alone, but also in circumstances that are more difficult.

Finding out you or a loved one is ill, facing a natural disaster such as a hurricane, or adjusting to an once-in-a-lifetime event such as a global pandemic.  (Covid-19, I’m looking at you). 

You must be prepared to face big things alone, and you really can do it!

During our first deployment, I had a health scare that required many doctors’ visits and a MRI.  I had no support system in place and had to drag my kids to every appointment.

Luckily my mom was able to visit so I could go to get my MRI.  And luckily, it ended up not being anything serious.

But these are things that must be considered before committing your family to this lifestyle.

These are all important things to consider before joining.

Find support from other military spouses

While all of the above scenarios can be scary to face on your own, that’s why it’s incredibly important to find a support system when you move.

Finding a group of friends that you can rely on in an emergency is so vital to your emotional health.

Facing a deployment without friends will be hard, but if you are able to make at least one friendship, it will become far more bearable.

Whether you find that person through work, your local FRG, church, or a local Mommy group, make sure to reach out to others.

You want to have a friend you can rely on.  Someone who will watch your kids in a crisis, or join you for a bottle of wine at home when you are missing your spouse.

Conclusion

Despite the hardships described above, there are many benefits for your spouse to join the military.  Discuss every possible scenario with your spouse and make the decision together as a family.

This lifestyle isn’t for everyone and there are people who cannot handle it.  But transitioning to being a military family is manageable with the right support and an open mind.

Did your spouse decide to join the military after you got married?  

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