This past weekend I had the privilege of speaking about military life at a National Guard formal event. I spoke to a group of senior leaders sharing some tips and insight that would not only help them do a better job leading soldiers and their families but will save them a lot of grief when it comes to finding that sweet spot between balancing the mission with their personal life.
What was interesting is that so many of them came up to me after the presentation stating that they never thought of military spouses as an asset, nor did they consider many of the points I brought up.
Which got me thinking that there are probably lots of other service members who don’t get it either! So here is a brief synopsis of the top things every military leader needs to know – from the military spouse perspective!
10 Things Service Members need to know about Military Life – from a military spouse perspective
1. We don’t know the rules.
I’ll be the first to admit that the day my husband took his oath and put the uniform back on, I had no idea what we had signed up for …and neither do your families, friends and important people in your life. The moment you took your oath you began a process that taught you the expectations, traditions, and routine of military life. It would be helpful if you clued us in so we know the rules and are able to play the game alongside you.
2. It’s not always easy to accept that the mission comes first.
Nothing prepared me for the anger or frustration I felt when I finally realized that the mission not our family came first. Not because my husband doesn’t care about our family, but he took an oath that put duty above all else. Just because I get it doesn’t mean I like it.
3. Military Life Effects the family in ways that you can’t and won’t understand
When you are away from home we pick up the slack – and out of necessity that means we have to make decisions without you. It isn’t a threat to your ego – nor does it mean we don’t need you. Out of necessity we grow and change in ways that to you may seem strange, but military life molds us, changes us and makes us stronger – and that’s not a bad thing.
4. We honor your life as a soldier but…there are a few things we wish
Please don’t treat us like we are your soldiers – you’ll get a lot farther with a little more patience and understanding.
You have to be trustworthy to expect us to trust you
Be careful of who you surround yourself with – they will make or break your career AND your marriage.
That stinky uniforms/socks don’t belong anywhere other than the laundry room
5. To communicate effectively you must remember that we are each a filter
We listen, talk and think about our conversations by attaching our own meaning to everything we discuss. Everything that transpires between ourselves and other people is filtered through our own thoughts, feelings, opinions and life experiences. Listen with an open mind and remember that others may not think about things in the same way as you do.
6. We’d love you to share your life…just a little
As Soldiers you have to deal with things I will never understand. But we don’t want to be shut out. We don’t want to know all the details of what you are dealing with while in a war zone. But we feel so much better when we share the little things. It reminds us that each of us is dealing with unique challenges and experiencing different things without the other. And that realization will make your reintegration go so much smoother.
7. We don’t think in Bulletpoints
Soldiers and civilians think differently. You think in bullet points and short stories and we think in romance novels and sitcoms. We want it all to go smooth and be wrapped up in a pretty bow all within 30 minutes. You all want it outlined and done in 5. There is a happy medium and patience is the key.
8. Technology is a blessing and a curse.
Not many of us can be without our smartphones, but boy can they cause problems. Dropped calls, auto correct and a text delivered to the wrong person can spark a war at my house.
Don’t be stalkers looking for reasons to get your panties (or boxers) in a twirl and don’t jump to the worst case scenario if you can’t get in touch with your spouse immediately. We live in an instantaneous world, but military life isn’t conducive to that.
9. Military spouses can be your worst enemy or your greatest asset. You will have
From whiners and gossips to bully’s and advocates you will deal with many different military spouses, and spouses are an important component in today’s military community. They can be are an incredibly powerful tool that is at your fingertips IF you work with them. We are the eyes and ears that can be an asset when it comes to insuring that your troops are prepared not only for duty but for the battle beyond the battle.
Spouses are the first to notice red flags when something is amiss and have intimate knowledge about what our service members are going thru. Spouses aren’t an extension of our service members, but rather an incredible asset to our troop’s well-being. We are the people will take care of your service members and the effects that war has on their physical body and emotional mindset long after their time in service has ended,
Utilize us as an asset and please don’t think of us as just a necessary evil you have to tolerate.
10.Lastly I want to leave you with this:
War impacts everyone in different ways and those who love and care about you will see the effects of your time in service long before you do: PTSD, Depression, Addiction, and Suicide are real concerns.
If you get nothing else from what I’ve shared tonight please know that above all else
It’s ok if you are not ok,
But it’s not ok for you to ignore it and do nothing. You must know the warning signs so that if you, a battle buddy or a family member is struggling you have the tools and information to get them the help before it’s too late.
~Judy Davis, the Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, author and entrepreneur as well as a military life and teen suicide prevention expert. Co-founder of DASIUM, Judy’s books Right Side Up and Warning Signs: Is Your Teen at Risk are go to resources for families and her websites are filled with tips, inspiration and resources for those looking for direction. Connect with Judy at TheDirectionDiva.com