Male Spouses

Military Transition for Male Spouses

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Transitioning from civilian life to military life offers many challenges. This is true for all parties involved. We can all imagine what it is like for our service members as they go through Basic Training. But they are not the only one’s effected by this new life being offered to them. The parents of the service member, as well as the siblings, are thrust into the new life and the worries associated with it that our service members chose for themselves. In some instances the effects of learning a life completely different than the one so many were used to before the service members enlistment, there are spouses and children involved. The adjustments for children are most likely the one’s that are most notably spoken about. If a service member has a child or children prior to their enlistment, all of a sudden mommy or daddy is whisked away. In my family the adjustment for the children was not quite as difficult as it was for me. Our youngest son,9 months old at the time my wife left for Basic Combat Training(BCT), he was still surrounded by me and though I am sure there were effects that have and are taking place that are unseen, for the most part he is oblivious to the situation. I did not notice any change in him from the time my wife left for BCT until she returned months later. As time progresses I am sure some things will come up that can be linked to the adjustment, but for now things seem fine. He is now 21 months old and even after my wife being deployed just 3 months after returning home from all of her training, his demeanor has not changed.
For our oldest boy the initial transition was a little different. When we moved to my wife’s Advanced Individual Training(AIT) location we moved to a rather rough neighborhood. In fact I would not even allow our son who was 9 at the time to go out and play with the kids in the apartment complex even if I was out there. Unfortunately the children didn’t carry the character my family tries to instill in our boys. Since the transition to military life was weighing heavily on me and our oldest did not have any social outlets at the time, we chose to allow him to stay with my parents for the school year where he was comfortable. Had he stayed with us he would have started two new schools in a 2 month period. That coupled with all the adjustments our family was already making we thought it best to allow him to continue to do well where he already had. In his 5 years of school he has only received 2-3 B grades. With the rest being A’s.
The adjustments for my wife were not all that hard for her. I honestly believe she was made for this life. She does not question authority nor does she run around making comments about the decisions made. She follows orders well. We tried for different periods to have her be the stay at home parent, and it never quite fit her. She is a driven, independent and motivated woman. With the thought process her and I share where if at all possible we want to have one of us home to raise our children, it only seemed fitting with how I am “wired” that I become a stay at home. I am more doting and content with dealing with the challenges faced with parenting. This is not a knock on her, but it is what it is and who we are.
I have heard on several different occasions that what we are doing is out of the ordinary. Well that is not only obvious, but an understatement. It has even been said on a few different occasions what we are doing is possibly unbiblical. Since it is through our shared faith in God that led us here, and my openness pertaining to the faith we have, it seems we would be an easy target to say what we are doing goes against Godly principles. I can not help but to disagree immensely. I do not consider myself a theologian nor a historian, but what I have learned about biblical times up until the late 1800’s is that the men were often left responsible for caring for the children. Typically men worked the land around their home and their children worked the land with them. It was the wife who would earn a wage outside of the home whether it be at a market or in a custodial/servant line of work. The women were responsible for the children’s education but as the accessibility of schools became more common, the woman’s role decreased in that regard. Also during these times it was not uncommon for several families to live near each other or at least pull resources. So when a wife would leave for work, she would not only leave the children with her husband, but quite possibly an unmarried sister or a young woman within the family.
I believe it is only a perception in today’s culture that men are meant to take care of the breadwinning, and women are to take care of the bread baking. Jobs that brought the men away from their homes did not become overly popular until the industrial revolution. I also believe that as equal rights and women’s liberation movements evolved, there was a hope to hold on to traditional homes and the roles of the husbands and wife’s who inhabit them by the conventionalist people.   This is a topic that can be left for debate. I can also most certainly learn a thing or two regarding what I just mentioned. But I did feel it prudent to illustrate how we got where we are and why. I wanted to share with anyone who questions the role of the stay at home dad that it is ok for us guys to do what we do.
Adjusting to this life, like I have mentioned, was rather difficult for me.  Maybe it is because I overanalyze things. Maybe it is because I was misinformed to what this life offered. Maybe it was because I believed what I wanted to believe and ignored as well as overlooked things I now look back on and say “oh ya”. Whatever the case going from a regular Joe to an ArmyWifeDUDE was challenging.
As men, we are used to being in control of our lives’ to a fairly heavy degree. On the biblical side you can say I am the head of the household. Luckily for me I know that my wife is the neck and can twist and turn me however she sees fit. But when it comes down to it, we do live in the traditional roles as far as who influences our family on what level.  So for a man to come into this life there are some challenges that are a tough pill to swallow sorta speak. I went from having complete control of my life, to losing complete control. This is the same for any MILspouse, but as guys we are not used to being controlled. Yes most soldiers are male and also most jobs hold some sort of control over the men of the world, but in that type of setting you are performing a duty. Being a stay at home dad is a duty, but it’s not quite the same thing and I hope you can see my point.
I went from being a big time movie buff, regarding movies that were military associated, to not being able to watch anything that resembled the military at all. It has only been recently that I can sit down and partially enjoy a good shoot em up war movie. It is hard to separate that my wife is the sweet and loving woman I vowed to look after to what she does now. It is a guys nature to be the hero of their woman. Every guy wants to be that knight in shining armor. Even if the damsel doesn’t need or want rescuing, we feel it a duty to try. I am one who is just that guy. So to watch a war movie and think my wife could be put in similar situations eats me up. They say women aren’t allowed in combat situations, well we all know with today’s wars that was only a line of bull fed by our recruiter who reassured me of just that. In today’s war every situation is a combat situation. Even going to the latrine. But it is through my faith that I actually have some peace regarding my wife’s life itself. I trust God with it. I don’t like to think of the unthinkable, but in this life it is impossible to not have it cross your mind. But I am ok with it, really. The hard part of dealing with this life for me and the concern for my wife is on a different level in a different area.
The hardest thing for me to get used to outside of not having control of my life was what I viewed my wife would have to deal with. We all know how a Drill Instructor is used to break a civilian and make them a soldier, and that was hard thinking somebody is standing in my wife’s face yelling at her. Or maybe they aren’t yelling at her, maybe her platoon is being punished for something someone else did. That makes me want to run in their and rescue her. I think many men could relate to this. Another area that was tough to adjust to is the way my wife could be talked to and looked at. As guys, we know guys. We know what goes through our minds. And let’s just say that while the military is very strict in the realms of sexual harassment, it’s a clear and present product of men and women working closely together, it happens in all enviroments. There have been several comments and instances that in the normal world, would provoke me to “punk slap” someone. But in this world, I have no control over what is said or directed at my wife. I would challenge any female who reads this, who is married to a service member, to ask their husband how he would react if you(the female reader) were spoken to in ways a good portion of our female military personnel are spoken to. I would venture to guess the guys would know exactly what I am talking about. Granted the comments are often in jest and out of fun,  the environment is still one that certainly needs some adjusting to if it is an unfamiliar culture.
Most men are used to being the breadwinners. Or at least providing a healthy portion of the household income. For years that was me. Fortunately for me if I ever choose to go back to work my occupation is simple laborer. So my career(if you can call a laboring a career) is portable. I can go anywhere and get a job because someone always needs a low end grunt. But for many men they are career minded. They are professionals that do not offer them the luxury to start and stop jobs at every duty station they are sent to. This does work both ways for men and women. In todays society both spouses tend to work in order to provide a disposable income.(By the way, I just love that phrase, disposable income. It just makes me ever so much more thankful I choose to be a stay at home so I am not generating an income that is referred to as wasteful.) Both men and women struggle with taking jobs elsewhere and starting over each time, but it is something we all have to be prepared for as we commit our lives to our service member and our nation.
Another tough aspect of this which is based around control is not knowing. Not knowing where we may go or when. The words that make every military personnel chuckle are “hurry up and wait”. It seems to be a motto.  Just prior to my wife’s graduation from AIT she received her orders for our first duty station. She was actually out doing Field Training Excersizes(FTX) when the orders were cut. I was able to get my hands on the orders so I knew where we were going even before she did. From the time she got back from FTX until the time we were hoping to move was 5 days. The only thing is I was not able to set up a single ioda worth of our itinerary. She needed to apply for everything and get everything situated regarding our impending move. The days following FTX were some of the most frustrating for me. I remember as my wife and I would try to communicate back and forth about all we needed to accomplish I would ask her, “have you done this yet, did you get a chance to do this, what about that?” Because our last name begins with a P, she was often on the last shift of people who were allowed to get things set up right before graduation from AIT. Most of those few days she spent sitting around waiting for leadership to instruct her what she needed to do, where to do it and how to get there. This got under my skin. And I learned the hard way what Chain of Command(CoC) is. After being asked to leave the area she was sitting at when I brought her some paperwork to sign, I gave it another day for her to be given permission to get things done. When the day was coming to a close I finally had enough and called down to the company. I am sure I didn’t come across as the nicest guy because at this time I had 3 days(1 day was the day she graduated) to get my Uhaul loaded and get on the road. This is where the female military spouse would tend to yell at their husband to fix things, but us guys, remember that knight in shining armor, that hero? This is where we take matters into our own hands. Needless to say the next day she finally was given a chance to get things done. She got yelled at for me calling down there, but I don’t stress too much about it because she also got yelled at for missing some graduation preperations. It only showed me that while I don’t have control over my life, those who do may not either.
My advice to male spouses preparing for this life is to find some good people to be there for you. To hold you down and tie you up when you want to be a man and protect your spouse and your family. There isn’t much of a Basic Training for us spouses. And if like my family yours enlists after leading a pretty full life, you have your life situated already, and wham, now it’s completely different. That is the case for all of us actually. And that is why the one thing I try to embrace the most from my wife’s training is the saying “Adapt and Overcome”. Our soldiers are taught this and it is drilled into their heads. But it is something we must adopt to our lives as well. Sometimes this merry go round gets going so fast you want to jump off, but if you do, you will never be on a more fun and rewarding ride.


2 thoughts on “Military Transition for Male Spouses”

  1. You said this all very well… and I hope that I’m not preachin’ to the choir when I say the best solution really is to adapt and overcome.
    When I was in the military, I had trouble finding a man outside of the military who could deal with my military life. Being a woman in the military is one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs I’ve ever had. I say difficult because when a woman puts on a uniform she becomes (in my case) a solider, nothing else. We lose our ability to be ladylike when find ourselves in the muddy trenches along side our fellow soldiers. I had a Sgt. that put it well when a Forward Operations Base requested that a female medic not be sent to their location… my Sgt. said- “I don’t have any female soldiers… I have soldiers and you’ll get the best one I have!” We try to see ourselves as equals, we try to put up with the constant jokes and doubt that we can be as strong as a man. Coming home to a husband who feels we’re in need of protection from our job… well I can imagine it makes for a cold supper some nights.
    I applaud you for being able to see your wife’s strength and understanding that even though your first impulse is to defend her, she has to do it for herself. That doesn’t mean that you can’t protect her in other ways as you already do by being a good father to your children and taking that burden from her. You represent male military spouses very well- or as my Sgt. would say… I don’t know any male spouses, I only know the courageous and intelligent military spouses who support our troops! And you are one of the best!

  2. What a great post! It’s not often that we hear the perspecitve of the male military spouse, and I admit I’m personally guilty of lumping all mil spouses into the female category. Thanks for sharing your point of view!

    Great to see you on the Mil Spouse Weekly Roundup!

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