Male Spouses

The Solution!

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In part 1 of this series I shared the grim statistics concerning female service members and their marriages. Mainly the marriages of the women that are married who serve in the Army. According to the information I was given I found out that men married to female soldiers make up only 9% of the spouses who serve in “The Silent Ranks”. There are well over 300,000 marriages in this Army, but in only 36,000 of those instances are men married to female soldiers. While us male MILspouse’s make up 9% of the total population of marriages, we account for a whopping 36% of the divorces. To me these are numbers that are downright appalling and despicable. I would guess anyone who values marriage and the sanctity of it would agree with me.
In part 2 of this series I touched on some of the struggles us male MILspouses face. Like I figured right after I wrote it I wanted to add things to it. There are so many variables that are contributing to the struggles of the male MILspouse that it actually would have been impossible to put them all on paper in one sitting. Each day it’s like a light bulb comes on in my head and I realize yet another thing that contributes to us guys struggling to hold our marriages together while our wives serve our country. I cannot allow myself to dwell on what I did not touch on. I can only hope in the coming months and coming years that I will be able to fully elaborate on why it is I think that it’s time for some changes as well as recognition for us guys who are MANning the Homefront. And as well as a direct acknowledgement of the trials a dual military couple may face. Like in all things, knowledge is the key.
Typically there is one thing that drives most of us nuts. And that is the person who points out a problem but won’t offer up any help to solve it. It’s easy to see what’s wrong in something, but it’s difficult to offer constructive and sound advice on how to fix it. The only thing worse than someone who sees a problem and can’t offer a solution is the person who sees a problem and tells you how to fix it but won’t fix it themselves or honestly hasn’t got a clue about the problem and is speaking off the little they know. I of all people am very guilty of this last one. After all I am a man. I always have an opinion on how to fix something. Even though I know nothing about cars, if you tell me a few symptoms I am going to say it’s this or that. We guys are notorious for being problem solvers. In our own minds anyway.
Generally I will share my opinion on what is wrong with this or that. I will offer a solution and be on my merry way. But this problem in our military marriages is not one I can get myself to simply put an opinion on the table and let someone else chew on. This problem is one that means quite a bit to me. It hits home. 
For many years now I have had a heart and passion for men and our marriages. Through men’s ministry at a past church of mine I found the importance of reaching men. And what I found would blow your mind. What I found could possibly change the shape of our culture. I found out men are SIMPLE! We are not complicated. Generally we don’t have mood swings (though my wife would disagree concerning me on this one). We guys are pretty much all wired in similar ways. Sure we are each our own unique person, but we do not require as much maintenance as our female counterparts. That’s not a jab at the ladies; it’s just a simple truth that guys have a typically limited scope regarding our needs, wants and interests.
It didn’t take long for me to find out in this MILspouse world that there aren’t any resources targeting us guys. I have yet to come across any myself and I have yet to meet a man who says he has even heard of something that seeks the male MILspouse. I know every time I pick up our post newspaper I am bound to find an article or event that is acknowledging or celebrating the typical “Army Wife”. A VERY large portion of the events planned are not discriminatory to us guys, but they do target the women. And if they don’t target the women, they are female dominated and many men don’t feel comfortable crossing into that realm. Some of us consider that area of the military life that looks to support the MILspouse as “The Danger Zone”.
For me personally, I am willing to bridge that gap. I am willing to cross into the territory few men have traveled before. I find myself EXTREMELY fortunate that I found two men, Anthony and Tim, who have come before me and crossed those imaginary boundaries and were able to share with me it’s ok to take part in some of the programs/events that are female dominated. Now am I crossing these imaginary boundaries because I want to hang out with a bunch of ladies? Absolutely not! I can think of much better things to do with my time rather than hang out with women who could possibly outnumber me 65 to 1. Instead I am using these functions as a way to network with others to not only try to find out where all the men are(since there are 36,000 of us) but also to remind the ladies that “yes, we are here too dealing with the same trials and tribulations and excitement that you do”. It never ceases to amaze me when I meet a female MILspouse and she says “I never even thought about the guys in this role”. Yet almost every single one of them knows a male MILspouse.
As for the solution, it’s simple just like us. We don’t need some extensive survey done in Washington to gauge the need of a need to have a survey gauge the need of us male MILspouses. I remember back in my hometown several years ago there was a traffic study done. Our community was one of the fastest growing in the country for most of the past decade. In fact CNN released the numbers just this week that named my hometown as the fastest growing city in the US for the first decade of this century. Yet there was still a study done to find out if there was a need to widen THE MAIN artery that our community traveled on. This study cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to find out that the road needed to go from 2 lanes to 4. Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to find out something that could have been realized anytime while sitting in traffic between the hours of 6am and 10pm, like I mentioned, us guys are simple. It’s not rocket science to please us. We don’t require the elegance and beauty in our functions like the ladies do. We don’t require cloth napkins, for some of us that’s the only reason we wear pants. Another difference in us guys from the ladies is to get ladies to bond all you need to do is get them together. We don’t bond by BEING together, we bond by DOING together. Even I, the guy who can care less about cars, if you pop open the hood on a car and a couple men are taking a look, I am going to congregate with them.
What I am trying to do here at Fort Riley is create a model that could possibly be taken elsewhere. So far we have had 1 outing. We took a group of us guys to a local brewery and took a tour. Bing bang boom, simple. In two weeks we are taking our families to a circus that gave us free tickets. That same week we are meeting at the on post golf course and hitting up the driving range. In the near future we plan on going to the on post Trap and Skeet range as well as the paintball field. We are looking into a video game tournament. We are always talking about getting together for food. Right now there is only about 7 of us core guys here at Ft Riley, but it seems each week I am put in contact with another male MILspouse. In the 2 months we have been meeting we have had 3 newspaper write-ups and with each person I meet who says they heard about what we are doing loves the idea and thinks it’s long overdue.
Do I expect to dramatically drop the divorce rate by going to hit golf balls or shooting paintball with other men? Yes and No. No because it takes more than that. It takes conversation and relationships. But just like I said, we guys don’t bond by just being together, we bond by doing together. Once you bring these guys together that’s when you can find what they need. Although like I have mentioned several times now, guys are simple we do require certain topics to be covered and spoken about to really dig deep into the problem. But I would venture to guess just through sharing our experiences with one another we would impact each other. I would however warmly welcome any organization that decided they wanted to hold classes or meetings that target specific trouble areas us guys face. It has been my experience though that men don’t engage in a classroom setting. We engage when engaged together in engaging activities (if that makes sense).
In a perfect world it wouldn’t take a costly study to understand how simple it would be to give us male MILspouses a sense of community of our own amongst our female counterparts. I don’t expect Washington to start dropping tons of money into programs and research to help lower this divorce rate. Asking for such a small minority to be catered to would be foolish. One can’t go into Wal-Mart and ask them to start carrying Prada purses because one or two individuals would want to buy them there. You can’t ask a deli owner to carry ice cream because you don’t want to make a second trip somewhere else. Nor can you ask a business or organization to drastically change the way they have always successfully done things just to meet the needs of a VERY select few. FRG’s don’t need to change. The programs in place don’t need much changing, maybe a minor bit of tweaking in a select few of them. And we don’t need an absurd amount of money spent on us.
While it would be great to say we can adequately meet the needs of male MILspouses without any help or funding that would be foolish. Right now I feel this is my cross to carry, if you will. This is my burden to pick up. This is my purpose as to why I am in this life. To be honest I don’t much trust any individual or organization to pick this up. Unless someone is completely invested in this cause, how can they impact people? You can’t just pay someone a salary to meet an emotional need if they aren’t passionate about it. This hits home for me. It directly affects my life. Each day that I sit in solitude traveling the world of Facebook or going to playgroup with my 1 yr old, watching female MILspouses connect and get together I say what about me? What about that other guy? What about the next guy?
At best I would be curious to see if each post/base would be willing to help in their own way carry the burden with me. It seems most duty stations have a golf course plus a number of other different arenas men typically congregate around. Would the individual base be willing to give deep discounts to male MILspouses for a 3 year period to see if the trend can change? Would the departments who are given free tickets to different off post events be willing to think of the men and offer them up different packages of tickets for typical guy things? In the long run would each ACS(Army Community Service’s) be willing to find a way to employ a male spouse who is passionate about getting other men together for the sole purpose of getting guys doing similar things together? 
Just like part 2 of this article I could go on for quite some time. Again there will be things I forget to mention or wish I had touched on. As well as things I find I didn’t adequately express. But I know this; there is no reason why there should be such a significant difference in the divorce rate for a female soldier as there is for a male soldier. I do not claim to have the cure all answer here. Nor do I claim to have the marriage that is immune to the chance of divorce. I am a male MILspouse faced with the same struggles as many other male MILspouses without many options. I am just as susceptible to be caught up in the struggles I have mentioned as anyone else. But instead of pointing out a problem and just saying what should be done, I am trying my best to do something about it no matter how unqualified, uneducated and underfunded I am. How can I not? There are 1 in 12 marriages depending on someone to do something.


2 thoughts on “The Solution!”

  1. Wayne, I have enjoyed reading this series and it has opened up a new light to the subject of male spouses and relationships.

  2. Wayne, this was a great series and I especially enjoyed this article. You obviously have a heart for trying to turn things around. I admire you for being so ready for change that you are making the first steps no matter how scary or “unqualified, uneducated and underfunded” you are. I will be praying for what you are doing and the ideas you have!

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