When I was busy planning my wedding to my military fiancé, I was also building up plenty of ideas in my mind for how I would soon be meeting other spouses and making many new friends. I pictured hosting get-togethers, attending unit functions, and even volunteering to lead whatever organized spouse groups liked to put together. I was highly motivated to begin my married life with a strong sense of connection to the military community.
One month after the wedding, I found myself sitting in our apartment wondering why I hadn’t made any friends yet.
A few weeks later, I took the LINKS (Lifestyle, insights, networking, knowledge, skills) training program with several other spouses from my husband’s unit, and finally made some friends. Since most of those spouses lived near each other, they already knew one another and had formed good friendships. I felt a bit like an outsider, but they welcomed me with open arms and made sure to include me in any activities they planned.
Since then, each move has made it equally difficult for me to feel connected. It seems that plugging in to the spouse community comes easy to some spouses but is a struggle for others, myself included. Many people don’t realize how difficult it can be for active duty spouses to find the connection and support they need from the spouse community. In fact, it is fairly common for active duty spouses to feel more unplugged than anything.
MilSpouses Unplugged: 5 Reasons Connecting to the Spouse Community isn’t Always Easy:
- They live off base. My husband and I have always chosen to live off-base and away from the main military town that surrounds the base. This makes it difficult to immediately meet other military families, especially those in the same unit, but it is our choice. In some circumstances, though, military families don’t have the option to live on base, or they are put on a long waiting list. Living on base and close to the community isn’t always an option.
- They have little (or no) help. When service members deploy or go on a trip, there is one less set of hands to do all that needs to be done. I have never had the convenience of having family close by to watch the kids, and babysitters aren’t always available. There have been many occasions when I had to miss a spouse function because my husband was away. Sometimes I feel like they all happen to fall on a day my husband isn’t home. This only makes me feel like trying to stay connected to other spouses is just hopeless.
- They choose not to be. Over the years I have learned that I get overwhelmed at organized events with large numbers of people, so many times I chose to stay in the comfort of my own home. Other times I have simply had too much going on and adding one more thing was just too much. Homefront United Network contributor Megan Williams says that she has lived at stations where she was very involved with the spouse community and others where she chose not to be. Sometimes there is some personal reason why we choose to stay unplugged.
- Spouse stereotypes. Megan Williams also shared that when she was a new Milspouse, she had a pre-conceived notion of what spouses were like and chose not to join in. Sometimes these stereotypes are proven true, one spouse I know attended a function when she was new to the unit, but while she was there not one person talked to her. I myself have experienced drama, gossip, and rumors among other spouses. For those of us that don’t want to be around this type of behavior, the desire to stay connected diminishes. But most of the time, these stereotypes are a false representation of the spouse community. Megan Williams stated, “When I did become involved, it was a very different experience. Involvement doesn’t always mean drama.”
- There isn’t an organized community. My husband’s current unit doesn’t have much of an organized spouse community. We are all pretty spread out and it is difficult to organize regular functions. I am sure there are many more units with the same situation. As a result, spouses don’t feel like they are connected to a community and instead are left to find connections on their own.
Despite the challenges of plugging in to the spouse community, most of the time making the effort to be involved and connected reaps great rewards. There is nothing better in military life than finding other spouses who truly know what each other is going through. Having that support system can help give us all a much more optimistic perspective of military life.