An Unhappy Army Wife
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An Unhappy Army Wife

I’ve been an army wife for 9 years this month. I’ve moved, I’ve sent my husband off to war, I’ve parented alone more nights than I ever thought I could, and up until a few weeks ago, I was happy. I loved this life, I loved the pride that swells in my heart each time I see my husband in uniform. I loved the stolen moments we got when I brought him lunch or dinner on those long days.

Two years ago, there was a series of confessions articles published by Military Spouse and one of them was by the weary military spouse; one who was tired, worn out, exhausted and over it. At that point I couldn’t even understand what she was talking about. I was happily working part-time, volunteering, and loving my husband being home for dinner more times than not. I thought she was crazy.

But now, I get it. I’m over it, too.

So what happened? What happened in the last two years to make me go from loving the army wife life to dreading the next thing that comes down the pipe? The long hours are one thing, and usually doable. But coupled with a grumpy Soldier who feels like he’s got no support, my support as a wife becomes very difficult.

I learned early on not to insult the Army. By insulting the Army (whether it was being particularly dumb that day or not) I was insulting my husband’s chosen lifestyle. And that is a big no-no. So, while I am mad at the Army right now, I am genuinely trying to let it know how I feel in a respectful and constructive manner.

Army, are you listening?

I feel forgotten. I feel under-appreciated. I feel taken advantage of. And while I’m not the one who enlisted and swore myself to service, I’m here. I’ve been here for 9 years. I’ve been beside my husband, most of the time with minimal complaints, and supported him in whatever he’s wanted to do.

But now, I feel like everyone has forgotten that. Army leadership, down to the most basic company level, has forgotten about

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us. Family programs are being cut, spouses are turning on each other over petty things, and the American public has forgotten that there are still wars being fought. And I’m not alone in this.

My husband reenlisted last year indefinitely. We’re “stuck.” Last year I was thrilled about it. This is what we wanted, this was the life we made and we were embracing it. Now, if we had the decision to make again, I wouldn’t be quite as enthusiastic. But they have us, we’re here.

So here’s my question: How are we supposed to support our service members when we aren’t getting the simple, little things that we were promised?

Here are just a few of the things that are making spouses feel this way:

  • Waiting 3+ hours in line for prescriptions to be filled at on post pharmacies.
  • Fighting for paternity leave for our husbands when the unit is not deployed, nor in the field.
  • Worrying about retention, since the quality management boards are meeting annually.
  • Getting frustrated when promotions slow to a standstill in some jobs.
  • Childcare unavailability and the hoops we jump through to register them for childcare at each installation.
  • The seemingly constant uniform changes. (Because we really want to have more pairs of green socks, in various shades.

So, Army, now that you know, what are we going to do about? It’s not just me, but a lot of spouses who are feeling this way. And I’d wager a guess it’s not just Army spouses either. This life is not getting easier. We were willing to put up with a lot while at war. For 15 years we’ve put up with a lot. But now, when war is slowing down (maybe) we are still facing budget cuts, pay cuts, pink slips, and reduced family programs.

It’s time, Army, to focus on what is going to keep good, honest, hard-working, knowledgeable Soldiers and leaders in the Army. With that comes keeping families happy, or at least not miserable. The old adage, “happy wife, happy life,” isn’t irrelevant these days. When families are making decisions about the future, a happy family ranks high on the list of considerations.

Written by a weary, Army wife. One waiting to make some changes, willing to talk to people to find out what is going on and what we can change. One who desperately wants to make this fun and exciting again, to show younger spouses what this life could be like, and to once again say I am a happy to be an Army wife.

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25 thoughts on “An Unhappy Army Wife”

  1. What I can say is, “Buck up.” Sorry. I know that sounds harsh, but I’ve seen both sides and I can tell you that, in many ways, you have the same issues civilians do. Wait for prescriptions? At least you don’t have to pay for them. I’ve seen civilians wait, then pay exorbitant annoys for their medicine our walk away without it because they can’t afford it. Promises not kept? Talk to the senior citizens who are working because their pensions never materialized. Gate it that much? Talk to your local SFL-TAP office for a REALISTIC idea what hubby can make in the civilian world then decide what you would be willing to cut from your life to afford to work part time at a job you can tolerate instead of full time at a job you hate for not enough money. Be grateful for what you have and quit whining about a life you and hubby chose.

    1. As a National Guard spouse, my husband and I live both the civilian and military life on and off. What I don’t understand is why does there need to be a comparison? There are hard, easy, happy and not so nice moments in any lifestyle you chose. No one is saying we have it harder, but can’t we just vent about certain things that are important to us? I think so, it is important to bring up these topics. It is a great way to vent and to be supportive of each other.

    2. Hi! I figured I’d take an opportunity to get a couple of things out there…My name is Steven Alwine, I’m the husband of the author of this article. I don’t normally come to the defense of my wife’s writing, because it can generally stand on its own merits, but I do feel like I should say a couple of things…One, what could I make on the outside? I’m a Military Intelligence Systems Maintainer with leadership and management experience, as well as NUMEROUS civilian certifications and an associate’s degree in the field. What could I make on the outside? I dunno, Rebecca would probably have a better answer than me, since she worked for nearly two years at the post’s Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program office.

      I know, I know…”If you could make all that money, why would you stay in?” Because I like to travel, I love the experience of being in the Army, working with young people, and making a difference. Furthermore, I love the ideals that exist within the Constitution. I could go be a faceless IT geek anywhere. The Army gives me the opportunity to craft my replacement, and steward my profession, and that’s worth the difference in pay and most of the hassle. The military should be a difficult job to stay in, but the difficulty shouldn’t be on account of whether a soldier’s family can actually get taken care of, and that’s the biggest sticking point for many mid-career soldiers right now. Good soldiers who want to stay in, who could easily make a career of the military, are getting out, not because they fear getting QSP’d, but because they believe their family can be better taken care of out of uniform, especially in the highly skilled positions the military desperately needs to keep people in. That’s a failure of policy that needs to be addressed, and, “Suck it up,” is not a valid explanation for acute, specific issues, and certainly not an explanation that will encourage good soldiers with families to stay on active duty.

      1. The fundamental argument in your spouse’s blog is that not once does she hunt the good stuff. Therefore, the question is do the positives outweigh the negatives as you weather this storm called downsizing?

    1. I may be mistaken in the interpretation of “pay cuts” but perhaps the author is referring to no increase in COLA/BAH and other pays when compared to the civilian sector. Being a “veteran Army Spouse” – my Soldier retired three years ago after 34-years of service. Overall, I loved being a milspouse even as I watched the promises made, decades ago, be “rethought” if not completely overturned (medical/dental/housing/promotions/PCS’s, and on and on.) Now? I’m glad we’re out of the proverbial fray…
      This blog has some very valid points and I hope DA and DOD pay attention…retention is a delicate and critical thing to negotiate….

  2. I am sorry you feel this way, but…

    Newsflash…your hubby (like the rest of us) is a commodity, a tool for a job, the Army owes YOU and your hubby NOTHING. If you cannot handle it, you have two choices: (1) walk from the relationship, or (2) both of you walk from the Army.

    Furthermore — YOU are not stuck, get a job, a career — or an education, don't just be a spouse, but a contributing member to the household. Hell, in the last 9 years you could have earned a Masters! A full time JOB is an amazing distraction from the loneliness you are feeling.

    WE (Soldiers) have the opportunity at the BEST retirement going…period. The first enlistment is for God and Country, the next few are for retirement. Don't kid yourself…

  3. Jayson Flynn, you are on point! 23 years as an Army spouse and I've never waited 3+ hours at an on post pharmacy. My husband has now been in for 30 years and changed uniforms 4x – it wasn't a morale buster. Jayson has given solutions to all of these petty bullet points. This is a volunteer force and the Army doesn't owe spouses answers…that isn't the mission. This lifestyle isn't for everyone, however, the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

  4. Hunt the good stuff, Rebecca. Yes, there are plenty of obstacles, however, the benefit of tax free BAH, no cost healthcare, 30 days of leave, etc. should be appreciated. Seek out a battle buddy. Can't find support you need, create it. I'm hoping you are in a temporary funk and will not waste energy on the negatives. You've got this if you want it.

  5. The same could be said for the Air Force.. At 21 years as an active duty AFSOC wife.. We've been through 13 combat deployments in 10 years, 6 foreign wars.. 3 different administrations (nearly 4) countless TDYs (including nonstop overseas TDY while he was on C5s for 8 years) our kids are 18, 15 & 13. I've been a key spouse, worked outside the home as much as possible.. Part time retail, as a nanny, part time preschool substitute teacher & all kinds of odd jobs.. I worked at Kmart while pregnant with our first baby in order to pay for taxes.. I delivered that baby at a base hospital while under construction (45 min away from home) I've been the newby, young wife, now I'm the old wife. I've been the super-active & supportive in the squadron wife, the "raising babies up all night on my own most of the the time wife" I've been a do it yourselfer, self starter, tough as nails, supporter of my soul mate. I've never backed down from what it takes to be the best mom possible at every moment. I've gone plenty of weeks without hearing from my husband because of his location & job while other families can skype. I've traveled Space A, climbing the ladder of a C5 with a broken foot. I've won the base "silver sheer award" after gardening till my hands & back were numb, raw & sore. I've missed out on the lives of my brother, sisters, parents, nieces & nephews- nearly all the weddings, anniversary parties, graduations…

    My family has felt the cost of a lifetime of war. I've had moments of incredible pride, and moments where I feel as if I can't go another minute. I've held my children while they've sobbed hysterically because they're afraid their daddy will die in Afghanistan and comforted my 9 year old son because he realizes "in a plane crash there probabaly won't be a body so I'll never see Daddy again & forget what he looks like because pictures aren't good enough"

    We've saved, scrimped and borrowed.. And have struggled our entire adult lives to have basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, education & health care.

    I'm 40. I feel like my body is falling apart… Because it's literally falling apart. Bearing the brunt of all the stress, the physical work, the emotional toll. I have fibromyalgia & arthritis and spend every moment in pain- but keep going.

    Something I've learned-

    Nobody really cares.

    our civilian counterparts won't understand. Too many in The military culture will judge us, call us names, judge.. There's never going to be any compensation.. We can't get the time back, or the money & self pride back from lost career opportunities. I've been in the same frame of mind a time or two… I've watched amazing people at the top of their game not be promoted… And watched them lose their hard earned careers & benefits go down the toilet because of cutbacks. We have friends who have died in service, friends who have died in motorcycle cycle accidents, and friends who have committed suicide. My husband has watched people die, watched a K9 die & brought coffins home.

    Unforunately, my conclusion is "Suck it up buttercup" nobody cares. The civilian world doesn't care. The military support system doesn't really care. The only people who care & understand are fellow military wives and much of the time, they're too broken to care. The current Commander in Chief doesn't care. We are mostly on our own.

    I felt the way the author feels when we were at the 10 year mark… Somehow I've managed to go another round of 11 years.

    There's a certain zen in realizing there's no real safety net.. There may never be adequate changes to make things better for military members & their families. From my vantage point, it's getting increasingly worse. I just put one foot in front of the other (literally, incredibly painful) and carry on for the love of my husband, children & country. I do what I need to do when I need to do it. I try to avoid looking at fashion magazines, home & gardening magazines or visiting beautiful homes of civilian friends because it makes me sad. I avoid looking in the mirror as much as possible and avoid the phrase "what if" I live every moment out of love.

    I care. Find the wives like me and the people you love and hold on tight. The next 10 years will be a bumpy ride.

  6. I hate when women define themselves by what their spouse does for a living. My husband doesn't define himself by my career in the military. Go to therapy. It's free for you.

  7. Some of the things you wrote as replies seem like the right answer….however not always possible! Especially on oversea bases. They are more difficult to achieve a lot of those answers! I'm not saying I agree with her whole story, but to bash her for it is asinine!

  8. All of this. ^ It doesn't get better or easier, no one cares and – somehow – realizing that is liberating. Stop volunteering for the FRG, etc. Stop giving your energy away to the black hole of the military. You'll never see returns on it and you won't be able to make the obvious changes that actually could make life better for all of us. Save your energy for yourself, your family and your friends. Be greedy with your time. The next 10 years will suck even more — save your strength for yourself.

  9. Rebekah Gleaves Sanderlin .. Yes.. That's the same lesson I learned. After about the 13 year mark, we were able to move to a house off base. I spend all my time working & volunteering with my kids' schools and in theatre. Of course, we still deal with lots of deployments & now non-stop stress of daily military life

  10. I'm the kind of person who, when I see a need or problem, I don't whine about it- I get off my butt & create a solution. I did a lot in the past to provide family support, the wives group at my husband's squadron, the base chapel & base school… And eventually realized, although I have made lifetime friends & don't regret the work I did.. It became too much. It was bleeding me dry and wasn't fixing anything. I wasn't being supported, myself. The liberating part was realizing that, accepting that I couldn't actually change anything… It lead me to find theatre in my community, which has become extremely fulfilling & even offers job opportunities sometimes!

    Of course, we can't escape the reality of my husband's military career.. Deployments, promotions, stress over benefit cutbacks..and all the inherent stressors of loving & living with a husband & daddy at war, providing air support in combat for 20 years.

    The liberating part is finally realizing, as a wife, I had to FIGHT for my own semblance of a life while loving & supporting my husband… And finding the balance to do both. The biggest blow was the reality of how difficult it would be to find the time & funds to go back to school- still working on that one!

  11. It isn't necessarily an intent to define oneself by her husband's military career. For me (and all the military wives who are my friends) it was a tremendous sense of needing to be supportive and being an active, positive member of the community. It was about doing our part to create a healthy environment for our children to thrive, and the rest of the families around us to have support & thrive in the midst of great obstacles and stress. Most of the women I know have college degrees, even masters degrees. Some were former military, themselves. Most of us didn't work much outside the home because our husbands' careers were more demanding than we estimated.. (PCS, Deployment, TDY, Training-etc) And for me, it would have cost more for childcare than to work full time… So I found little jobs here & there that fit into his schedule… And when I couldn't work- I volunteered on base as it fit in with the needs of my children.. Because I can't stand wasting my time & talents. Its not an intent, decision, or goal to define oneself by her husband's career- in fact, that was a great fear of mine all along! It's trying to make the most of whatever situation we're in.

    Im sure there were some women who defined themselves by their husbands careers or just sat on their butts & whined about base life & military life as they reaped the benefits… But I didn't know any.

  12. Like I said model what Schwarzkopf did. I have been in the military twice and have been in retail management 20 years. You take care of your people AND their people and they take care of you. They become more efficient at their job, less sick time used, more reliable when you need them. There are no drawbacks from that approach. That is reality even in the military. It can be done and it makes us better managers of people as well, our greatest asset. Vinessa is correct about it being even more difficult overseas. Schwarzkopf modeled true leadership and his units under him became more efficient and those officers and NCO's under his leadership became better leaders of men and women.

  13. I get it, life can start to get harder as they years add on… It is true that when you start to resent something or someone you loose that "loving feeling." Thank you for sharing, many of us who are in this same situation scared, timid, alone to speak up are reading this and knowing they are not alone! I saw your husband post and it shed more light to your frustrations. While I am sure the reasons you stated are not ALL the reasons your unhappy, can you imagine how long the article would of been, I agree we are loosing so many programs and FRG is not what it was but someone somewhere has YOU and I know one person can make a difference. I can't wait to read your next article on how you brought "fun" back! Stay strong. Stay focused. Stay!

  14. I am an Army Spouse, one who has chosen this path not because I always like it, but becuase I can't see my life without my Husband. We have to Support our Spouses, especially if there is a lack of support from their chain of command. There is a lot of draw downs and promotion lags however, the picture is WAY bigger than what we see. We will never know the whole truth of how this works. I work for the Army as well, and have learned a lot about things that I didnt know before. I can see the points that are being made, but it isn't helping the situation. This life is hard, PERIOD. If we think anything else, we are in trouble. In my eyes, supporting this is our only option. I volunteer a lot as well, and poeple can say as they please but, it has helped me through many things. Its those who are always negative about things that seem to be unhappy about a lot. I am Proud of being a Military Spouse, I am proud of my Husband, and I am Proud to be a part of the US Army, even in the smallest way!

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