During the darkness of mid-winter, it’s easy to get the blues. On dreary, cold days when the snow is dingy with soot, the car is hazy with salt, and your skin is as flakey as a stale croissant from the day-old bin at Stop & Shop, you can slide into negative thinking as easily as snot slips from your toddler’s nostrils.
In those bleak moments, military spouses might wonder, “Why do I live this difficult life with all its moves and deployments? Why do I put up with the inconveniences and hardships? Is my destiny to never pursue my career? Will our kids ever be able to stay in one school where they can make long-term friends and pursue their interests? If I have to iron another uniform, will I have a nervous breakdown? Will I stick a fork in my eye if I see one more moving sticker? Will the commissary ever carry unsweetened oat milk?!”
I’m here to tell you, it’s not as bad as you think. In fact, I’ve discovered eight ways that military life actually makes you a better person.
1. Military spouses are random-car-search-ready. On the off chance that they are pulled over while driving through the base gate, military spouses periodically clean up the stale Goldfish, french fries, crayons, used tissues, juice bags and gummy bears under the minivan seats to minimize any potential embarrassment.
2. Military spouses never stop honing their social game. From boot camp to retirement, military spouses are forced to seek new friends throughout active duty life. With each successive move or housing turnover, military spouses revisit their middle school insecurities and wonder, “Does anyone like me? Will I be included? Will I ever win Crystal Bingo?” To meet this continuous challenge, military spouses constantly self-assess in order to adapt to the diverse people they meet.
3. Military spouses bring it. They aren’t strangers to wearing pajama pants all day; however, military spouses know how and when to gussy up for formal events. On ball days, a military spouse might pick her kids up from school in sweatpants, but by nine-o-clock, she’s elegantly sheathed in beaded silk, respecting protocol, and gracefully setting her champagne flute on the dining table before she hits the dance floor to do the Stanky Leg.
4. Military spouses purge stuff regularly. Single Polly Pocket shoes, dried up markers, snagged sweaters, rusted bikes, dog-chewed flip flops, and scratched furniture get discarded before each move. Half-used bottles of cocktail sauce, jars of jelly and boxes of chicken patties are given away to neighbors. Bags bursting with gently used clothes and household goods are given to charity. Military spouses are rolling stones — they gather no moss, nor excess Legos.
5. Military spouses are free to let their freak flags fly. Patriotic fashions, home decor, and behavior that may seem obnoxious to every-day civilians is embraced by military families. Navy families make their beds with nautical sheets and get misty when they see a grey ship. Army spouses carry camo diaper bags and hang paintings of tanks in their living rooms. Marines think nothing of barking “oorah!” in pubic. Air force kids have every airplane toy ever made.
6. Military spouses develop sophisticated palates. Having to live in different locations means getting to sample indigenous cuisines. Granted, this experience isn’t always enjoyable, like the time I ordered “Sukrut Royale” in Europe, not knowing that I’d requested steaming organ meats, or when I bought boiled peanuts thinking they might actually taste like peanuts. But every bad meal is worth every local delicacy such as Roman-Jewish Fried Artichokes, Southern Shrimp and Grits, Korean Budae-Jjigae Stew, and German Schneeballen.
7. Military spouses are strong and flexible. I’m not talking yoga poses here — although putting your foot behind your head is certainly an admirable feat — I’m referring to military spouses’ ability to adapt to varying environments, to spin multiple plates in the air, to run entire households solo, to handle constant change, and to manage military life’s many curveballs with grace and agility.
8. Military spouses are awesome. More than 700 thousand active duty spouses and nearly 12 million veteran spouses are living proof that, despite the obvious challenges, military life has its perks.