Today, W.I. shares her perspective as a military spouse. I’m so excited that she approached me with this post about her adjustment from being an active duty member of the military to a military spouse. Thanks for your service and for your voice, W.I.!
Being prior active duty military, I considered myself the ideal military spouse. I figured that I would easily transition from one role (military member) to another (military spouse). (I was already an “expert” at military life, right? How hard could it be to be on the other side of things?) I assumed that I would have an easy adjustment, which was only somewhat true (ish.)
I definitely had some misconceptions about military spouse life. I am glad that I was open-minded and embraced the change (although at first, very hesitant to do so.) I think that I, at first resented the word “dependent” and the concept of being “dependent” did not appropriately characterize our circumstances. In this particular case, I had managed to live on my own for almost 10 years, and now suddenly one day– on our wedding day– I had become “dependent?”
I quickly realized that it was silly to be concerned about my new classification category as a spouse – and the benefits certainly outweighed the categorization. I still assumed that I knew almost everything that I needed to know regarding spouse life. I didn’t want to admit that there was information that I did not know already having served previously…
First. TRICARE. What a different experience for me. I assumed that TRICARE as a spouse was like TRICARE as military member (or at least somewhat similar). Well, that is not the case at all. Most military members are assigned Primary Care Managers through base clinics and/or hospitals and service members normally are not given the option to choose health care providers. This always made it easy for me while on active duty – no choice meant less decisions for me to make.
Having had no serious health issues, I always scheduled myself to the nearest military clinic or hospital for my appointments without giving it much thought or concern. When I become a military spouse, well, it was a different story. Thank goodness I did my research and called TRICARE several times to discuss benefits and the difference between “TRICARE Standard” and “TRICARE Prime.” Although they try to do a good job of explaining the difference through their website, you really need to call and ask the right questions, specifically addressing what is important to you as a beneficiary of TRICARE. The customer service personnel can answer all of your questions on the phone for family specifics. Don’t assume you know all of the details about TRICARE (unless you have worked in military medicine and are confident that you know all the rules.) I was literally shocked to find out all the little details that military families find out along the way. Read the fine print and ask questions. Overall I have had a good experience with TRICARE – but I had to be extremely pro-active in asking questions in order to get the right type of treatment, care, and service that works for my family. (Don’t be passive about your health care –be pro-active and get it figured out as soon as possible. The sooner, the better…)
Second. Service life. My spouse and I come from different branches of the service, so our experiences and perspectives are different. I assumed that my spouse’s branch is identical to my branch. Although similar, the missions and the cultures are slightly different. I find myself struggling to understand sometimes why they do things differently in other services, and sometimes I just have to accept the small differences. It has been an interesting adjustment for me as I learn that a deployment length in one service is not necessarily the same deployment length in another service. I’ve also noted that a “career path” in one service is defined very differently in another service. Again – I can’t emphasize the importance of communications regularly to establish expectations about the different aspects and careers of military life.
Third. Spouse life. I was hesitant to become friends with the other spouses in the group at first, not knowing what to expect. Being somewhat introverted, I don’t reach out to new people until I feel comfortable (which might take me awhile.) This particular unit has an excellent command climate that reaches beyond the unit directly to the families. I am fortunate (lucky even) to have made such great friends through the spouse network. I enjoy meetings all of the different men and women in the group and find everyone interesting to talk with about their different experiences. The group gets together on a regular basis (1-2 times per month) and we support each other through all of our different events in life. Our meetings and events help pass the time as we eagerly wait for our spouses to return from deployment. Everyone has a different personality and we just have found a way to all “click” with one another. As prior military member and newly married, I really appreciate the “veteran spouses” giving me their perspective of what life will be like when my spouse returns. I am thrilled to have made such close friends through the group. Most of the spouses share the same interests of mine (running, working out at the gym, wine tasting, “foodies”, etc.). I never would have thought that the spouse network would be such a rewarding experience, but honestly, it is one of my favorite parts of spouse life so far. (Other than the whole “homecoming day” thing, of course!)
So if you are military or former military, and becoming a spouse (or already a spouse) – I urge you to make the phone calls to Tricare early in the marriage, and then also embrace the other military spouses openly to find new friendships in one of your new roles. Some of the other spouses might become some of your closest lifelong friends. Although there are some days that are somewhat frustrating as a military spouse, an open mind can lead you to a very rewarding and fulfilling experience as a spouse.
W.I. is a guest contributor to Jo, My Gosh! She found Jo, My Gosh! through a friend this year when her spouse left on deployment. She is discovering life as a spouse while the other is on a deployment. W.I. and her spouse have been together for over four years and have a combined military service length total of over 20 years between the two of them. W.I. hopes to become a more accomplished writer and also continue to be published, while also making many new friends through the spouse network.