31 Things to Say to a Milspouse Instead of “You Knew What You Were Getting Into”


I was standing in a LOFT dressing room when I heard it for the first time.  John and I were engaged and John was deployed. I hadn’t seen him in months. I hadn’t had a phone call from him in months. And I had hit the Deployment Wall that sneaks up on even the best of us. I was definitely not being my best self that day. I missed John. I was tired of deployment. I was at my breaking point.

And someone I love very much (who will remain anonymous because she is still so awesome) said it to me:

“You knew what you were getting into.”

Better ways to show support for a military spouse going through a rough time than "You knew what you were getting into."

Cue my exploding head.

I know that it was said with love. I know that it was said because she didn’t know what else to say.

But it just hurt.

It just made me angry.

And it made me feel unsupported.

Because the truth was, I had never done a deployment before. I knew nothing about the military.  I literally had no idea what I was “getting myself into.”

And even if I had, knowing doesn’t mean you can’t feel worried or upset or depressed.

Better ways to show support for a military spouse going through a rough time than "You knew what you were getting into."

If you’ve ever been in my position– or if you’ve ever found yourself comforting someone who is struggling with military life, here’s a list of things you can say other than, “You knew what you were getting into.”

  1. That sucks.
  2. I’m so sorry.
  3. How can I help you?
  4. Do you want me to watch the kids for the afternoon?
  5. Come over for dinner tonight.
  6. Can I give you a hug?
  7. Let’s have a girls’s (or guys’) night out.
  8. I’m bringing over cookies. What kind do you want?
  9. I’m here for you.
  10. I can listen, if you want to talk.
  11. Tell me what you need from me.
  12. There’s nothing wrong with being frustrated/sad/angry.
  13. I’m don’t know what you’re going through, but I will be with you every step of the way.
  14. You’re not alone.
  15. You’re not crazy.
  16. You’re not less of a wife/husband for feeling this way.
  17. I feel for you.
  18. I’ve been where you are and I understand.
  19. You’re doing a great job adjusting to military life.
  20. Did I mention I’m bringing over cookies? But seriously, what kind do you want me to make you?
  21. Let’s go catch a movie this weekend.
  22. I’m grabbing a bottle of wine and two glasses for us. My husband will babysit our kids while we talk.
  23. I am proud of you.
  24. I am thinking of you.
  25.  I am praying for you.
  26. I’m adding extra chocolate chips to the chocolate chip cookies, by the way.
  27. I’d love if you could join us for (Christmas/Easter/Thanksgiving/New Year’s/etc.).
  28. It’s okay that you’re attached to your phone. I get it.
  29. You can cry in front of me.
  30. Let’s go for a walk.
  31. You are so strong.

Better ways to show support for a military spouse going through a rough time than "You knew what you were getting into."


8 Responses

  1. Great list! I have’t dealt with anything “tough” lately, but I’m keeping this post tucked away for future use. :)

  2. :) As a military BRAT, I love it. I am proud of my military father, but I am equally proud of the role my military mother played. Military families go through a lot… and it is not recognized usually.

    Many military spouses sacrifice their career opportunities….when you move every 2 to 3 years, it’s hard to advance in a company….it’s hard to get hired in more senior roles as your tenure will be short.

    They sacrifice relationships with their families…and their friends. Sure, the relationships are there — but just meeting up at the coffee shop is rather difficult when you’re half a world away.

    And because of the constant moving, the support networks really are much different and ever shifting. A military spouse may not have a job outside of the home where a paycheck is received — but never let anyone suggest that they are not employed!

    They are volunteering at American Red Cross, Family Services, Room mothers at schools, hospitals, libraries, and working with the Enlisted Wives Club or the Officers Wives Club. They are keeping the family together when they are effectively a single parent as the military has called them away.

    How could anyone who was not raised in the military truly KNOW what they were signing up for? (And if they were raised in the military and they signed up anyway, that makes them absolutely brave…facing those challenges head on, knowing the struggles and sacrifices the job demands).

    Military Spouses are the unsung heroes of our armed forces…their contributions go unrecognized by so many.

    So, from a BRAT to a Spouse, thank you!

  3. The few times I was on deployment my wife also said that it was very hard to get along. She said that she never really expressed her emotions to others and I think that just made her feel worse. She needed an outlet and I would have hoped that one of her friends would recognize that something is wrong and inquire about it. That was many years ago and we are well over that now. I guess we survived though. We will be celebrating our 36th anniversary in April. All you military spouses hang in there and don’t forget that the kids might be missing their daddy/mommy also.

  4. Hi there! Fellow mil spouse here and I adore this post. I’ve had the same said to me plus the “I just don’t know how you do it” thrown in the mix too. Ugh. But all the suggestions you list are spot on. The prayers, cookies, wine, and “I am proud of you” go further than people realize! Glad I popped over from the link up. Nice to meet you! :)

  5. These are great sayings! I think in any tough circumstance the saying “you know what you were getting into” can be so hurtful even if it wasn’t meant to be said in that manner. Especially when emotions are running high! Great post!

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