How to Deal with Change as a Military Spouse


I needed to breathe.

I was trapped inside our new apartment and the walls were closing in. My adrenaline had somehow kicked on and I was panicking and getting ready to cry. I sat on our unmade bed in our messy house and felt like I was a complete failure and total wreck.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

I looked around the room, my eyes darting from side to side. Boxes were piled against the wall. Two months before, John had moved his stuff to this apartment. Then we got married. Then I moved my stuff.  And we were PCSing in 4 months, so we had decided to only open the boxes we needed.

It was the smart thing to do.

And it was utterly depressing.

This wasn’t supposed to be my life.

And the more I thought that, the more I panicked.

Seriously, what had I done? 

I have such a hard time when change happens, and it happens all the time in military life. I love these strategies for making transitions easier.

I was in a new town, with absolutely zero friends, hundreds of miles away from family. We had one car, which, because not having a way to get to work was not an option for John, I was stuck without any way to get around. I had given up my friends, my family, my career, my cute apartment, my car, my earning potential, the possibility of a pension from a state retirement system, my colleagues (who I called my froworkers because they were both coworkers and friends), my independence, and work I really, truly believed in. (Yeah, maybe I was hearing some violins in the background at this point.)

I felt completely empty inside. Disappointed.

I don’t know what I had been expecting, but this crushing loneliness and frustration wasn’t it.

It’s okay to grieve.

I’m sure I’m not the only military spouse who found their life turned completely upside-down by saying, “I do.” Even though we had known each other for years, dated for a year, and engaged for 13 months before our wedding, it still seemed to happen so fast that I didn’t feel prepared. I was so excited for John to come home from deployment that I never really thought about how life would change once I married him. I found myself grieving the life I used to have when I became so upset with the one I was living that I didn’t know what to do. I romanticized The Before part of my life, rather than remembering it for what it was: life.

Life with all of it’s frustrating and exhilarating quirks.

Remember who you are.

In leaving everything to get married to John, I felt like I had left my identity. I used to be a take-charge English teacher who was in constant motion; now, I was a freelancer who spent a lot of time on the couch working on projects that were few and far between. I just didn’t feel like myself anymore. It was weird and uncomfortable. I missed the old me. But John (because he’s awesome), helped to keep me in check. We’d talk about books and he’d ask me if I had written anything new. He’d listen to me. He’d remind me how much he believed in me. And that helped me find out who this new iteration of me was.

Be okay with a new normal.

It took me a while to find the good in my new situation, but once I found a rhythm, things began looking up. It seems like the new normal is constantly changing with every decision the military makes. We moved again: I found a new normal. John took on a very difficult watch schedule: new normal. Then he was off it: new normal. Then he had a new assignment that gave him a round-trip 4-hour commute every day: new normal. Now he’s onto a different assignment: new normal. And that’s just been in the last 3 years. (For many of you, that sounds like a walk in the park compared to what you’ve experienced!)

It’s okay to miss things (and people).

Three years after resigning from my teaching post, I have days where I still really miss it. All of my students are adults now and I keep in touch with many of them through Facebook. Every so often, it tugs on my heartstrings. In the last three years, I’ve lost 4 former students to gun violence; every time, it makes me wish I could wrap my arms around my old students and grieve with them.

I have such a hard time when change happens, and it happens all the time in military life. I love these strategies for making transitions easier.

I miss my awesome froworkers in my department and hallway. I wish I could celebrate the babies and retirements and weddings and other milestones with them. It’s weird no longer being part of that exclusive club. Over time, I’ve learned to feel the feels and then be okay with it. They won’t go away– I’ll always have a soft place in my heart for the teachers and kids at my old school. And I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.

Look at the bigger picture.

When you’re in it, it’s really hard to see the big, overarching scope of things. At least for me, that is. That’s one of my biggest flaws: I can’t see the forest for the trees, sometimes. But I’ve been practicing, and when those moments come, those What-Even-Is-My-Life-Anymore moments, I take a breath and a step back. This setback or situation or whatever it is is temporary. I am here because I can’t imagine life without my best friend and husband. This really is my life and I have the ability to make it the best that I can.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of MSB New Media & Unilever. The opinions and text are all mine.


4 Responses

  1. **hugs** to you. This is a really great, moving post! I had a big meltdown moment last month because my husband is applying for a transfer within the Navy. If he gets it, we’ll be virtually guaranteed to live in various foreign countries for the majority of his career. I probably won’t be able to continue my Etsy store that I’ve built up since giving up teaching, myself, to be with him, and that’s hard to come to grips with. But, as you say, he’s my best friend and we’re in this together. =)

  2. This is so true! The only constant in military life is change and you have to figure out how to get used to it. It’s so hard but so worth it!

  3. I really needed this (and all of your posts, I’ve been binge-reading) today. My husband is looking into new orders and I’ve only been living with him/married to him for 4 months. I’ve finally settled in and found a great job and we might have to move! I’ve been trying to cope with this and not limit him in where he can go because I’m scared/comfortable where we are. I think I can finally with some confidence say that I’m okay wherever we go because I know we are going together.

  4. This couldn’t be more true! Really great post. It brought back all the emotions I felt finally moving across country to his first duty station. It was a few weeks before our wedding where it all hit me. Specifically when I had to sit down with my boss and give her my notice. FULL ON PANIC ATTACK right there in front of her. It was actually like you said, all I was thinking was ‘what am I doing? I love my job and friends & life here.’ But of course you go through the stages and accept the new normal. And it helps to have a wonderful supportive partner by your side. Make all of it worth it!

    Love reading all your posts! :)

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