To the Spouse Who’s Losing Their Sense of Self

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It’s no secret that the transition to military spouse was a hard one for me. I’ve been really open about it… and when I talk about it, I always hear a resounding “me too!” from other spouses. The truth is, no matter how much you want life to stay the same, after you marry someone in the military, it just doesn’t.

That may happen in little ways– like going to a family reunion without your other half because it’s drill weekend– or in big ways–like losing your career or relocating to the other side of the globe.

For some spouses, the changes are welcome. For others, they’re surprising. And for still others, they’re scary.

But it seems like at one point or another, most of us look at our lives as military spouses and say, “Woah, how did I get here?” (And if that’s not your experience, this post isn’t for you. And that’s okay. Not everything is for everyone all the time.)

I got to that point quickly–just a month and a half after I got married. You see, I used to be a teacher. I loved what I did. I loved my students. I loved my colleagues. I loved the act of teaching. And so, when we got married halfway through July, it didn’t feel like my life changed. Any other summer, I would have not been teaching then either. So everything was cool.

You are not alone. #milspouse #milso

Until September.

All of a sudden, my colleagues were back at work. My friends who were teachers in other districts were back at work. And I was sitting on my couch in an empty apartment with a husband working 15 hour days.

I was not in a good place, friends.

And I totally own that. I had a really hard time with the transition because, as an adult, I had never not worked. I had never not had a paycheck. I had never contemplated what would happen to my self worth when I didn’t have either of those things.

I didn’t feel like myself. I felt like a weak imitation of myself. Even though John was so supportive and kind. Even though I had cheerleaders in the form of friends and family in my corner. Even though I knew that I had the power to make my future. I felt lost. And alone. And kind of ghost-like.

And maybe you feel that way too. (I’m guessing you have if you’re still reading this.) So here’s what I did… and maybe it will help you as well.

Be kind to yourself

We are our worst critics. Truly. I’m not joking. Most people I know didn’t even know I was having a hard time because they saw me as being a lot stronger than I felt. Chances are, a heck of a lot of people think that you are kicking serious butt. So be kind to yourself. You are doing awesome things–even if that awesome thing is getting out of bed in the morning and facing an uncertain day.

Find yourself

Right now, you might not be able to have your dream career. But don’t lose yourself because of it. Find ways to stay connected to the things you love–even if it’s hard. That might look like subscribing to a journal in your field. Maybe it’s pursuing a degree online. Or maybe it’s finding a group of people who are interested in the same things as you. Just because you’re a military spouse does not mean you have to lose who you used to be. Fight for yourself.

Do something for yourself

I know, I know. Better said than done. But truly, try to do something that you love–even if it’s watching a horrible show like Sister Wives or Dance Moms (not that that’s my guilty pleasure or anything…)

You are not alone. #milspouse #milso

Don’t force yourself to do military stuff

…unless you want to. Your partner is in the military, but you aren’t. So if it makes you uncomfortable or if you simply don’t have enough time for it–whatever “it” looks like on your base– chill out. It’s okay. I know plenty of spouses who found their place and their purpose in the civilian community rather than the military one.

Throw out the stereotypes

Military spouses are so different. We have different opinions, different political beliefs, different educational levels, different places of origin… I could go on. There is no one “normal” military spouse. So guess what? You don’t have to conform to what you think is a military spouse. Are you a bra-burning feminist? Good. We need you. Maybe you’re an introvert who doesn’t really like all of the mixers and mandatory fun events. That’s okay too. Or maybe you have a Lisa-Frank-inspired face tat. If you’re cool with your face tat, then so am I. You be you, be happy with who you are, and find people who accept you for who you are. I found those people in the military community. I know you can too.

Treat yo’self

If you don’t have a job currently–or if you make so little that you’re uncomfortable with your paycheck–it can be really easy to feel like you don’t deserve to spend money. I know I felt exactly like that. The thing is, that is not a healthy outlook or way to think about money. I’m not saying that you should blow the bank if your family can’t afford it; but I’m also saying that you should never have to ask for permission to spend 50 cents on a pack of gum. Keep the lines of communication open with your spouse and have a clear idea of where your family is financially. And then, find ways to treat yourself or your family–and of course those treats don’t have to be expensive or even cost anything at all. That might be a trip to the library where you get some quiet time and the kids get some “new” books. Maybe it’s buying a gallon of ice cream and eating it for dinner on a hot summer day. Maybe it’s a frappuccino that you gloriously get to slurp down all by yourself while listening to what you want to on the radio and not worrying about anything for those minutes.

And talking about treating yourself…

Lindsay from The MilSO Box wants to treat a Jo, My Gosh! reader for Military Spouse Appreciation Day. If you win the giveaway, you’ll get the June subscription box in your mailbox.

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(And this is not a sponsored post. Lindsay just wanted to give away a box to one of you awesome people, you! And MilSO Box is really cool. You can check out all of the boxes so far on my Instagram… because I’m kind of obsessed.)
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12 Responses

  1. I’m a new SAHM and I’m still learning how to maintain my sense of self. It’s really hard because, like Jo, I too have worked all my life. Now I’m home, with no desire to get dressed or even put on make-up. What makes this “situation” worse is we only have one vehicle which my husband takes to work so I’m “stuck” at home all day. If my other Navy wife friends want to get out they offer to pick me up which is a really nice gesture but I also kinda feel embarrassed on my end. Not to mention these outings happen once every 2 months if I’m lucky. I am trying really hard to find myself and to find what things in life that interest me so that I can indulge in those interests when hubby gives me my kid-free time. But talking to a 9 month old everyday makes that task difficult to accomplish as well! I really just take it a day at a time. Thankfully if I don’t step up and ask for my “me time” hubby sees the signs before I hit my breaking point and forces me to take some time for me just when I need it!

  2. Maintaining my sense of self can be very challenging for me at times. Even though missing my soldier is a consistent challenge, I do my best to still focus on the things that I need to do not only for my future but for our future together. I try to keep as busy as possible with my family and also by maintaining my health. I’m really just trying to survive the next year of my life while willing it to go by faster so we can really begin our life together.

  3. As someone who is still “just a girlfriend” and a long distance one, at that, I haven’t had to”give up anything” yet. I will be following my airman in the next year and our feeling is that I’m portable and he isn’t. I know that I will be giving up a lot but looking forward to figuring out how to maintain my sanity and my personhood.

  4. I just wanted to thank you for all your encouraging wisdom you take the time to share with us. My military spouse journey, I’m sure as everyone else’s, has been a rough road. I don’t know a single person in my everyday life who has dealt with any of this, so your posts help me more than you know. Even if it’s just letting me know that it’s ok to feel how I do, that it’s not abnormal. So thank you! You are appreciated

  5. This is awesome! I too had a VERY hard time becoming a “military spouse”. It’s taken me 3 or so years but I’ve made my own sense of self again. Thank you for posting this. So many times if we don’t “fit in” with the “normal” MilSpouses it feels even more lonely!

  6. Thank you Jo for this uplifting and encouraging post! Your posts really help me get through a lot and they help me to have a better understanding of military life. I appreciate your insight and your advice! You are amazing and this blog is my blessing throughout my husband’s deployment.

  7. You have to find things that are about you and that make you feel like you. I like running and baking (and my coworkers enjoy the latter immensely). The nice thing about these activities is that they are time consuming, which is good because my soldier is stationed in Germany right now and I’m still in the U.S.

  8. My baby and I have been able to move in with my parents during this deployment. Thankfully my mom loves watching my baby boy and she is always willing to watch him if I need to have some me time. Even if it’s just a trip to the grocery store without a baby throwing a fit the entire time he’s in the carseat. ?

  9. Yes. I struggle with this daily. I am mom and military wife, but I am also ME and want to be acknowledged for that.

  10. I’ve seriously been going through this a lot lately. I left my career as a scientist to follow my husbands military career and raise our children.

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