Whether you are marrying your significant other who is already in the military or you’re already married and they are now enlisting or commissioning, many spouses undergo a cycle of emotions when becoming a new military spouse. These stages may look familiar as the stages of grief, but they 100% apply to this life changing moment as well. Pour yourself a cup of tea or some Irish coffee and enjoy:
- Denial– It’s not going to be that bad. My spouse won’t be gone ALL the time. Our lives won’t be SO different from what they were when we were civilians. Oh sweet, naive you. This is the first part of the cycle when you have your rose-colored glasses on and haven’t received your own set of battle wounds yet. Now don’t get me wrong, the reality isn’t the complete opposite of what you think it’s going to be like, it’s much more in the middle, well…. maybe leaning a little bit more to the right. Truth is your life is going to be completely different from when you were a civilian, and no your spouse won’t be gone ALL the time, but they will be absent pretty frequently -some more than others, depending on their job- and no it won’t be that bad. It’s not going to be all candy and flowers, but it will certainly be an adventure so buckle up for the ride.
- Anger– Oh will there be anger. You’ll be mad at your spouse. You’ll be mad at the situation. You may be mad at the military or the government. You’ll be mad at yourself for being mad. You’ll be mad because you can’t make any concrete plans. You’ll be mad because Sally’s spouse called her or sent her flowers and you didn’t. You’ll be mad because people ask the same questions over and over again. You’ll be mad because you feel guilty for being mad. You have a right to be mad. Don’t be ashamed of your anger. Just don’t stay there.
- Bargaining– You’ll make deals with yourself or with your God about if you get to talk or see your spouse you’ll be ever so good. You’ll be the best spouse ever when they get home. You won’t take your time together for granted. You’ll bargain with family, you won’t be home for the holidays this year but maybe next year. Or what if they come to you instead? No? Don’t be surprised when they can’t or won’t come. You’ll take a job below your skill or education level because sometimes you have to take what you can get. You’ll watch the neighbors kids this weekend if they’ll watch yours next for a date night with your significant other. Get your bargaining chips ready, there’s a lot to barter for in the military life.
- Depression– You’ll want to be alone. You’ll want to not do anything even though they say, “Keep Busy!!”. This is like the anger stage. You have a right to be depressed. Don’t be ashamed of your sadness. Just don’t stay there.
- Acceptance– You’ll start to get the hang of things. You’ll get into a routine. You’ll make a few friends. You’ll be able to find everything you need in the grocery store, and even get to the grocery store without a GPS. You’ll start speaking the military lingo using all those acronyms and your civilian friends and family are going to need you to translate. And then you’ll PCS and even though it won’t be as hard as the first time, you’ll hit up some of these stages again.
The stages of grief do not move in a cycle like they are frequently pictured, and neither are the stages of being a new military spouse. It is much more organic than that. You’ll bounce from one stage to another and back again, you may skip a cycle and think you’re in acceptance, only to go “back” again. It’s all normal and it’s all part of the adventure! Because you’re not only going to feel these emotions, you’ll also feel extreme moments of happiness, joy, excitement, support, purpose, and love. Those are the ones that make it worth it.