Dear Future Military Spouse,
Welcome to our family. I know you are overwhelmed with the life you are about to face. You have a seemingly endless list of questions (and an even longer list of concerns!). You are eager to embark on exciting and unknown adventures that will come your way. But you are more worried about the deployments and separations you will no doubt endure. The love for your future spouse is deeper than any hesitations about his or her profession, so you are open to the risks this life presents. You have now been called to serve your country. And we are here to help you succeed in this unpredictable, emotional, honorable, and blessed endeavor.
Above all, to succeed as a military spouse, you must believe that you have been called into this role. It is one that fills you with overwhelming pride and then brings you to your knees in devastation. It provides you with unbreakable friendships but leaves an emptiness as you say goodbye to family and friends. It will expand your sense of culture and understanding of people, but missing home is a part of this place. It provides you with opportunities you never considered, but it may mean closing the door on some of your dreams.
However, if you trust that this is God's plan for your life, you can walk into your place as a military spouse knowing that He has plans for you that are grander (and more purposeful) than the ones you have conjured. He will both hold your hand through the inevitable tumult and listen as you praise Him for blessings and miracles. If you continually rely on the Lord through each new phase, you will be able to walk through this journey with a rare peace that surpasses understanding.
As you plan the ceremony for your marriage (whether it's at a courthouse, in a cathedral, or on the coast) you've probably already experienced the flexibility that is required of a military spouse. You no longer have the main control of dates or times in your life. The military will often deem what you can do, where you can go, and when you can do it. As frustrating as this may be at times, it also forces you to learn patience, to relax, to let go of the reins, and to trust that everything will work out as God has planned--with your good in mind.
It is possible that you will marry your spouse, only to send him or her off to training or on a deployment. You may have to postpone your honeymoon and you might miss your first anniversary. Prepare for these possibilities and find peace with the outcome, so you can enter your marriage with a positive attitude. It is easy to quickly become resentful of your spouse's job, but this offers no gain to your new marriage. If you find yourselves apart early, use the time away to plan a romantic trip upon your reunion, giving yourselves something to look forward to together; spend time getting to know your new family--other military spouses; learn how to make your marriage thrive through books, sermons, Bible studies, broadcasts, and other people you know who have successful marriages; write your spouse letters detailing your days and expressing your love (even if they won't receive them until they return); spend time on bettering yourself and pursuing your career; and devote yourself to concentrated prayer for your husband or wife--trainings can be just as dangerous as deployments. You have to learn to find enjoyment in being without your spouse, so use this as a time to focus on you and building new friendships. Separations truly provide a unique opportunity for personal and relational growth. It's up to you to capitalize on it.
The upsides of this whole military life are there, but you have to continually seek them. When you start to become jaded by the time apart, the long work hours, the phone calls that come 24 hours a day, and the constant moving, find time to refocus on the love you have for your spouse and what brought you together. Remember that this is where God has placed you for this season of your life. The positives are many during your service to our country. You will be given "free" health care that is often of excellent quality. You will receive discounts or freebies pretty much everywhere you go (restaurants, airports, theme parks--you name it). The military provides its employees with a nice chunk of paid leave each year, often giving your soldier weeks or even an entire month off at a time. You are eligible for a free college education via your spouse's Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. You get the opportunity to explore areas of the country or world that you would not have otherwise. You will quickly gain a chain of friends all over the country. There are free couples retreats offered at fun destinations via the base chapels. You get to pick out new decor every couple years since the curtains and furniture from the previous house never seem to fit the new one. While your spouse is away, you learn to be very self-sufficient since you must take on all the chores and repairs that your spouse would usually conquer. In this life, you NEVER take your spouse for granted because of the danger of the mission and you get to experience a rush of rare emotions every time you are reunited after duty separation. And to top it all off, you get to see your husband or wife in uniform every day--who doesn't like a man (or woman) in uniform?!
Lastly, it's vital that you have some go-to resources for this upcoming time in your life. The very first item you need to order is a book called When War Comes Home. This book offers excellent guidance on how to understand your soldier during and after a deployment and how to tackle any potential issues related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Every military spouse should read this resource while his or her spouse is at war. Next, you must enroll in a course called Financial Peace University--preferably while you are still engaged. This class is offered all around the country or you can sign up to watch online courses. Many military families struggle with financial concerns due to a host of factors that are unique to this lifestyle. Taking this class as a couple will ensure you are on the same page financially, have a plan to pay off your debt, a plan to save, and a plan to give and live freely. Another helpful resource through the constant ups and downs is a book called One Thousand Gifts, which challenges its readers to find thankfulness in the everyday moments. This is a skill you should learn early on in your life and marriage. Love and Respect is a book (or video series) that you can walk through with your spouse. It offers the most basic foundations of marriage from which every couple is guaranteed to benefit. If you don't live by these two basic principles, it's hard to find happiness in your marriage, let alone a military union. For daily encouragement, download the Focus on the Family and Family Talk apps. The mission of both of these organizations is designed to help families thrive. Listen to these 30-minute broadcasts while you cook, clean, or workout in order to grow in the areas of marriage, parenting, finances, spirituality, and much more!
May you look eagerly forward to this season of your life: proud to serve your country, honored to be chosen for this mission, and blessed to live the uncommon life.
A Veteran Military Spouse