I vividly remember the first time someone said that Zach and I had passed the ‘newlywed stage’. I had published a blog post humorously poking fun at things my husband did that annoyed me and everyone from ‘back home’ gleefully decreed that our honeymoon phase was over and the “real” part of our marriage was just beginning. Not gonna lie, their comments kinda rubbed me the wrong way–see, in my eyes, Zach and I never really had the honeymoon stage everyone said we’d have.
Our newlywed years were tough–the first year of marriage specifically felt more like a battle to keep ourselves and our marriage afloat than the starry-eyed walk in the park I imagined it would be. We battled financial problems, prolonged distance, the rigors of military life, moving to Hawaii, an impending deployment, family issues + all the ‘normal’ adjustments you have to make when combining two lives into one. It was hard and I only wish I would have had an older wiser version of myself to guide me.
So today I’m writing a letter–a letter to that lonely struggling young wife who felt like no one could understand her world…..a letter to my newlywed military wife self.
- Your expectations of marriage, and in particular a military marriage, might not quite match up to the reality. And guess what, that’s totally ok!! Real life isn’t all sunshine and butterflies but the hard times make the good times so much sweeter.
- Repeat after me, the frustrations of military life are not my spouse’s fault. He’s more than likely just as disappointed as you are about the postponed date nights, the missed birthdays, and the never-ending nights away.
- Have a conversation about the way things like finances and household chores were handled in your individual households. Because, yes, hubby might just think the clothes he discards on the floor magically end up neatly washed and folded in his dresser the morning after.
- Once you’ve had the conversation mentioned in #3, decide together how to best run your household. And, remember, that this IS your household–you’re starting your own family so it’s important to compromise and decide what’s best for the two of you.
- In most cases (not all but most), venting about your spouse to your (or his) relatives is never a good idea. Family will always be looking out for your best interests and their take on a situation is rarely objective. While your in-the-moment venting can provide you with some temporary validation, it can also permanently damage your family’s relationship with your spouse. Instead of running to the phone to call mom, dad, or sis when your husband upsets you, take a moment to breath and reach out to someone who can give you a more objective viewpoint. Better yet, communicate with your spouse about what’s bothering you!
- It’s alright if you’re not contributing financially to the budget. I struggled with this so much during the first year when our finances were really tight and I couldn’t find a job that fit our needs. I felt like such a failure and eventually those feelings spiraled into depression. It was a tough pill to swallow but I finally came to realize that everything really does happen for a reason and in the right time.
- Spend at least 15 minutes sharing with each other about your day.
- Find your passion or a hobby you love. The military tends to rule most areas of our lives so it’s important to spend a little time on you and your interests, hopes, & dreams.
- Learn as much as you can about military life. It seems daunting but having a basic knowledge of all those acronyms, rank insignias, and basic courtesies will help you in the long run. The sooner you start learning, the better.
- Military life is not always fair. There I told you. Sometimes a return date will be postponed, your husband will be called in to work on a weekend or stuck late doing paperwork and you’ll wail inwardly “But…but…it isn’t faaaaaaiiiirr!” And you’ll be absolutely correct–accept it and keep looking forward.
- Choose your military spouse friends wisely. There is nothing like being able to commiserate with someone who is going through the same frustrations as you but, too often, I’ve met spouses whose complaints, bad attitudes, and dramatics drag down the morale of those around them.
- Life is what you make it. Let’s face it–you might absolutely hate your new duty station, you might be incredibly homesick, you might loathe your spouse’s work schedule with every fiber of your being….and if you focus only on the bad things about military life, soon that will be the only part you can see. Remember that your attitude can make or break you and try to bloom no matter where you’re planted.
- Learn to be flexible. It’s a hard skill, I know, but an invaluable one. If there’s one thing military life is full of, it’s last-minute changes.
- You are not alone! If you’re going through a tough time, during the newlywed phase or any stage of your military life, remember there are others who are probably going through the same things as you are. Find your tribe and learn from each other!
Have you ever gone through a tough spot in your marriage? How did you and your spouse overcome it? If you’re a military spouse, what tip would you give the newlywed military wife?