Marrying into the military can be scary, especially for those of us who don’t always follow the status quo. However, one little-known thing about the military is that all sorts of people join.
We have chosen to stay in the military due to health concerns — the health insurance is amazing (my daughter had surgery for free, including all of her follow-up treatments). I also had a midwife throughout my pregnancy (covered!) and had a friend who used a doula (not covered, but welcomed) for both of hers. Many members of the military that I have met support gays/lesbians joining. A lot of the spouses are also artists, singers, tattoo artists, DIY fanatics, ravers, etc… you just have to find them!
Something else that might surprise you is that many military programs for dependants are in desperate need of artsy/offbeat parents. There are children’s art programs, theater workshops, and dance classes that need people to teach them. For instance, a FRG (Family Readiness Group or other military branch equivalent) would love to host a workshop on how to decorate a rental home.
I have also realized that the military NEEDS offbeat moms (and others) to become involved, because a majority of changes come from within (and to an extent with issues dictated by Congressional law — but that is another topic entirely). There are also career-orientated volunteer opportunities such as a rape-crisis counselor, working at JAG (aka Legal department), and so forth.
There are, of course, issues with the military that I cannot ignore. For the longest time I thought it was disgraceful that a service member had to keep his/her sexual orientation quiet. Thankfully that issue has finally been addressed and this coming fall the military will take one step closer towards equality.
In the end though, whether or not you can live the military life comes down to you as an individual. Can you handle the fact that your spouse will be involved in the military?
I am also against most forms of military aggression in general, but do support the protection of innocent lives. There are positive sides that I try to focus on, like the humanitarian effort from the military (both active and reserve) during disasters. In the end though, whether or not you can live the military life comes down to you as an individual. Can you handle the fact that your spouse will be involved in the military? Is it something you are willing to compromise on to continue your relationship? No one but you can answer those questions or make that decision.
I married a bartender. I married a goofy, bearded, garage band kid. In May he left for Air Force basic training.
Personally, I found myself judging people way too much in the military. I wouldn’t go to FRG meetings because I just knew no one would care to see me; I didn’t want to hang out with military-related people because I thought their conservative ideas made them so narrow-minded. This is where I went wrong in the beginning — this fear gripped me and in retrospect really hindered my ability to cope with being military.
I have finally started to force myself out more. Some of the people I’ve met do fit into the stereotypes — conservative and liberal. There are also so many people who don’t. Like you’ll find anywhere, just about anyone can provide hours worth of conversations and amazing book recommendations. It also doesn’t matter what color your hair is or how many tattoos you have when your spouse deploys — deployments suck for everyone. In the end it is nice to have a group of people who understand the military aspect of your life to bitch with over coffee or wine.
I wrote this with the goal of telling the military offbeat moms out there that military life can be awesome. Try to embrace the positives that come with a military lifestyle. Avoid what I did in the beginning — rejecting a supposedly-conformist lifestyle out of fear. In the end, it’s just like the civilian world — we’re all trying to find a niche, define ourselves, and embrace life.
Looking for an online place to commune with fellow non-traditional military spouses? Check out Unconventional Military Spouse on Facebook! — Stephanie
Comments on Surprising discoveries I’ve made in my life as an offbeat military wife
Oh I wish this had been posted earlier because I think it would have especially helped me last summer, but I am so glad that you have shared your story. My husband’s contract with the military (canadian) just ended although he is now thinking of joining the reserves (so I guess that makes me a former/future army wife). I met my partner working on an organic farm over 4 years ago. I identify as an academic feminist hippy and I thought that since we met while farming my partner was as liberal as I was. I was deeply in love with him before he announced his plans to enlist in the army. By the next summer he was in basic training. I would travel on a bus sometimes more than 18 hours to see him (we were living in different countries at the time). The longest we had to go without seeing each other was 6 months (and I realize that I am lucky compared to what some other spouses have to endure when it comes to deployments of over a year). All of that time apart was so hard on me and none of my friends could understand. I went to a very liberal university and not only could many of my friends (not my closest but more of my semi-friends) not understand how scared I was (such as my fears about a possible deployment to Afghanistan that at a time was very likely) but they gave me a hard time for being with someone in the military. I had no community of spouses/ army girlfriends/boyfriends/partners to find comfort in so I started a military family support group which only attracted 4 other students (and that was a comfort). What really helped me was looking at online forums to hear other peoples’ stories- to me at the time it didn’t matter if someone identified as offbeat. I just wanted to hear about others who were dealing with all of the time apart from their loved ones. I also found a lot of comfort in the show Army Wives despite some of its cheesiness and melodrama. When I graduated from my undergraduate university program my partner and I got married and I moved in with him on a base located in a very isolated region of northern quebec. Although I speak french I am much more shy in it and was not legally able to work as I was awaiting a permit. I felt completely alone. I could not bond with pretty much every other wife that I met whether she was anglophone or francophone because they all had kids and that really consumed their time- whereas I was getting geared up to start my phd in the fall. I’m not trying to overgeneralize about moms- I think moms can be great. Just these moms and I didn’t seem to have much in common. I realize I could have tried to meet more people in the community- for example I went to rock climbing groups but I mostly just seemed to fit in with the female soldiers who when they found out I wasn’t enlisted but was rather a spouse decided not to talk to me. After that I kind of gave up. I felt really alone and isolated and if there was anything like an FRG on our base, I had no knowledge of it. My advice to anyone who can’t seem to find their community on their base is to realize that the web also can provide community and advice for some of the military stuff and it is okay if most of your other relationships aren’t with military people too. Just reading everyone else’s posts has felt really inclusive.
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