I had a wonderful opportunity to welcome a new spouse into the military lifestyle. A new officer and his fiancé arrived to our unit and we met up with them. She’s fabulous and we get along famously. But the thing that I found so very odd was the gap widening between us as the night progressed, despite us being close in age.
Each moment I spent with her, I started seeing differences between us in our knowledge, attitudes towards the military, and even how we view the USMC in general. I sat next to hear, listening to her speak and couldn’t understand this gap. We are not so different. We are of similar age and background. And when we spoke of things that were not military related, the gap would disappear.
But there was strangeness to our encounter. Something that made me feel both uncomfortable and unsure. And it was in this strangeness that it hit me, like a smack in the face or a punch to the nose. I am a seasoned military spouse in her eyes. To her, I know this life inside and out and there is no question that I can’t answer… To her, I am the one helping her understand what to do and when and what is acceptable and what is not.
Am I really a “seasoned” military spouse?
In the time I’ve been married to my husband and have had to learn the ins and outs of Tricare, ball attire and all the other parts of this life that make the USMC function, I have often looked to more experienced spouses. I associate officer’s spouses with being experienced and, well, seasoned in the ways of this life. I associate pretty much anyone with a higher rank than my husband to be the spouse that I can likely call when I need to know something.
But somewhere down the lines the tables turned. As people left the unit and new people arrived, fresh out of boot camp to take their places, suddenly I became the knowledgeable spouse that everyone turned to. And when officers arrive, fresh out of school, their spouses are unlikely to have experienced military life at all (with the exception of those who choose to become officers after having been enlisted, called “mustangs”).
More often than not, I feel lost in this life. I feel like I learn everything the hard way. It is an odd realization to discover that these women are looking to me, a girl who still feels fresh out of high school, for advice and wisdom. I still feel like I’ve barely been married to my husband, but five years is plenty of time to learn the ways of the Marine Corps from a spouse’s perspective.
How strange that I have suddenly become a spouse that others look to for help and understanding. I still feel like I could use a lot of that myself.