Finding a balance: dreams and realities of military spouses.

I spent the weekend with a group of fellow Navy wives in Tokyo. We were there to celebrate the birthday of my very dear friend, but it was also a chance for us to catch-up, bond, and take our minds off of the fact that our husbands have been gone for many weeks, and that the next deployment is looming.

I especially love spending time with this group of wives because we are all childless and former career women. These two qualities define our world. We left our career goals and advancements behind when we moved here with our husbands. We navigate a family-oriented, child-full world with our childless marriages. Some of us are trying to get pregnant, while some of us are enjoying our childless time. But, we share very similar lifestyles and restlessness. We are restless because we miss all that comes with having a career of our own — knowing that we are making a difference in the world, the paycheck, the constant push to the next goal, and, quite frankly, having a little piece of life that is our’s, and our’s alone.

With all that said, we followed our husbands here with a heart full of love, and we fill our days with new things that matter. Each of us glow with love when we speak of our husband, and our shared life experience frames our friendship.

The ladies in my group of friends have accepted our currently career-less life, but once in a while I meet someone here who is still struggling. It is not easy, especially for those of us whose career was majorly negatively impacted when the Navy assigned our husband to Japan. Those wives seem to struggle the most with the idea that the military is no longer supporting their goals; that they won’t be able to reach their personal goals because of the demands of the military lifestyle.

I understand why they feel this way. It’s difficult to move every 2 – 4 years, and very few of us are able to stay in one location for longer then 2 tours. Sometimes the military hurried a relationship, and they found themselves married and moving within a year of meeting their now-husband (this is what happened to me!). It seems like most of these struggling wives are very in love with their husband, but they are not in love with his career, and they resent that they are now subject to the military’s unpredictible movements and changes.

To these ladies, I’d like to offer a lesson that I’ve learned while living here: your goals can be met, and you can achieve your dreams, but you will have to frame those dreams within the military timeline and lifestyle. It’s not easy, but if you can do this, you will be a lot happier and you will slowly accomplish your dreams and ambitions. Do not give-up on your dreams, but find ways to make your dreams work in this life.

Here is an example: You are planning a family vacation. Your family is stationed in Virginia, and you’d love to go to Hawaii. You expect that your husband will be able to take a full 2 weeks off. Surprisingly, his leave request was not granted, and he is only able to take a 4 day weekend. You are CRUSHED! You had been planning this trip for the last 8 months, and you had saved enough money to make the trip feasible. You have two choices: you can be wallow in sadness and half heartedly plan something else for the long weekend, or you can brush it off, plan something awesome for the 4 day weekend, and then plan an even bigger and better Hawaii vacation for after your husband’s next deployment.

I think that it is easy (and understandable!) to want to wallow in sadness and self pity for a while. You’re angry that his leave wasn’t approved, and you’re disappointed that the trip of your dreams isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future. But, do you really want to waste those 4 days doing something half-heartedly? Do you want to miss-out on an opportunity to do something amazing with your family because you’re too wrapped-up with the fact that you’re not in Hawaii?

Sometimes we military spouses have to just roll with it, reframe our expectations on a day-to-day basis, and find creative ways to live our dreams and meet our goals.

In my case, I am working on an online degree. This is NOT ideal — I will HAVE to do a PhD at some point in order to reach my goals, and we have no idea when we’ll live close enough to a major university for me to do a PhD. If I want to do it soon, my husband and I may have to live apart. Is a PhD worth missed time with my husband? This is a very disappointing and sad prospect for me — PhD and not live with my husband, or no PhD. We don’t yet know how to remedy this, BUT we WILL find a way to accomplish my goal of earning a PhD. It won’t be on our desired timeline, but it will happen. Perhaps the military will surprise us and something will workout. Perhaps we will surprise ourselves and we will find a solution. Perhaps a better opportunity will pop up between now and then, and everything will fall into place.

We don’t know, but we’re going to roll with it.

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