Being a military spouse doesn’t come with a manual and it’s fair to say that we don’t always know what we’re getting into. I asked military spouses from different branches what they wish they had known about being a military spouse. Here are the truths they shared with me:

What I Wish I'd Known

Time Apart

  • I wish I knew how often my husband would be gone. Coming in I thought my husband would only be gone for deployments, but that has definitely not been the case! I didn’t realize how often he would be gone for field exercises, details and CQ. ~Kalyn, Army wife, married 3 years
  • I just had to explain to my 3-year-old why daddy is leaving for the 7th time since the beginning of the year. I wish I knew how much it would suck! I wish I knew how much time we would spend apart. I wish I knew how unfair this life can be. I wish I knew that it was all worth it because most days I’m not sure. Just kidding, well kinda. ~Alyssa, Navy wife, married 4 years
  • I wish I knew how upsetting it would be to see friends complain on social media how they are going to miss their loved one who will only be gone a day or two, when mine can be gone for days to a year with or without notice. ~Amy, Army wife, married 6 years
  • I wish I knew that as hard as it is to be apart it would allow me to grow into someone who is strong and independent. ~Maria, Navy wife, married 5 years

Friendship

  • I wish I’d known that opposites attract. Some of my best military spouse friends are total opposites but it makes for a strong tribe like no other. ~Margarita, Army wife, married 4 years
  • I wish I knew how hard it would be to leave my first friends I gained as a military spouse. You meet many friends along the way, but there’s something about the people who reach out to you when you’re a 19-year-old newlywed living in a foreign country. We’re still great friends even after splitting up to new duty stations. ~Sarah, Army wife, married 4 years
  • I wish I had known that I would make such amazing friendships in the military. I tried to avoid socializing with other spouses at first because my husband told me they were all crazy. Haha! Some of my best friends are fellow military spouses because they understand the life and are quick to lend a helping hand. The best part? We can go years without seeing each other and it’s as if only days have passed. ~Ali, Navy spouse, married 6 years

Life on Base

  • I wish I knew about tipping the baggers! My first experience had me paying her with 2$ worth of quarters! ~Shandi, Army wife, married 9 years
  • I wish I knew how much military housing would suck and the fact they don’t give you the two to three choices the regulations state they are supposed to. ~Amanda, Marine wife, married 7 years
  • I wish I knew just how poorly the military treats the service members who need medical help, physical and mental. ~Jen, Army wife, married 9 years
  • I wish I knew that I would stand at the movie theater for the national anthem every time I went to the movies. The first time I went, I was so confused why everyone was standing up when the lights started going dim. ~Amy, Army wife, married 6 years

Flexibility and Change

  • I wish I knew that I was going to need a lot of patience, understanding and flexibility. There’s only one thing that stays the same — change. Patience and understanding will get you a long way when dealing with last-minute changes and days, weeks, months, and years apart through all the important days for you and the family. ~Nicole, Army wife, married 14 years
  • I wish I knew that change would be my new constant. New places, new friends, a new home every few years.~Claire, Air Force wife, married 10 years
  • I wish I’d know how little notice I’d have. I knew I would have little control but I wasn’t prepared for continuous last-minute changes. We had eight days to get cleared out of California and drive to Texas not knowing when my husband was going to be TDY until the day before! I have accepted that I cannot control it, but it still gets to me when things are last minute. ~Kelsey, Army wife, married 5 years

When Military Duty Comes First

  • I wish I knew that the plans that you may have, always come second to the plans the military has for you. You should have a plan a, b, and c at all times. Things seem to change very quickly in military life. ~Erika, Air Force wife, married 7.5 years.
  • I wish I knew that I would be second in line to the Army. The mission comes first…there would be many birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries missed. ~Leah, Army wife, married 9 years
  • I wish I knew how easy it would be to put my own goals on the back burner. Even with an incredibly supportive husband, who pushes me all the time to go for my dreams, it is very easy to tell myself that something isn’t as important or isn’t feasible because of our lifestyle. ~Nicole, Navy wife, married 5 years
  • I wish I knew being a military spouse I would not be able to see my family as much. I wish I knew being a military spouse I would no longer be working or completing school due to my husband’s work schedule. ~Princess, Air Force wife, married 6 years

Moving

  • I wish I knew how hard PCS’ing is on a family. When I married my husband I had no clue we would move every 3 years….and how hard that would be on our kids. ~Nicole, Army wife, married 5 years
  • I wish I knew how hard it would be to find a job every time we move. It’s pretty tough finding a career when you move every 3 years. I also wish I knew how to remain patient and organized before a deployment. This is probably the biggest one. Deployments were constantly getting pushed back and canceled, so when it became real, I had no idea what to do and lost my patience with everything. I learned maybe a little too late to make lists and tackle one thing at a time. ~Sarah, Army wife, married 4 years
  • I wish I knew how hard it would be to move so often with little kids. My son still asks when he is going to see his friends from the last post and talks about things he misses. On the bright side, I wish I knew that I would one day have friends all over the world and the opportunity to travel!! I would have married a soldier a lot sooner! ~Amy, Army wife, married 6 years

I’d like to thank the military spouses who shared their thoughts with me, both positive and negative. Being the other half to a service member comes with incredible challenges and benefits, but one thing is certain — we are not in this alone.

Jackie Toops Head ShotA self-described “Jackie of All Trades,” Army wife Jackie Toops is a mother of two and enjoys writing, travel, art, languages, slow cooking and peaceful parenting. She studied Interdisciplinary Humanities, Museum Studies and Nonprofit Management, and has overseen public relations for museums, galleries and universities. She is a contributing author for Wall Street International Magazine and has discussed her articles on-air with AFN Wiesbaden. She’s usually seen adventuring with her Canon, a coffee and two small children. Follow her on Twitter.

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A self-described “Jackie of All Trades,” Army wife Jackie Toops enjoys exploring the various facets of her personality by chronicling military life, world travels, family, her love of the arts and more. Her academic background is in the fields of Interdisciplinary Humanities, Museum Studies and Nonprofit Management, and she has overseen public relations for museums, galleries and universities. Jackie’s articles have been featured on Army Wife 101, Wall Street International Magazine, SoFluential, HomeAway, Military Biz Connection and FamiliesGo. While stationed in Germany, she regularly discussed her articles on-air with the Armed Forces Network in Wiesbaden. A mother of two, Jackie enjoys coffee, freelance writing, languages and discovering new ways to express herself. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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