Congratulations on your engagement to the military — err, your fiancé. Actually, you know what, it’s best that we lose the sugarcoating sooner rather than later: You really are marrying your fiancé and the military. And while we’re clearing things up, the military wears the pants in this matrimony.
I remember being a military girlfriend before I was a military spouse — there was a whole world I didn’t know about. I didn’t even know the right questions to ask, because there were answers I didn’t even know I needed.
But ever since that saber slap to the rear, I’ve never been the same. I learned quickly that military plans trump my plans and that the best way to figure something out is to ask the real experts, fellow military spouses. So, as my wedding gift to you, here are some military-life myths that are so busted.
Myth 1: Your service member’s salary increases with every new dependent.
Yes and no. You are a salary increase (unless your soon-to-be spouse is already a parent), but any future, adorable kids won’t get your spouse a raise. It’s a one-and-done situation.
Myth 2: Someone, somewhere will tell you everything you need to know.
Oh, if only there was an appointed military spouse fairy godmother — unfortunately, there’s not (told you we weren’t sugarcoating anything). You’ll spend a lot of time tracking down your own answers, and sometimes different people will give you different answers to the same questions. Talk about fun!
Myth 3: Homecomings are the stuff of dreams.
Chances are you’ll look forward to a homecoming just as much as your wedding day — and rightfully so. But it’s important to wrap your mind around the idea that it only needs to be perfect for you and your spouse; it will never seem perfect to anyone else. My husband’s first homecoming was delayed two days. All the plans I made to welcome him home were foiled. And he finally came home in the middle of one freezing, cold night. There was no brass band. There was no ceremonial flyover. It wasn’t what I expected, but it is still one of the best days of my life.
Myth 4: Give it time; you’ll get the hang of it. See also: It will all make sense in a few years.
No, some things will never make sense. Other things will start to make sense, then those things will change. Do other spouses a favor: If you make sense of a part of military life, share it with your peers. Write a blog. Write a book. Post it on Facebook.
Myth 5: It’s hard to make new friends after each move.
The military community is a welcoming one! Once you make some friends after your first PCS, you’re golden. After that, you’ll always have a friend of a friend somewhere. And military spouses who came before us would envy the existence of social media groups, our addition to the typical clubs and mandatory fun “opportunities.”
Myth 6: Uniforms are always irresistible.
There’s still nothing like seeing my Marine in his uniform (any one of them). But the enchantment fades ever so slightly when you smell your first overripe flight suit or you have to start budgeting extra time in your morning routine to assist with buttoning, pinning, rolling, creasing and tucking.
Myth 7: Moving is a pain.
Moving has actually become my favorite part of military life. Sure, I’m a little jealous of my friends who’ve settled into their dream houses, but our time is coming. We just have to go see the world first — and that’s pretty awesome.
Myth 8: Everything is free!
There’s no easy way to tell you that you do have to pay for your groceries…and vacations…and your spouse’s uniforms. Military families get a few awesome benefits, like basic medical and dental needs, rentals from Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and…umm…your ID card is free. Commissary groceries are up to 30 percent cheaper than the supermarket down the street, and you can avoid tax by shopping on base. Housing will also cost you your basic housing allowance (sometimes more), so house hunt wisely.
Myth 9: Only the outgoing spouses make it in the military.
Type A, type B — it doesn’t matter as long as you have a healthy amount of love for your service member, a side of flexibility and a fine-tuned sense of humor.
Myth 10: Military kids are “brats.”
I lived in the same town for 22 years, so I had no idea how to help my kids who move every 2-3 years. But they’re great! My son is social. My daughter goes with the flow. They are resilient. They are patriotic. They are respectful. They both love the moving adventure, and I always make a point to tell my kids how lucky they are. They’ll learn about the Grand Canyon, the Golden Gate Bridge, etc. at school, and they’ve been there. They’ve seen them firsthand.
Myth 11: You can kiss your career goodbye.
I’ll be honest, moving and involuntarily catering to your service member’s career makes your own career progression a bigger challenge than it is for some people. But, military spouses — I believe — have some advantages. We have access to educational benefits, like the GI Bill. Programs like the Military Spouse Employment Partnership and Spouse Education and Career Opportunities are making strides to keep spouses military spouses employed. These days, we also have telecommuting in our back pocket. I’ve worked remotely for nearly 7 years. And, if you’re still not convinced, military life actually led me down a career path I never expected. It didn’t break my career; it made it.