Lizann's book

Much-Needed Support for Military Spouses

It’s no secret that military spouses need support at numerous moments throughout military life. PCS moves are stressful for everyone. Deployments can be emotionally draining. Living far from family can leave military spouses feeling like they don’t have a supportive network.

So yes, military spouses can often use support. But where can they expect to find it? Non-military friends and neighbors often do not understand the unique challenges of military life. Programs and supportive resources available at one base may not exist at the next one. In-person activities and events were in decline even before the pandemic, as increasing numbers of military spouses have been seeking full-time employment. Social media groups and pages — while convenient and accessible — are unreliable and often dissolve into name-calling or petty drama.

The MilSpouse community still faces many of the same challenges it has dealt with for generations: global conflict, frequent moves and uncertain plans for families. We still need support to face these trials, but the help military spouses crave has come a long way from the days of white gloves and tea parties.

In lieu of fancy traditions and structured spouse groups, many military spouses now seek support that is individual, empathetic and readily available. That is exactly the reassuring and supportive message found in the new book, Open When: Letters of Encouragement for Military Spouses. I wrote this book, with letters for military spouses to “open when” they are facing various challenges of military life, to be a refreshing new resource to support our community.

What kind of support do military spouses really need?

After working with young military spouses for the past six years, I noticed a shortage of resources for the emotional needs of military spouses. Sure, we can use Google to learn more about a new duty station or read a “Military 101” booklet to learn about TRICARE or DEERS, but those resources feel cold and impersonal. Here’s the support that is usually missing in our community.

Acknowledgement of shared hardships

Military spouses or significant others want to be seen and understood. With only 1% of the American population serving in the active-duty military, most civilians don’t understand the challenges of PCS moves, training missions or deployments. Living far from family can feel isolating. We seek validation from the military community to help determine what emotions are “normal.” We want solidarity with others facing common struggles during the MilSpouse journey. Sharing a burden and acknowledging it as a common challenge makes it easier for everyone to bear.

Encouraging advice

When dealing with military life struggles, no one likes to be shut down and told to “suck it up” or “put on your big girl panties.” When someone asks for support, they want a helping hand, not a lecture about how their situation could be much worse. We want more practical support to help us take the next step forward. We want someone who will patiently answer our questions about how to prepare for a PCS move or offer strategies for solo parenting during deployment. The most meaningful support is encouraging advice because this will actually make the journey easier.

Positive MilSpouse role models

Military relationships are challenging, and spouses are surrounded by stories of failures. Whether it is their friends and family members who assume the service member will cheat, or social media groups who bully and trash spouses for the tiniest things, we are all familiar with the negative stereotypes of military relationships. What we crave are success stories of military spouses who made it — those who have a happy marriage for more than two decades, a successful career despite all the moves, or a positive accomplishment during deployment. We want to hear stories of spouses who demonstrated strength in challenging situations so we can be inspired to find our own strengths. On a difficult day, military spouses want to be able to see a glimmer of light on the road ahead.

New book offers support for spouses to “open when” needed

Our MilSpouse community has needed a resource that focuses on acknowledging hardships, encouraging advice and positive role models. These were my guiding principles when I wrote each letter of the “Open When” book. I wanted each chapter to feel like a warm conversation with a friend who gets military life — someone who has been there and understands the challenge, but who also offers encouragement and inspiration to help you move through it. Consider using this approach next time you’re speaking to a MilSpouse friend who is struggling with the numerous frustrations of military life.  Read this book when you need support for your own military journey!

Lizann Lightfoot
Written By Lizann Lightfoot
Marine Corps Spouse

Lizann is the Seasoned Spouse – a Marine Corps wife, mom of four and published author. She loves writing, exploring new duty stations and chocolate!

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