If you’re a military spouse, you have no doubt been in the “who had it worse” conversation competition. PCSing, deployments and general military life can give us a lot of material for the “woe is me” exchanges. This life brings us closer in a lot of ways. We can all relate so easily to one another. We understand a lot of common hardships that most people just don’t experience (including our extended family). The compulsion to share often turns into an unhealthy competition. I’ve been noticing this over the last few years. I think we should take a minute to think about it.
If you spend any time at all on any military spouse’s social media page, you see how incredibly lacking we are in positive connections. We speak past each other by comparing our struggles. I’m just so tired of relating to each other in this way. Have you noticed the conversations just end when the last person shares their crazy story to top yours? There’s nothing more to say because there aren’t any real connections or exchanges taking place.
We are all so frustrated. We want to feel heard and understood. Sometimes we think the most authentic way to listen is by sharing a similar story, so the person knows we understand them. It only ends up stealing away any depth of the conversation. I tell a story, you tell a similar story, then the conversation ends. Believe me, this is how I learned to communicate with people and how I continued to for a very long time. It isn’t a real connection. What it really is, is selfish.
There must be a better way to feel heard and understood while developing deeper connections. I’m no conversation expert, but I believe it must end with one-upping. It starts with focusing on the other person completely. If we are waiting for someone to finish so we can share our “crazier” story, then we aren’t really listening. We can commiserate without competition. I’ve learned that when you make deeper connections, then you get to tell your story. You are listened to closer because someone asked to hear it.
Truly, our stories can fill libraries. Probably repeatedly. We connect on so many things without ever knowing each other. We all share a bond that no one else understands. It’s a sacred community. We have all earned our spots. We never need to prove that. Especially to each other. Even if someone has never had a bad PCS experience, or never gone through a deployment with a spouse, or if you don’t have kids — we all belong here. Let’s take our experiences, and instead of shouting at each other, let’s find healthier ways to communicate. Let’s listen and comfort. Let’s connect on a deeper level.