Celebrating Your Birthday Solo

When I became a military spouse, I knew there would be days and nights spent alone, especially when my service member was deployed. We had already spent many major holidays apart, so I was prepared to attend family activities without my husband. No one warned me about the little celebrations military spouses must navigate on their own, things like birthdays and anniversaries.

After 22 years with my service member, I have spent a lot of birthdays alone. The first few times, I was sad and upset we couldn’t be together to share my day. Eventually, I developed special ways to celebrate without him.

If you are a military spouse who will soon be celebrating your birthday solo, I know how frustrating it can feel to be apart from your service member on your special day. Instead of focusing on the negative challenge of being apart, try to see it as a unique opportunity to make your own plans, treat yourself and do exactly what you want.

In my book, Open When: Letters of Encouragement for Military Spouses, I have a letter called “Open When You Celebrate Your Birthday Alone.” It discusses the frustrating feelings of celebrating your birthday as a party of one, but it also provides support for military spouses in this situation:

“You won’t gain anything from crying about spending your day alone. Face it the best you can and prepare for it with intention. Sometimes you can’t count on other people to make your birthday special — not even your loved one. You just have to do it yourself. … If you are celebrating a birthday apart, the best thing to do is skip the pity party and throw a real party instead.”

You can still have fun on your birthday, even if your service member is away. This is your chance to do exactly what you want! Grab some friends (or curl up at home) and try these ideas.

Lizann and Kids

6 Ideas for Celebrating a Military Spouse Birthday:

  1. Treat yourself: You know exactly what you want for your birthday. This is your excuse to go ahead and get it — as long as it’s in line with your general household budget. Haha! Whether you’ve been wanting a new gadget or outfit, to spend the day at a spa or travel somewhere memorable with friends, your service member wants you to be happy. So go ahead and get your favorite gifts!
  2. Eat what you want: Maybe you and your service member like different things and it’s hard to agree on places to go out. No worries — today you control the menu! If you want cake for breakfast, you can do that. Want to order a bunch of appetizers to be delivered from your favorite restaurant? That’s okay too. If there’s a new restaurant you’ve been wanting to try, grab a friend and make a reservation.
  3. Gather with friends: Speaking of friends, you might need to plan so you aren’t alone on your special day. You’ll probably find that people are willing to go out of their way to make your birthday special while your service member is away. If you have a local friend group, plan a dinner or event, and make sure they know it’s for your birthday. If you have special long-distance friends, invite them to visit for the weekend. Or maybe you can meet somewhere halfway. Be proactive about surrounding yourself with supportive people when you need them.
  4. Fulfill a bucket list wish: A birthday is a great time to try something new and wild that you’ve always wanted to do. If it’s something your service member wouldn’t be interested in, this is the perfect opportunity to cross it off your bucket list. Travel somewhere new, try a new hobby, get tickets for something memorable and invite a friend to share in the fun.
  5. Relax at home: Maybe new, wild and crazy is not your speed right now. That’s completely okay. On your birthday, you have permission to take the day off from work, sleep in and do something that refreshes you. Whether you binge watch your favorite show, take a long bath or schedule a local massage, plan a day that fulfills your needs right now.
  6. Express your expectations: Most importantly, discuss your birthday expectations so your service member knows how to support you from a distance. Do you want flowers or a thoughtful gift? Do you expect a long video call? Can you wait and celebrate together when you are reunited? Be honest about what you want so you won’t be disappointed.

However you celebrate this year, I wish you a very happy birthday, and I hope your service member can celebrate the next one with you!

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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