Being a military wife is a special calling and some days are tough. For the last 13 years, I have stood by my husband’s side while he has proudly served our country in the United States Navy. In those years, we have often spent more holidays, birthdays and anniversaries apart than we have together. We have moved far away from family and said goodbye to friends one too many times. While he leaves to serve on deployment, I serve at home.
Whether it’s deployments, school, or training, shifting the responsibilities shared by two people to one person for an extended period of time can create an increase in anxiety, anger, even depression. Life gets complicated, things break, and you get tired. Having a community of people helps to ease the isolation and difficulties that can arise from the long deployments and frequent moves. Sometimes this means building a community of friends who have absolutely no idea what it is like to be a military spouse.
When you have a military spouse as a friend, it can be a challenge to know just how to provide support when you don’t really understand the lifestyle. So, here are three ways you can to support the military spouse in your life, community, or church.
1. Understand that it doesn’t get easier.
Whether it is the first deployment or the fifth, being separated from your spouse is not an easy task. The responsibilities are multiplied and emotions swirl. Many military spouses are now solely responsible for taking care of finances, running kids to and from school, and fixing all of the multiple things that love to break around the house, sometimes without any family. On top of all of that, we worry about the unknowns. Is he safe? Has he been hurt? When will he return home? We live by our phones waiting for an email or hoping we won’t miss the long-awaited call. All of this pressure can cause some days to just be hard. So no matter how many times you endure a deployment, it just never gets easier.
Many military spouses can go into survival mode when their spouses leave for deployments, believing that we can do it all because we have to do it all. Sometimes it takes someone stepping in to ask how to help without being prompted. Send the text. Ask how to help. Ask how she is doing. Is there something you could do to help around the house? Are you able to watch the kids for a couple of hours? Ask the difficult questions and listen well.
3. Be present
Being a friend is the best way to support a military spouse. Even if you don’t understand what your military-spouse friend may be going through, simply providing the space for her to talk, vent or even cry makes a tremendous difference. Military life is often lonely. Showing up on a regular basis whether that means going to lunch, stopping by for a walk, or sending a text helps the military spouse to stay connected and build a community. This can be particularly important around major holidays and during family events. Creating intentional time together reminds the spouse she is not alone, even when it can feel that way. Serving at home is easier to do when you have a community of friends who show up to support and love you consistently.
When you take time to be a friend for a military spouse, you are helping to provide care to the entire family. Plus, the service member can take comfort in knowing that his spouse and family are being cared for in his absence. Your friendship makes a difference.