Note: This is an opinion piece is does not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of Daily Mom Military.
I felt compelled to write this as a counter opinion to an article recently posted, and then deleted, on a military spouse publication entitled “5 Reasons I love Being Married to an Enlisted Service Member and Not an Officer.” Speaking from my personal experience it’s not the rank; it’s the person with whom you choose to take this adventure with that matters.
As a former spouse of an enlisted United States sailor and the current and forever wife of an USMC Officer I have experienced both sides of the spectrum. Frankly when rank is incorporated in any situation it is an excellent method that will diminish your social circle and turn away fantastic people very rapidly. In reality, no one of true value will really care about what it is your spouse does. The fact of the matter is, as long as a spouse is able to separate their individual identity from that of their counterpart’s pay grade, it does not and should not have an affect on their partners personal or social circumstances. As military spouses we are all in the same boat.
5 Reasons Why Officer Spouses and Enlisted Spouses are Actually the Same
“An enlisted spouse is more likely to pass someone’s expectations”
But actually- ANY Military Spouse can surpass ANYONE’S expectation – at anytime.
The commonality that binds military spouses together regardless of branch or rank is their partner’s willingness to serve our great nation. The dedication to uproot and move across the country from family in order to maintain a consistent home front for our spouses (only to potentially have to uproot and move again in another three years) is one that surpasses the average civilian expectation. My father-in-law, a former Marine, once told me that the one thing that can hinder a service member’s career and attitude about it is how the partner supports him at home. I take great pride in knowing that I have maintained the most supportive and best home front that my husband ever thought possible. This notion instills more pride within me than I could ever being to express verbally. Such support is needed regardless of the rank of the service member. In order for our men and women to perform and give our country their best, spouses must take pride in surpassing the average daily expectation of the civilian life.
As an enlisted serviceman’s spouse I earned my first Graduate Degree and currently I am in the process of earning my second. The key to self-fulfillment is to surpass your own goals. If others are impressed by your accomplishments awesome, but if we limit our accomplishments based on surpassing other’s expectations we will eventually feel insignificant when we fail to gain praise from them. Being a military spouse with a fortified marriage should be enough for anyone regardless of age, rank, race, religion or branch. It does not make up our identity it its entirety but it is a facet of who we are as spouses as we take pride in knowing that we daily provide for the men and woman that maintain our national safety.
The ability to put up our front and act like everything is ok to the outside world takes a level of strength that only those who have experienced it would understand. We have mastered the smile and nod concept far beyond anything any civilian could ever have thought possible as we deal with the endless circumstances that result from their absence. When other family members or outsiders say that they are glad one deployment is over, we have to smile knowing deep down that it more than likely is not the last one. We know that while others are terrified to be in such locations at times our men and woman enjoy doing what they do. Being able to internalize this and press on a day-to-day life as normal makes us all deserving regardless of our spouses rank.
“As an Officer spouse, you always have to have your house on display.”
But actually- A house is only on display when you want it to on display
As someone who has lived in both enlisted and officer housing I can testify to the fact that houses on both sides of the coin can be wrecks at any given time. Mess is not rank specific, and anyone who says otherwise is either delusional or flat out lying. Those knows me personally can testify to the fact that at times my car can be a disaster. One day I dropped my oldest off at school in the car lane. As she exited a Chic-fil-A cup fell out and maybe a recipe or two. My dear friend (also an officer spouse) was directing traffic and helped me by throwing the cup and papers back in my car. She shrugged and said, “Life Happens.” We presently live in Officer Grade housing, I can testify that officer spouses live just like any other spouse. We have the ability to invite guests in our house or talk to them on our lawn if our house is disheveled. We can block off rooms if places are not up to par. We too can have loads of laundry overflowing and unfolded clothes .
Last Christmas I toured several homes in our area over the Holiday season within our officer spouse community. Houses ranging from low ranking officers to that of an outstanding General were exhibited and everyone had a fabulous time. Some homes were fully open, meaning guests were permitted walk all over and observe the eloquently decorated dwellings. Others had rooms that were off limits. Even a particular house of higher-ranking officer had their upstairs off limits to visitors. Now I am not speculating by any means that the blocked off rooms meant that they were a disaster, what I am trying to illustrate is that we all as spouses have the ability to establish boundaries for outside visitors. As I am typing this article I realize that I am doing so in one of my husband’s battalion shirts and one of the many pairs of silkiest I wear when I am at home doing my everyday wife duties. How is that for Officer Spouse chic? Yep, we are just normal wives.
“Officer spouses are required to volunteer or attend certain events.”
But actually- Obligations are a moot point
As a military spouse you should only be compelled to fulfill and maintain the responsibilities that are agreed on between the couple as a unit. As my husband’s wife I loved and still love volunteering. When we moved to this duty station I adored being apart of the command team, and baking for the Marines who had to stand duty on Christmas or helping with the command breakfast after they endured an insanely difficult PT. I did all of these things on my own accord and not because I was obligated because of my husbands rank. If I am being completely honest most of the other volunteers were spouses of enlisted marines so there goes the argument that officer spouses are more obligated, we are just like anyone else. If a spouse feels obligated then that is a result of the environment within their marriage not the fault of service member’s position.
Shortly after we conceived my daughter, I became insanely sick. I was unable to volunteer as much as wanted to. Everyone understood completely. I helped out when I felt like it and I stayed home when I did not “bare foot & pregnant” in my husband’s skivvies and silk shorts. This lifestyle has zero power in enforcing any obligation on a spouse. Those who feel that they are obligated need to take a step back and evaluate what it is that actually makes them truly happy. If they love to help out, then go for it; however, if they would rather stay home and maintain a lower key lifestyle then have at it. I have witnessed wives of various ranking service members excersise both opitons. At the end of the day a mentally happy and healthy spouse is what is going to be most beneficial to the service member. This lifestyle can get overwhelming on all fronts and no one is required to say yes to something that they do not feel that they can dedicate 100% of themselves too.
“Officers, and their spouses, are always “on” and you have to watch what you say and do”
But actually- “Service Member” Role and “The Husband” Role are Seperate
My husband, like many fantastic service men and women (regardless of rank) I know has an amazing ability utilize his military “On & Off Switch.” The most successful of military leaders have mastered this skill as well and I know many wives can testify to this both hailing both from enlisted and officer circles. In order to be a successful leader in the military and an amazing family man this tactic is a MUST.
What I mean by this concept is that from the time my husband’s drives into work until the time he drives home he is in his “warrior mode”. Once he calls on his way home from work he switches back into the husband/daddy role, which makes him the rock of our family. Sure, he has the ability to fluctuate between both roles during emergent times but he has mastered separating both of these concepts very well. With that mind set in play by leaving I have zero insight as to what happens at work aside from him praising his Marines. Any unnecessary information or drama that is dealt with beyond the security gate is not discussed at home. Therefore, I do not have clue or privileged information as to who may or may not be satisfied with his leadership skill set. We have run into several of Marines during his down time and every single solitary time my husband is greeted with respect and a handshake. At times these encounters have led to social gatherings. I can only gather from the interactions that I have witnessed that he is an outstanding leader just as he is a husband and father. Additionally I have heard praises and positive feedback from other wives based on their husband’s interactions with him. Therefore I have the utmost confidence in my husband, as I know he is a true Marine and an ideal leader.
There may times while at the commissary or PX where someone may express a disgruntled look towards another spouse but lets face it, more than likely it is not anything to take personal. The confidence that I have in my husbands ability to use his military “On & Off” switch provides me with the confidence in knowing that nothing could happen in our home that could ever cause him to negatively shift his attitude towards his Marines. I have not known any wife to correlate drama that exists among them as a result of their husband’s work. Honestly most of the scowls and gossip stems from drama that is perpetuated within the spouse circle and not because of their spouses performance or lack there of at work. Half of us don’t really know what it is our spouses actually do because their duties change so frequently, let alone whose spouses they work around.
“Officer spouses have to follow unspoken rules”
But actually- Unwritten rules are for the birds
I was recently browsing in the PX with my 18-month old daughter in the early afternoon. During that time of the day the food court is flooded with service members in their cammies. My daughter in all of her innocence must have called at least 5 Marines “Daddy.” She did not recognize whether or not the men were adorned with shiny insignia, she simply associated the woodland green uniform with her daddy. I wish that spouses on both sides of the spectrum would view service members in the same fashion as our daughter. They are all men and woman who have been molded by a framework. Even though most had endured boot camp and some the Naval Academy in Annapolis or OCS they all were part of the same team. The food court during the lunch hour can serve as a valuable reminder. Composed of mostly Marines and Sailors, with different job skill sets, they individually serve a component of the military’s overall purpose.
My husband and I took a Lyft in San Diego after a date night. I am known to be quite a “Chatty Cathy” after a few margaritas and as a result I started a conversation with the driver. It turned out he was in the Marine Corps as well and he asked my husband if he was an officer or if he was enlisted. My husband then answered humbly, “I am an officer.” The driver was immediately surprised and said, “So sorry Sir, by how outgoing your wife is I thought you were an enlisted couple.” What in the heavens is this supposed to mean? As an officer wife am I supposed to act like a wet towel? I have and always been outgoing socially and that facet of my personality did not and does not need to shift as a result of my marriage to my husband, who by description was a field grade officer on the day we wed. However that title was so far removed from my perspective of him. He was just Dan, the tall and handsome pilot who swept me off my feet from day one!
Since marrying my husband my social circle has certainly expanded. My circle of close friends includes wives of both enlisted members and officers. The most important thing to recognize in order to make it through this lifestyle successfully is that everyone deserves to be put on a pedestal. This them or us divisive mentality is archaic and it needs to be buried. My husband often mentions how hard is career would be without his Marines, so why should it be any different for a spouse trying to survive this lifestyle? As my husband’s Marines support his daily role, my friends support my sanity in this lifestyle regardless of their spouse’s. The name of the game in a Military Marriage is survival. By placing limits or unwritten rules on us as spouses as a whole we are lessening the chances of us surviving as we collocate with our spouses. Let’s face it, not every base is as vast and gorgeous as San Diego California or Tampa Florida. Bases are not ideal destinations and as a result the best way to survive is to find a social nucleolus. If we restrain with whom we associate with we restrict the opportunity to meet amazing people which are a necessity for mental survival. I have hosted many gatherings in my home with mixed company composed of a mix of officer and enlisted s families. Every one of our guests offers their own element of beauty to our occasions and I would hate to think of how our gatherings would be without their presence. It is foolish to create a barrier that divides spouses, especially spouses that could provide one another with the ultimate sense of support in our husband’s absence. As enlisted wives and officer wives we both miss our husbands, we both need to step up our game when we collocate with them and single parent our children only to have them return and throw off our routine every so often. When the last thing we notice is the rank of one another’s husbands and the first thing we look for is an interpersonal connection within our community then we will be unrestricted in this crazy and absolutely wonderful culture were we are ALL equally deserving of a crown!
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out Officer and Enlisted Military Spouses: Who Can I Be Friends With?