For years, your spouse heard things like officer material from superiors. Your uniformed spouse jumped through all the hoops — college applications, prerequisites, military paperwork, and did it. You believed he could and stood by his side through long nights studying for exams and writing papers. He’s a college graduate and a commissioned officer. But what does that mean for you? Making the transition from enlisted to officer spouse is a rite of passage for you, too.
You have exactly two options here: You can become an elitist or you can remember your roots.
Raise your hand if you binge-watched Downton Abbey on Netflix during a deployment — OK, good.
Think back to Mr. Tom Branson’s first upstairs dinner following his marriage to Lady Sybil Crawley where he was invited to socialize with her aristocratic family. He was a former chauffeur who was expected to dress in the appropriate attire and behave with the etiquette of the elite class. If you feel as awkward about your transition from enlisted to officer spouse as Mr. Tom Branson at his first upstairs dinner, you wouldn’t be the first.
What Will Change
Like the prices to the military ball, there is a sliding scale here. Much is dependent on your spouse’s branch and command. Some spouses could be in for a culture shock, while others may not notice anything beyond the nice bump in their bank account. Thankfully, those years of hard work in school do pay off.
Some commands expect officer spouses to hold certain volunteer positions. Responsibilities tend to increase with your spouse’s rank, which is true on both the enlisted and officer side. If your spouse takes command, for example, you may find yourself taking an etiquette class in preparation for spoken or unspoken leadership duties. And, if in the middle of learning the difference between a salad and dessert fork, your mind wanders to the raucous barbeques you enjoyed with your enlisted-spouse pals, you wouldn’t be the first.
Pro tip: The gate guard is suddenly saluting the car which may have stickers indicating officer status. Sorry to burst your bubble.
The Great Debate: Can I Keep My Old Friends?
The Case from Camp One
Absolutely! Just because there are strict fraternization rules for military personnel, spouses are not held to such standards. You may find that while some officer spouses give the cold shoulder to spouses of junior-ranking folks, you certainly don’t have to. Yes, your spouse has worked hard and has a new title and uniform, but you are the same person you’ve always been.
The Case from Camp Two
Time to cut ties and find a new social group. Fraternization rules may not apply to spouses, but they will limit who you can get together with as couples. You might as well make new milspouse friends to eliminate any gray area. After all, you are eligible to live in officer housing areas now, and your neighbors will be fellow officer spouses.
All in This Together
While some things will change, like your bank account and volunteer responsibilities, most parts of military life will remain the same: deployments, training, duty days, and PCS moves. You will make new friends who may tell you otherwise, but you know the truth. You know where you came from and how much enlisted and officer spouses really have in common.
There can be a mystique — or fear even — of the other side. You are the fortunate one — the one who has been on both sides. After making the transition from enlisted to officer spouse, you know that both groups are made up of a bunch of awesome milspouses who get up in the morning and try their very best to navigate this crazy military life as parents, spouses, and friends.
In fact, you may find yourself an unlikely liaison between the two groups, depending on your spouse’s command. Exclusive officer spouse groups are on the decline, with a trend toward inclusivity among all spouses. With a foot in both camps, you can be the bridge that helps connect enlisted and officer spouses. If you’re up for the challenge, you can help shatter stereotypes that go both ways here.
Sure, you may soon find yourself at formal holiday parties and officer spouse coffee dates, but you’ve got memories from the rowdy, enlisted, mandatory-fun events when your spouse’s division got a little out of hand. Those will sustain you through fancy dinners where you are expected to act a certain way. Just smile and nod. These are precious memories in the rear view mirror now that you’ve transitioned from an enlisted to officer spouse.
Your husband may be a Mustang, but you are Mr. Tom Branson with all the rights to the aristocracy with a choice to make: Forget your roots or remember where you came from.
Accomplishments and promotions — we know we’re supposed to celebrate those. But, what happens when your spouse is Passed Over for Promotion? See what you can expect.
Photo Credit: Eastern Sky Photography, NC | Unsplash | Pixabay