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  • Writer's pictureLeila Gillette

Why to Stop Judging Military Spouses

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

As military spouses, we have all heard the phrase “dependa” thrown around a time or two. I have heard it from military members, from civilians, and unfortunately I have heard it from military spouses talking about fellow spouses.

I want to break down some of the initial judgements/thoughts that you may have about military spouses, whether you are a spouse yourself or not. While we may be able to understand more, mil spouses aren’t safe from casting judgement on other spouses. Heck, I know I have been guilty of judging another spouse based solely off an interaction or knowing 1 or 2 aspects of their life. So here’s to challenging ours and others mindsets, and reframing some of the negative thoughts about military spouses.

The first judgement I want to challenge goes along with the “dependa” term, it’s that spouses are lazy. That we don’t want to work or do anything for the betterment of ourselves. I’d love to dig deeper then that. Did you ever consider that maybe they’ve moved every 2-3 years, making it near impossible to finish colllege or any trade/degree program? Did you consider maybe they’ve had a hard time building a career due to frequent moves, or having to take breaks to care for family when their spouse is deployed? I have taken many breaks in my career due to difficulty with childcare during deployments, and it’s made it harder for me to excel in my career, or find my ”dream job”.

Another judgment I often see is similar to the lazy/dependa stereotype. It’s thinking we are unmotivated or unambitious. Many spouses, especially those with kids or families to take care of are OVERWHELMED. Dealing with a spouse who deploys, TDY’s, works long hours, crazy shifts, etc., etc., etc. can make it really hard on a spouse. That may mean the spouse is the sole caretaker for kids, or pets, or parents. They may be the one that has to make dinner every night, put kids to bed, grocery shop, care for the home & more. This can lead to a lot of burnout, this can lead to a spouse maybe not having the motivation to work outside the home, or go to school, or volunteer or heck even care for themselves fully. Instead of putting the label on them that they are unmotivated, look into all they do day to day to support their spouse and their family. And shoot, maybe lend a helping hand if you can.

One last thing I wanted to touch on is being aware of mental health struggles amongst spouses. So many judgments/opinions I see cast on military spouses are in a negative light. What I hope others can understand is that many military spouses struggle at one point or another with some kind of mental health issue. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, mood disorders, etc. there are many reasons for this. The lack of support around you, moving to new towns constantly and having to “start over”, isolation due to deployments/moves, financial struggles (because believe it or not- the military doesn’t exactly make you rich), etc. Before you cast judgements on mil spouses try to think of the possibility that they may be struggling internally. Your initial thought may be that the spouse is ”weird” or a ”loner”, but maybe consider they are having a hard time coping with this unstable, challenging life.

I myself have struggled with anxiety on and off through my husbands military career. This has increased more with PCS’s (moves). At times it may seem I am isolating myself or maybe even rude because I have a hard time interacting with new people or putting myself out there at a new base. I have worked through this a lot but I hate to think that others may have judged me due to these struggles.

Military spouses are not all the same, we are all different, diverse, unique individuals. We do have unique challenges and life experiences though. But that doesn’t mean we should all be stereotyped or lumped into generalized judgements. The next time you meet or talk with a military spouse (even if you are one yourself!) I hope before making a snap judgment, you think about the points I’ve listed, and consider that there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes.

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