“You knew what you were getting into.” Quite possibly one of the worst phrases people say to military spouses, yet somehow it’s one of the most common. The truth is, there’s really no way to anticipate the challenges this life brings or how lonely and isolating it can be.
Now, you might be thinking: everyone around me seems to have this all figured out; they can’t possibly feel the way I do. Friend, we’ve all been there. We’ve all struggled in some way or another to adjust to the time apart, starting over, constant moving and making friends. Somewhere along the line, we’ve all felt the isolation that comes with some or all of these situations:
- I married a service member and I’m struggling to adjust to military life.
- I moved to a new duty station and I don’t know anyone yet.
- I’m a stay at home mom and I feel isolated at home with the kids.
- My spouse recently deployed and I’m feeling overwhelmed.
- I feel like my identity is getting lost in the sea that is military life.
- My civilian friend group just doesn’t seem to get it.
- Family and friends don’t make an effort to see us when we travel back home.
- My spouse is developing friendships and I still haven’t met anyone I click with.
- I love my kids, but I’m so over solo-parenting.
- I didn’t get married to spend so much of my time alone.
If you’ve experienced or are currently experiencing feeling isolated due to any of the situations above, know that you are not alone. One of the most amazing benefits of being a part of this community is that even though the details of our individual lives differ, the common thread of living military life unites us through shared experiences—both positive and negative.
Here's what I want you to know:
There’s no weakness in admitting how you feel. We can all agree that this life is tough and we’ve all struggled with it at some point. It helps to get confirmation that your feelings are valid and, as an added bonus, many a friendship has started over venting about shared frustrations.
You don’t have to lose yourself. For several years after my husband and I got married, I struggled with feeling like I’d be stuck in the “best supporting” role for the duration of his career, never having the opportunity to do anything for myself. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It IS possible to be a supportive spouse and pursue things that help you maintain your individuality. Whether it’s starting a business, working outside the home, volunteering or picking up a fun new hobby, find something for you.
It can get better, but that starts with a choice. Just like anything in life, growth is not found in comfort. In order to overcome the feelings of isolation brought on by some of the situations above, you’ll have to choose to do some things that might be a little uncomfortable. You can get out and explore your new area, volunteer, introduce yourself to a neighbor or invite her for coffee, or attend a social event to meet someone new. When you’re hanging out solo, consider doing things to keep your mind engaged—even if that’s just reading a book, listening to a podcast or watching a show you love.
What you focus on will become your reality. No doubt, this life is a major adjustment, but you are more adaptable and resilient than you know. This life can be isolating, but you don’t have to stay isolated. You won’t love every duty station and you won’t be best friends with everyone you meet, but with this incredible community surrounding you, you never have to feel alone.