As a wife, one of my main callings is to support my husband. That means supporting his military career, supporting his ambition to be an active duty soldier (even when the original plan was to go into the National Guard), and supporting him through injuries that are altering his career.
I find it easy to support my husband, even in his military career, when he is pleased with how things are going. When life is smooth, it’s easy.
It is when we hit bumps in the road that make him unhappy with the military that it gets more difficult. Especially if I am already unhappy, myself, with the cards we’ve been dealt by the military.
I know all service members feel this way. On good days they are staying in for 20 years. Then they have the days where they have been yelled at 50 times for things they didn’t do, and they are done as soon as their contract is up. (We have been doing this song and dance for about five months in our house.)
This especially seems to be the truth when service members are in a holding unit; for example, before and after training, medical holdings, or if they have a bad assignment.
When my husband comes home in one of those moods and asks what I think, I always worry about swaying his decision. I do not want to be responsible for adding fuel to the fire of anger towards the military. I don’t want to cause him to make an emotionally heated decision on a whim.
Now for some soldiers who have not always talked about staying in their 20 years, it might be different. But for me, this is his career on the line. But I am also conflicted because if I remain too neutral, then I can be accused of not being supportive.
So how do you balance being supportive of your husband’s anger towards his situation without swaying his decision about leaving the military?
First, recognize that it is ok for your husband to be angry at the military.
Think about it; if you were getting yelled at for things that were absolutely out of your control you would probably come home angry too. (Or, let’s be real, if you are home with a toddler all day; think about how frustrated you get when they throw their silly tantrums when you are just trying to keep them safe.)
Acknowledge the anger and frustration for your husband, that it is valid he feels that way. Don’t just try to dismiss his anger. That will do nothing but alienate you from your husband. By recognizing it and validating your husband’s anger he will feel connected to you and will make you more of a teammate rather than another opponent.
Everyone gets angry at their job; this is not specific to the military. But it seems to have different consequences, and the things to get angry at are more impactful on life than other professions. The military is rigid and not easy to change, unlike some other professions, which leads to a great deal of frustration.
Second, remind your husband that regardless of what y’all decide to do, you are a team and you will support him. This is not the same as supporting a rash emotional decision. Sit down together and really talk about the pros and cons of not staying in. Make sure to help him make this decision without letting his emotions toward the military make a snap judgement that he might later regret.
Have a serious conversation about where you would go, what would he do, what would you do, etc. It’s ok to talk about it! He will be grateful that you encouraged him to make a rational decision regarding his future in the military.