Friday, May 4, 2012

Married to the Military

I recently read a "letter from a military spouse", that had been published in a newspaper.  She gave some insight about things most women married to the military experience, that the general public may not be aware of.  I've seen similar writings.  This last one made me start to wonder, if I were to write such a letter, and knew it had the potential to be read by many, what would I say?

After much deliberation, I decided I'd want to let those outside military life to know, that our lives aren't tragic.  There seems to be a commonly accepted opinion that spouses of soldiers are victims of a sort, leading mournful lives of goodbyes and heartache.  It's true the separation that tends to come with military life is difficult.  It's more than difficult.  But it does not mean we are always sad.  Nor are our lives less idealistic than anyone elses.

When friends or neighbors hear about my husband's frequent deployment schedule, I commonly hear hear phrases such as, "Wow, I don't know how you do that.  I never could" or "Bless your heart, that sounds miserable".  Someone even said once, "It seems you're doing your best with a bad situation".  

I know they mean well with their comments, and are trying to express some sympathy and understanding that I am doing something hard.  The kindness behind their comments doesn't go unrecognized.  However what I wish I could say in response is, "yes, it is hard, but we are happy."

Naturally I don't mean it makes me happy to send my husband off over and over.  I cry, I worry, and I miss him terribly.  But I also do what any other positive person does when presented with trials we all must endure.  I focus on the blessings we have, and remember that they are many!

Nephi, an ancient prophet who lived 500 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, saw much hardship in his life.  He helped lead his family across the ocean and to the American continents.  After arriving in this new land, his family settled and built homes.  However after his father died, his older brothers set plans to kill Nephi and his family.  They resented him and their father for leading them away from Jerusalem.  Despite the many miracles they witnessed, they refused to acknowledge it was God who preserved them and led them to the new land.  Nephi and all those who believed in God left their homes yet again.  They traveled for many days with their families before they felt safe enough to settle and rebuild.  Reading that I think most people would find Nephi's lot a sad and difficult one.  Not ideal, I think we all would say.  However after settling again, Nephi records this short but beautiful verse:

2 Nephi 5:27 And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.

I think I understand why Nephi wrote that.  If I could speak to the world about what my life is like as a military spouse, I'd say the same.  We live after the manner of happiness.  My husband has a job he loves and knows is meaningful.  His work provides us with everything we need and want.  We've had the opportunity to live in many places, and have met so many good people.  The separations have caused us to deeply appreciate the time we have together. It has brought us closer to family and friends who have been there during times of need.

Military life isn't a curse, it's a choice, and we've been happy in the life it has provided.  I will admit it has been harder than what I imagined when I said yes to a handsome ROTC boy asking for my hand.  It has not been without challenges, challenges unique to this lifestyle.  However no family is spared from hardship.  Every bride discovers marriage isn't living a fairy princess life.  Every new husband finds he's never at home as much as he'd like to be.  Earth life comes with weariness, loneliness, sorrow, and pain.  Families of military members do not have a monopoly on trials.  If being in the military has presented us with more challenges than the average family, then it has blessed us, because it has caused us to learn quickly how to effectively follow the example of Nephi.  We had to recognize right away any difficulty or trial can be endured if we seek to live after the manner of happiness.  

The next time you see your friend struggling in the grocery store with her children, knowing her spouse wont be home to help her for several months, or you notice her sitting at church by herself, mowing her own lawn, or going to the movies alone, give her your love, keep her in your prayers, but don't mourn for her.  You have more in common with her than you think.  Remember if she looks happy, she is.  She devotes her life to living after the manner of happiness, just like you.


  1. Beautiful, Liz. You put it perfectly and are a very good writer!

  2. Oh this is great! So true! I get very annoyed with those comments because I don't feel like my life is as horrible as people think! Thanks Liz! It was so good to see you and the girls last week! I'll email you the pictures!

  3. I like this! I recently wrote a quick sentence or two about this on my blog and after reading yours, I wish I had gone more in depth! You do a great job with your family and I'm glad you were able to express the positive side of being a military wife.

  4. Like I said on my blog, you're an pretty extraordinary woman, Lizzy. I am very proud to be your mother and to have you and yours in my garden of happiness.

  5. I love your post as well as your talk on Sunday. It is a choice and I am so glad your family made it. We thank you for it. And, for the record, I don't think all those women in the desert are making fun of you. You work just as hard, just different.

  6. Loved this post. You have become such a great military spouse! Hugs!