There are certain things in life that just come with a certain level of difficulty. Marriage has its obstacles, parenthood has its obstacles, success in a career path...they all have their challenges.
As a military spouse, when relaying the challenges I am experiencing, I often find myself hearing,
“Well, you knew what you signed up for.”
It is one of the most frustrating things to hear as a milspo, in my personal opinion. When I met Gabriel, he was not yet in the military. I’ll never forget walking into USAA’s New Employee Orientation and seeing that stud muffin wearing his navy blue three piece suit and gorgeous cognac colored shoes. I’ll never forget accidentally rear-ending his truck, and thinking “He’ll never be interested in me now..” and subsequently, I’ll never forget our first kiss later that night.
It wasn’t until a few dates in that I learned Gabriel had joined the military and was leaving in six months. So, my options were to have fun with this gorgeous guy who actually seemed to be really decent, made me laugh, and made me feel incredibly comfortable being myself... or walk away because I had no idea if I could handle military life. So...we decided to have fun, and in six months, we would walk away.
And that’s what happened. He left, I told him I couldn't & wouldn't do the military long distance thing...and I never heard from him again.
Just kidding!! By month six, I knew I loved this guy. And I had no idea what a military lifestyle looked like, but I knew this was the most normal, functional relationship I’d had in a very long time, and it was with someone who adored me and treated me like a queen. So we decided to take it and see what happened.
But you see, when I agreed to a military lifestyle, I knew long distance and deployments were included in this package. But being aware of something doesn’t make the fact that it is hard any less difficult. When you watch your husband leave on a ship for months at a time, nothing can prepare you for the raw ache in your heart. Just like being married, just like being a parent - people can tell you about fighting with your spouse, or the sleepless nights of a newborn...but when you’re in the thick of it...it still hurts. It’s still hard.
And then there are the moments that no one tells you about, the one that no one even thinks of. Such as duty days...I had no idea that once a week my husband would be gone for a full 24 hours. Or underways...I had no clue that every month my husband would be gone for a week, two weeks, three weeks, two months at a time. Yes, aside from the deployment. And then there are days like today, when I prepare to say goodbye to my husband as he leaves for deployment...for the 2nd time in a month.
Nothing can prepare you for saying goodbye to someone, beginning your adjustment to having them away...only for them to return immediately...and then leave again. Gabriel’s date to leave keeps changing, and it’s honestly a mind game. On the outside, it may seem great to have him home, and it totally is. But it prolongs the inevitable difficulty that is coming, and having to prepare to say goodbye again (and again) is hard.
As a military wife, sometimes the perception is that you’re not allowed to express these things. Sometimes you’re not given space to say it’s hard, or to cry, or to vent. Because people think it's complaining...because people want to tell you…“Well, you know what you signed up for.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that.
Is that what we tell new moms as they’re explaining how baby isn’t sleeping through the night? Or a wife explaining the difficulties in communication a new marriage brings? Or maybe a mom who just sent her last child off to college and is now having trouble adjusting to an empty nest?
I honestly had no idea what I signed up for. I didn’t grow up with any knowledge of a military lifestyle, I had never known anyone in the Navy. My brother was Army, but his lifestyle wasn’t so obvious to me. I didn’t know about a lot of things.
However, would I do it differently? No.
Despite the difficulties and the challenges this nomadic lifestyle brings, I love Gabriel and I am thankful for our life together...even the hard parts. I didn’t know what I signed up for and I wouldn’t change it if I did. But sometimes, the challenges are hard. And hearing something along the lines of “knowing what you signed up for” doesn’t make it any easier. But, I suppose that’s ok...because ultimately, it isn’t the hard stuff that matters at the end of the day. It’s my husband. It’s our son. And that is what I signed up for.