Ways to adjust to your role as a civilian male married to a female service member.
- What to expect when your wife is in the military
- Adjusting to being a male civilian spouse
- Signs of stress
The deployments and frequent moves of the military lifestyle can put pressure on any marriage. When the wife is the military member and the husband is a civilian, the strain may be greater.
In fact, research shows that the divorce rate for such couples is more than double the divorce rate for couples where the husband is the service member. This may be because military spouse support tends to be geared toward women. Another reason is that men tend to be less likely than women to ask for help.
If you are a male military spouse, it is important to know how to help keep your marriage strong. You can learn what challenges you are likely to face and prepare yourself for them. You can learn to recognize when you need help and how to use the resources available to you. And you can build a support system of other people you can count on.
What to expect when your wife is in the military
Whether you're a former service member or you're new to the military lifestyle, being the male spouse of a service member can take some getting used to. Some of the challenges to prepare for include:
Others may assume you're the service member.
You may find yourself explaining over and over to people that you're a civilian and your wife is the military member. If this bothers you, remind yourself that the assumption is a natural one given that the majority of service members are men.
You may feel uneasy that your wife spends so much time with other men.
Your wife may be one of very few women in her command. If you feel anxious because of this, it's important to talk with her or a professional about your concerns before your feelings affect your marriage. The goal is for the two of you to manage any concerns as a team. That is much better than allowing concerns or suspicions to grow and damage your marriage.
You may feel isolated.
This is particularly true if you PCS to a location where you don't have family or friends. You may have little in common with the other spouses, most of whom are probably women, or the other men, who may be service members.
Your role in the marriage may clash with your identity as a male.
This may be true, particularly if you're unemployed or are the primary caregiver for children. Role reversals can be difficult for any man who cares for children and the home while his wife earns the family income. It can be especially challenging in the military setting, which emphasizes traditional ideas of masculinity.
Adjusting to being a male civilian spouse
While there's a growing awareness in the military of the unique needs of husbands of service members, the spouse support system is still geared toward wives. The majority of spouses club members will be women and the activities may not appeal to you. That means you may have to work harder to find people you connect with and activities that interest you.
Think of ways you've adjusted to new situations in the past.
Going to college, starting a job, getting married, moving, becoming a parent -- those are all new beginnings that come with an adjustment period.
What helped you during those times? Where did you turn when you had questions or needed a hand? The details may be different this time, but youre the same person with the same skills and abilities that helped you make adjustments in the past.
Find people and organizations to connect with.
Look for groups to join, such as clubs, civic groups, sports teams, and faith-based groups. This will help to build your support network and get you involved with the community.
Take advantage of Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities, events, and trips.
You'll meet other people with similar interests, whether it's joining a chess club or going rock climbing.
Make time to do things you enjoy.
It's all too easy to get caught up in everyday life and neglect yourself. Try not to let this happen. Doing what makes you feel good, whether it's biking, working out, fishing, or reading, is essential to relieving stress.
This same advice goes for you as a couple. It's easy to forget to take time together doing positive, fun things. Focus on enjoying yourselves, even if that means agreeing not to talk about certain issues at these times.
Reach out to other couples where the male is the civilian.
It can help to be with someone who's in the same situation you're in. And you'll have someone to hang out with while your wives are deployed or training.
Talk openly as a couple.
Communication is an essential ingredient of all healthy relationships. Good communication involves making a commitment to talk to each other often, even if it has to be by email, video chat, or phone.
Signs of stress
If you start to feel angry, depressed, or resentful of your wife or the military or if your relationship has become strained, then it's time to get help.
The warning signs
Here are signs that you need help in dealing with stress:
- You're frequently angry or irritable.
- You have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Or you're sleeping too much.
- You and your wife go for amounts of time without speaking. Giving each other the silent treatment is a sign that you're avoiding the issue.
- You have become emotionally detached. You have stopped giving love and guidance to your spouse.
- You blame your wife for problems in your relationship. You are abusing drugs or alcohol. You turn to drugs or alcohol to escape reality or you frequently get drunk.
- You feel jealous or suspicious much of the time. Brief feelings of this sort are normal. However, it's not normal to be preoccupied with fears that your spouse is being unfaithful.
Reach out for help
While everyone is different, men tend to be less likely than women to reach out when they need help. Remember, there's no shame in admitting that things are tough. Call or see a good friend or family member with whom you feel comfortable talking.
Another option is to visit the chaplain on your installation or arrange to talk with a counselor. Sometimes the only way to improve a situation is to find someone who can help you.
Your military support services
Each service branch sponsors information and support programs for service members and their families. You can call or visit any installation Army Community Service Center, Marine Corps Community Services, Fleet and Family Support Center, or Airman and Family Readiness Center regardless of your branch affiliation.
If you aren't near an installation, National Guard Family Assistance Centers are available in every state. The Local Community Resource Finder on the National Guard Family Program at www.jointservicessupport.org will identify your closest center.
This free 24-hour service is available to all active duty, Guard, and Reserve members(regardless of activation status) and their families. Consultants provide information and make referrals on a wide range of issues, including relationships and adjusting to the military lifestyle. Free face-to-face counseling sessions (and their equivalent by phone or online) are also available. Call 1-800-342-9647 or go to www.militaryonesource.mil to learn more.
Note: The picture is mine, but I did not create the presentation.