Other than the typical information meeting, I can think of exactly one event during deployment that my husband was actually comfortable attending — and that moment was ruined when a female spouse nursed her baby sans cover or blanket while standing and talking to him. Yes, that happened.
While he is the soldier and I am the spouse, he was part of our rear detachment for a portion of the deployment. If he wanted to attend any of the family social activities during that time frame, he knew he was going to be surrounded completely and only by women.
(For the record, I am in no way anti-breast feeding … just pro-modesty, especially when talking to men who are not related to me).
That situation isn’t something he has to deal with on a regular basis anymore. But for male spouses his experience is but a typical day in military family life. Like I said in my last post, only about 6 percent of spouses throughout the military are males. That means there are a lot of dudes out there surrounded by lady stuff.
According to my story today on Military.com, this brings with it a bigger problem than just a group of unsupported husbands. Last year, nearly 8 percent of all married female servicemembers divorced — compared to 3 percent of males. Research shows that the bulk of those women were married to civilian males, not to other servicemembers.
Experts say the divorce rate among female servicemembers can largely be blamed on a lack of support services aimed at, or at least friendly to, male spouses.
But there may be another factor at play here. Let’s put it this way — how many guys do you know who like to stop and ask for directions?
If support services are the “directions” of military life, are we really surprised that men aren’t interested in using them?
“Past research has shown that civilian male spouses are less likely to use the support offered on bases,” said Morgan Cutlip, a researcher with marriage support company Love Thinks. “I’m wondering if, because they are less likely to use support, they are less likely to cope as well.”
Research out of the University of North Carolina shows that female spouses who connect with support are less stressed during deployment. Cutlip is in the process of launching a study on the female servicemember divorce rate. As part of her study she’ll be looking at the support services the military has in place — and examining whether they are accomplishing what they are meant to for male spouses.
John Avelis, a male spouse who recently did a video interview with us from his home in Japan, said the links between males not having services to use, not being willing to find services that they can use and any marriage problems are clear. When it comes to issues like predeployment and especially reintegration, guidance from support services can be key. But it is only helpful if you are willing to look for it and use it.
“Men are less likely to go to the doctor, men are less likely to stop and ask for directions — when the man’s wife is out at sea or just gone 14 hours a day a man is going to be less likely to go to the resources that are available,” he said. “They might be less aware of those resources because they are less likely to get involved — put those things together. If they don’t know about the resources and they are less likely to take advantage of it anyway, they are more likely to bottle it up and take it out on their marriages.”