5

Are “Separated” Spouses Out Of The Military?

It never seems quite fair to me. Divorced spouses have reported that when their marriages broke-up, their military friends distanced themselves. Military widows say the same thing happens to them. There is an initial period of maximum support after the funeral, then a distance develops as military friends move on with their lives.

Somehow the sun sets on a divorced or widowed spouses’ relationship with the military. While I might be able to accept that this is the way things happen in our military culture, does the distancing have to start when a couple is separated? Why don’t we rally around a couple then?

Terri wrote recently that she and her Air Force husband of eight years separated a month ago. She said they loved each other, but they needed space to work on their marriage without the constant fighting in front of their daughter.

They seemed to be making real progress. Then Terri’s husband joined a new squadron. She started receiving emails from the commander’s wife inviting her to the monthly socials and events. Terri joined in as usual. She even volunteered for an upcoming event. Her husband was glad she was included. Then the trouble began. Terri wrote,

I received an email from the commander’s wife stating that her husband had spoken to my husband at length and that although she was sorry, I would no longer be welcome at any spouse social OR squadron function until or unless my husband and I have resolved our marital issues and are no longer separated.

Of course my feelings are hurt and I am very humiliated. My husband claims he did not ask for this. We talk every day and he comes over for dinner and to see our daughter occasionally.
My question: Is this standard operating procedure?

It’s hard to say what is standard when it comes to military spouses.

Now I don’t know Terri. I wasn’t present for any conversation her husband had with his CO. And I do recognize that everyone is different.

Assuming that Terri is not flying a freak flag, I would hope that I personally would err on the side of the marriage. Military marriage is no joke. Almost every couple goes through some weird places in their marriage. There are times when too much space opens up between people. There are times where all the sudden you are all too aware that things are not going so well– and if you continue down this path you will be going alone.

To me, that is a time that a fight needs to be made to save the relationship — especially when kids are involved.

I am definitely NOT saying that every marriage should last forever. I am saying that there are periods in which the space around a marriage is tender to the touch. I wouldn’t want to add to the burden a damaged marriage already bears.

So I think I would turn a blind eye to the specific housing arrangements of a spouse I didn’t know very well. I think I would be glad to have a volunteer around.

What would you do? Is it normal that spouses are automatically out of military life during the period of separation?  Or does it help to be part of the community?

About Jacey Eckhart

Jacey Eckhart is the Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom.