Poll: What Should Your Service Member Do For You?

poll what can service member do

Yes, yes, yes. It’s an honor and a privilege to be married to a noble member of the military. We should be thanking them for all they do to selflessly serve this country.  Does that mean that they don’t have to empty the dishwasher?

poll what can sm doRecently we polled our SpouseBuzz readers to find out what spouses could do to make their own military lives better. They thought they should work on their own careers.  Find out what else they wanted to do here.

But reader Toby called us on our premise. Toby thought the list should be full of things the service member could do better for the family. Toby wrote:

Too often, there is pressure on spouses to be “better” at military life. Military life would be better for all families if the service members were pressured to do the FAMILY side of their job better.

That seemed like kind of a good idea. We at SpouseBuzz are big believers in the idea that everyone can always be getting a little bit better — and that includes our service members.

We are also big believers in the idea that you only have a limited amount of time so you should apply yourself to the things that make the biggest difference to yourself and the people you love.

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About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former 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. Find her at JaceyEckhart.net.
  • Cortney

    I am glad someone posted something like this. I am also a Veteran as my husband is but I got out of the Army in 2007 whereas he is still serving. However, because he has PTSD and such he is excused from being a better partner and father. Anything he does in the military overshadows anything I did so it’s not important. He does have problems that’s for sure but so much pressure is put on me for supporting him and standing by him and taking care of him and of course our 3 children. I have a Master’s degree and have yet to go to work, it’s been 5 years!

  • Anonc

    “Yes, yes, yes. It’s an honor and a privilege to be married to a noble member of the military. We should be thanking them for all they do to selflessly serve this country”

    That kind of thinking leads to a very unhealthy relationship. You shouldn’t be hero worshiping your spouse, it creates a huge imbalance of power. You are just as worthy and your spouse should feel just as proud to be married to you as you are to them. You should be with them for who they are as a person, not their job because idolizing them for their job is infatuation, not love, and leads to unhappiness and divorce.

    • jacey_eckhart

      Anonc, I forget that sometimes tone does not transfer well when we write. I wasn’t urging people to have an unhealthy, unbalanced relationship with their service member. I was just trying to get to the part where they still have to unload the dishwasher! And you can see by the poll results that housework really is a sticking point for couples today.

  • Tanya

    Do “us” with the same level you do your work. Let’s remember that most military men and when do not make the military a career that leads to retirement. When you fail to encourage me as your spouse, support your children as a parent, pursue us as an entity but give your all at work it gives the wrong impression on our value. Failure to see us (the civilian dependent, children) as worthy of your full effort sometimes leaves a bitter feeling that we are unwelcome and only useful as accessories during homecoming and unit picnics. It is nice that you want your wife to plaster his or her car with “Hardest Jon in the (insert service)” or “I love my (insert member-not that member)” but it would be nice for you to appreciate and support the effort.

    • Anon

      I wonder how many military members are even aware that putting those decals on vehicles has been recognized as a security risk in the USA. I wonder if troops in various locations around the globe have even heard about potential threats to military family members. That alone is pretty solid proof that yes, the career of a military member absolutely effects the lives of their family members. Sometimes our spouses don’t like to hear that not only do they put themselves in danger, but sometimes we’re involved by default.

  • timsarmywifey

    All of these things can be components of a good relationship. Knowing your spouse and appreciating them for their support. The military truly is a lifestyle and not just a job, therefore it demands much of it’s members and their families. Splitting hairs about who does what is never helpful, the opening statement of we should be thanking them I find troubling – yes we should just as they should recognize the nobleness of the spouse at home. This isn’t something that should divide us but should draw us closer together.

  • Sylvia

    I would love for just one time, at some type of ceremony, to really be told how much my sacrifices have meant to my husband’s career and how much it hurt him to see me struggle with my career and to get it off the ground at every duty station, and see him cry about it and finally be able to hear him say that he appreciates it more than I will ever understand and that he loves me with all his heart and more than I could imagine, that I had made this sacrifice for him and our kids…..and cue my own tears now.

    • Sylvia

      Forgot to add and clarify: this is not for recognition, but its for other soldiers and their wives to hear that we all make sacrifices and at that one moment, you hope to realize that the sacrifices you made, were not taken for granted.

      • Anon

        That’s a big part of the communication wishes, I think. We may kind of know that we are appreciated, but if a person never communicates that in real WORDS, we don’t know for sure, and moreover, no one else does either. I think that may be part of why people also explicitly want support for their careers. We just want to be seen as valuable. Service members get promotions at big ceremonies, civilians generally don’t. Service members get ribbons to wear on class A’s, civilians don’t. They just get a “nice job” at MOST. I know a civilian who just got home from a business project that took him to an unpleasant location for 7 months. No one cared when he got home, no one threw a party or made banners. Our lives are made up of quality contributions and long hours of work, and I think all people are asking is respect and time for our relationships in return.

  • Toby

    Thank you for posing this question! Military members are continually encouraged to “do more” for their career: more studying, mentoring, more unit activities, higher ops tempo, etc. Their spouses are also expected, as the last poll’s title showed, to do “military life thing(s) better.”
    The career of a military member obviously puts the spouse, if civilian, in the position of “doing military life things” in the first place, so it is only fair to expect that the service member will aid the family’s life outside of the constraints of the military as well. This is continually overlooked, but is critical to a successful–and happy–career for all members of the family.

    • Anon

      Yes, so much emphasis on volunteering and mentoring, would love to see equal emphasis on “what does your family need from you right now–have you asked?” then “how can we make that happen?”

  • Guest

    Another question would be, if a mil member is married to a civilian, “what civilian life things can a military member do better?”
    One answer that comes to mind is availability. Availability to attend the spouse’s work functions as well as the spouse attending the service member’s functions. Sometimes you need to find a way, whether taking leave or just missing a grad banquet. Along with this, understanding it’s not proper etiquette to wear a uniform variant to every semi-formal or formal civilian function. You may have to buy civilian business or formalwear before you retire–so you don’t embarrass your spouse or, in some cases, hurt THEIR career. Your spouse married a person, not a uniform. Respect your spouse enough to acknowledge there is life beyond the military.

  • NewWife

    It falls under communication, but I would like understanding from my husband that though I try, I don’t yet speak “army.” It’s not that I don’t care, I just don’t know the translations. I’m a pretty highly educated person, but no, I don’t know the meaning of that one acronym you built a sentence around. Oops, and I didn’t know that same acronym stood for something different in a new context. Instead of getting frustrated, how about explaining, or writing them down, or better yet–speaking English!

  • Jersey

    My career. I would say please support both my educational goals as well as the career I currently have, because I provide greater financial support to our family than my active duty husband does, and like it or not, I am the one who is actually around–not deployed or tdy–to provide emotional support for our little clan. You can’t place a dollar amount on that.

  • Guest

    Have to vote for support of my career–but not in a financial way or just giving approval. I’d like support of my ideas, attempts to actually understand what my days are like, someone to listen to my complaints without saying “I offered a solution so don’t complain about it anymore.” You aren’t in my role, so you don’t get to choose your own offering as a “solution.” I’m your spouse, not your troop. And someone to celebrate my achievements, by affirming that I deserve whatever positive thing is happening.

    • Sylvia

      ^YES!!! Thank you!

  • Toledo

    Be careful with the “my career” choice. It seems some service members feel that it is supporting their spouse to say “get a job already–we need more money!” I actually just heard a newly retired service member–forced out due to force shaping because he couldn’t pass his tests–say this loudly to his wife, when they just moved to a new location two weeks ago. This does not constitute career support, it more resembles abuse. She has big gaps in her resume because she was always moving for HIS job.

    • Guest

      if she’s smart, she’d leave a guy who was that much of a tool lol wow…ya um ******, she’s been moving for you, it’s YOUR fault she hasn’t been able to get a job and keep one…smh who stays with someone who treats them like this?

  • rpd

    Time. Everyone needs to do things they enjoy–sports, clubs, etc. but when work already takes up 10-12 hrs alone each day, some of those things need to go. They have to. You chose your career and choose to keep re-enlisting. I deserve time too, not just the guys on the team.

    • Anon

      I second that. My spouse has missed almost every important event in my professional life since we were married 10 years ago. At first I understood. Now I’m just pissed. It needs to stop. This is one of the reasons there wasn’t much support for the idea of longer mil careers. People just can’t take it that long. Choose your priority: me or your job. Make sure you pick something you’ll be happy with when you’re 80.

  • Anon

    I would ask my mil guy to act like an adult. OK, y’all cuss every other word at work? You’re not at work. You’re in a world where you have to act like your have a larger vocabulary than that, and no, it’s not OK to cuss people out all the time. Control your language and temper. It’s not macho, it’s childish, like a teen that can’t control his hormones. Get over it.

  • Guest

    I agree with all these comments. And leadership should stop condoning the use of “service to country” as an excuse for neglecting family members. My experience has been that those who served their country the most, often neglected their families the most.

    • Pardeeville

      Sad, but I agree. Sometimes our soldiers forget that their families are part of this country that they serve. We hear “service before self,” but that includes service to loved ones. If you don’t love the people at home, what are you really fighting for? To me, service before self includes realizing and understanding that your career can at times create a unique hell for your spouse, and taking action to do whatever your SPOUSE feels would improve the situation. Not YOUR solution, your SPOUSE’S solution.

  • TCTBE

    The most important thing is time, and it would be very helpful if time were set aside by the command to do things that help the family in the situation they have been placed by the military member’s career. Some services have “family days,” but these are just days off of duty. There needs to be an expectation from the command that as part of a military career, one will attend to the needs of a spouse and family, if they have one. It needs to be done carefully, because the last thing we need is one more thing that there isn’t time for. It’s not an extra program to attend , it’s an emphasis that needs to be made, in the same way that physical health, mental health, and job performance are emphasized. There needs to be an overt expectation, a standard set, that to be a GOOD good soldier, airman, sailor, Marine, or coastie, you WILL be a good spouse, and “good spouse” is defined within your family. Maybe that is whether your spouse is desperate for more communication from you on a daily basis, whether he or she feels supported in life, etc.

    • sjs

      Yes, the branch provides programs, but a program cannot replace your spouse. When your spouse becomes unavailable to you for extended periods of time, and the unit offers you a program . . . the message is that you married the military itself, not a person who is a MEMBER OF the military. To any married mil members reading this–please remember that you took vows to your wife/husband. Fulfilling those vows is just as much a “duty” as your military career. You knew there would be challenges, so part of your job is to find ways to work around and with those challenges.

  • Percy

    We are all very proud of “our” military members. I think we are sometimes so proud and endlessly supportive of them that as spouses we can have a feeling of “and when is my turn?” It’s not a lack of support for the career that is reflected in comments here, it’s a recognition that part of that “military life” needs to include the service member actively supporting the spouse, whether or not the spouse has a career “outside the home.” We are all human beings. So it’s all just about healthy foundations of a relationship in the end. The military, as a career, TAKES so much from its members that we–and they–sometimes forget that. To echo a comment made earlier, think of how you will feel at your retirement from service. Proud? Like you’ve left a legacy? That’s great. Do you want your spouse and family there when you’re done? Then treat them with the same respect that you give your military duties. It’s common sense. At the end of the day, even though it’s a job with special challenges, it’s still a job, and your family needs to be more important. If, at some point, your career takes a hit due to insistence that your family comes first, that’s OK. It’s OK because you need your family to do your job well, and your family will be there for you long after you’ve put the uniform away.

    That said, I’d request a bit more perspective. Imagine a week in my shoes. Not YOU in my shoes, but ME in my shoes.

  • jojo613

    Here’s my laundry list:

    – I agree with time. When my children were small, I hated that my husband was authorized the time to go do PT while working a 12-14 hour day. I wanted to be able to work out too, and there was no childcare at the base. I wish the military would care about the physical health of entire families rather than just the member. Now that my kids are older, I have more time to work out, because they are at school and old enough for me to leave for short periods of time. My husband still gets priority with athletic events.

    – Putting the active duty on a pedestal. It has gotten to the point of utter ridiculousness. When spouses or families have legitimate gripes, we are seen as entitled by the troops, or money grubbing. It’s the reason sites like OSMW and Dear Dependa exist. Military are told constantly how special they are, how great they are, and any time something goes wrong it is, “what did you do wrong that he behaved this way?” A prime example, my husband and I went to see a marriage counselor because we were having issues with his family. His mom and dad treat me and my kids horribly. My FIL is verbally abusive (he has called me a witch with a b IN FRONT OF MY KIDS, told my son he was r*tarded, and told my daughter that she is fat). The marriage counselor SIDED with my husband, and said “I don’t see how a Lt Col could come from such a family.” Stop putting the military on pedestals. They are human, they make mistakes!

  • Guest14

    Time. Time when the service member is both home and awake at the same time. I get exhausted too. My exhaustion is just as real. We need “us” time. I’m willing to have a cup of coffee to make that happen–the service member can too. I don’t get why I’m willing to do that for the benefit of closeness and a healthy relationship yet it seems that the person whose career causes half of the issue thinks it’s too much to ask.

  • Guest

    I’d ask for putting time for our family first. I realize that there is a feeling that all of the “going away” meals, picnics, and socializing are requirements, and that service members feel “required” to attend every banquet where they know someone up for whatever thing to support them. To an extent, maybe, but you have to make CHOICES. You can’t work 12 hrs 5-6 days per week, attend every enlisted school graduation, every awards banquet, and all of the going aways, which around here amount to 3-4 per month. Have a life–with your spouse and family–outside of the military. Schedule at least 2-3 days every week where you will NOT be doing something EXTRA military related outside of your standard duty hours. If you can’t or won’t do that, don’t ask your family to keep moving with you. The pace isn’t sustainable for the service member and DEFINITELY not for the family. You’re valuable as a person in our lives. Be in our lives, both for our benefit and yours! Time when you’re not deployed or TDY is very valuable. THAT time needs to belong to your family.

    • Centered

      I’d add: remember that your volunteer duty activities ARE volunteer. It’s too bad if whatever volunteer thing is undermanned; that doesn’t mean YOU have to do everything yourself. It just means some things won’t get done. That’s just the way it is. You aren’t getting paid extra, so don’t make your family pay for your volunteer activities either.

  • Guest

    Instead of “my career,” I’d like support for my LIFE in general. I have multiple jobs, I volunteer, but all I really want is for my service member to care enough to ask how I am or how my day was from time to time. I hope my husband DOES care, but I have no way to know that if he doesn’t say something. It’s very lonely. Let your other half be your other half.

  • Carter

    Communication–and I would WELCOME communication about my spouse’s job. The career takes SO MUCH time away from the family that if service members don’t communicate with us ABOUT what is going on in their careers, we won’t hear anything about them at all. And that is not OK.

  • Jessica

    Time & communication. Those equal the ability for me, as the spouse, to reach (or even be able to grasp) a career goal. I had a serious talk with my husband today who is deployed and facing re-enlistment. Before he left, we discussed my needs but with having little ability to obtain a career myself that will have more say in whether or not he should re-enlist, it felt like I couldn’t say much. The plan was to stay in for one more re-enlistment so that we could both work towards a degree. Instead, a few months after he deployed, he is hanging around superiors who talk him into making a life-long career out of the Army. He tells me he wants to switch his MOS to helicopter pilot. No discussion. I DID express my fears of him being a pilot – not just the obvious reasons (Can we say Black Hawk Down?) but also that it would mean many more years enlisted. He changed his mind about the pilot job, but remained intent on retiring Army. I told him that I will support that, as long as I can have the opportunity at a career. We don’t have kids, and health issues make the idea of pregnancy a scary ordeal. So I want to feel important, not just as a tag-along, loving wife. I’ve expressed my feelings about the smaller duty stations available. That I would have a harder time with trying for hands-on training in my career of choice. Instead of what I thought was a meaningful and understanding convo, I was told again and again about these desolate locations in which he wanted to pursue for a new MOS. I became submissive and surrendered, too tired to defend my goals. I told him to just do what he wants and that I will just continue to tailor my other career choice so that it would be able to move with me. The reality of sacrifice isn’t that our spouses don’t or can’t always recognize it, but that it is embedded in them that we are there for support. Yes, we support, but we would also like a chance to feel happy with our own paths. To look back and feel like we’ve BOTH had the chance to have it all. The military has been drilling the enlisted with “service first, family second” and that is not a healthy way of life for anyone with family. Sure, there are spouse programs for education. But with time and demographic constraints, how can we ulilize them to fit our own dreams? It doesn’t seem fair that if I were to relocate to pursue my career, that I would be sacrificing my relationship. But then I guess that I don’t have a choice,or someone to force-feed the idea that I come first. If he puts his career first, there is no room for me to do so too, without feeling guilty, looking selfish, or damaging our relationship.