We all make mistakes, right? But sometimes you make really, really big mistakes that you never want to make again. Ever.
TimeHop and Facebook’s “On This Day” feature have become a part of my daily routine — a usually pleasant walk down memory lane. But sometimes they also remind me of some pretty dumb stuff I’ve done in a very public way. Worse: I didn’t think it was dumb at the time – obviously.
But there it is, cemented in the memory of the internet for-ev-er, reminding me once a year of my not so wise military spouse decisions. And, yup, this stuff makes me cringe.
Before you go on here’s my only request: No one is forcing me to ‘fess up to these mistakes, so instead of hanging out in the comment section giving me grief about being such a dummy, why not join in my confession spree?
6 MilSpouse Mistakes I Won’t Make Again (I Hope)
1. Made huge OPSEC mistakes. I mean really, really huge. Well, this is super embarrassing, but I’m going to tell you about it anyway. For all the reminding and preaching military spouses do to each other, everyone has that one time somewhere in their past that they just didn’t know. During my husband’s first deployment when I was a little, tiny baby MilSpouse communication downrange was very, very limited and he used it to buzz me once every few days for a few minutes at a time. Since he was never going to get to call his mother, I kept a blog where I published updates on him for his family and friends back home. I deleted the whole thing when he came home because we didn’t need it anymore. But Facebook? Facebook remembers some of it and reminds me through those tiny preview boxes.
Most of it was innocuous (and hilarious) stuff — “He got the care package — please don’t send any more non-shelf stable cheese.” (Yes, someone really did that). But the rest of it? Double, triple yikes. I maybe should’ve subtitled the whole blog “The OPSEC Violation Chronicles: Terrorists Please Look Here for Very Specific Single Troop Movement Information.”
If there was ever someone who was a great candidate for being killed because his wife posted the EXACT DATES and times of his moving through Europe on an individual redeployment, it was him.
I won’t be doing that again. Whew.
2. Judged someone by their husband’s rank. Rank is a really confusing thing for many military spouses when they first enter military life. You know it applies to your service member, but it can take awhile to figure out how it does or does not apply to you (hint: you’ll learn over time that it usually doesn’t really apply to you at all). While you work through the weird social system that is the military, you’ll probably find yourself, just like I did, judging someone else based on how their spouse stacks up in the rank system.
Big mistake. Over time you figure out that you can’t base whether or not you want to be friends with someone off something as silly as their husband’s job (which is essentially what rank signifies). You want to make that decision over their level of devotion to wine and coffee — two things that transcend rank (you know I’m right).
For awhile there when I was really, really new I figured I could weed out the potential friend pool and whittle it down to only people with whom I have tons of stuff in common by first determining the family’s rank. Stupid. I realized that the rank method left me surrounded by people I didn’t necessarily like just because we had that one silly thing in common, and missing out on people who are amazing but didn’t live in the same housing area.
(I wrote all about this rank mistake in an essay in the book “Stories Around the Table.” Check it out here.)
3. Expected others to care what my husband’s rank is. If there’s anything at all to be proud of while confessing these really dumb things to hundreds of thousands of people, it’s this: I only made this mistake for maybe one day right after we got married. That’s how long it took for me to realize that “wearing your husband’s rank” is definitely not a good idea. Nipped that one in the bud, thank God.
4. Didn’t stop during evening colors. It’s not like I’m a psychic military spouse, folks (although let’s talk about how handy that would be). No one – I swear, no one – bothered to tell me that at 5 p.m. you stop what you are doing and face the flag (or your best guess of the direction it might be if you can’t see it) until the music stops, then go about your business. Yes, yes — seeing the other people stop was, in fact, my first clue, thanks. It was still embarrassing.
5. Didn’t appreciate Tricare. Have you guys even seen the cost of healthcare outside the military? Lord have mercy. It is not a tiny number. I’ve done a whole hill of complaining about Tricare over the years. Some of it was appropriate (after all, just because it’s part of our military benefits doesn’t mean it should be sub-par) but some of it was not. Now I remind myself to feel a sense of gratefulness for the fact that I don’t have to shell out $500 a month for healthcare plus a super high deductible.
6. Forgot what it was like to be a new spouse going through my first military separation. The first time my husband left for more than a few days at a time was actually a few weeks before our wedding. I was devastated. Oh sure, he was “just” going to the field a few hours away, but my reaction would’ve made you think otherwise. I made a mix-tape. I cried a lot in the rain. I’ve always had a keen appreciation for dramatic flair.
And then, over time, I forgot about the whole thing. So when new spouses would say they were upset because their husband was leaving for three weeks of training, and they didn’t know how they were going to get through it, I would think “just wait until he deploys” and roll my eyes in the most subtle manner possible. The only saving mercy is that I did not say such a mean thing out loud.
But then, one day, Facebook reminded me of my own drama. And now I remember that new military spouses don’t need my “tough love.” They don’t need us to say anything at all. They need a movie night, an understanding ear and high-fives for learning how to navigate this life one step at a time.