Have you ever had to stop and ask yourself “when did my time married become my war stripes in the world?”
For me it’s at those moments I’m so proud of myself for getting a never-before done project aimed at supporting the military spouse community across the finish line. I look at my vision board and feel pride as I get to check off another thing. I beam with happiness and rejoice because I touched that many more military significant others’ lives.
Then, without hesitation, spouses — “the ones that had been here before” — swoop into my Facebook private message box to not only give advice, but to extend the offer to become a mentor and help me along “my path.”
Here’s the problem: “Mentor” feels like code for “I think I know more than you do and your life experience isn’t good enough.”
Sound familiar? Every time this happens I wonder where this apparent need comes from. Why? Those making the offer don’t know anything about me, my career, my past or what my goals are to even assist me in my endeavors. I’m already succeeding — what do they think I need?
The truth is that they only know one thing: I haven’t been a military spouse for very long.
It seems that many think that time in marriage is worth more than life experience. Not being married to the military for many years suddenly means my IT, networking, sales and public relations experience and decade-plus career to go with them and identity are void.
Funny enough, the spouses trying to give advice are all pretty much the same age I am. They’ve just been married longer.
My husband is 10 years my junior, and we have been married for four years. Not long into our relationship I realized that despite my age, being a girlfriend, fiancee’ and then a spouse all within seven months can bring a lot of obstacles. I was 30, and knew that at 19-years-old those obstacles might be even larger because you are dealing with less exposure to the world.
That’s when I launched United Military Significant Others (UMSO). I have your back — every branch and around the world. I wake up every day for you. I want you to have the best life you can have in this journey. There is a reason my husband’s chain of command seeks me out at every meeting. I lead the military significant others, support my military member and enhance his career path to the best of my mature ability.
My husband and I are happy people — and we want others to be happy, too. Yet I’ve had “senior spouses” try to get in my way of my total world domination of happiness, even though they haven’t walked a day in my shoes. They also haven’t asked or even thought that my life and what I deal with for people in my organization might not be what they guess based only off my positive demeanor.
Here’s the truth: members of my organization don’t call just to wish me a nice day. It is tears, domestic abuse, financial ruin, custody battles and suicide threats worldwide. Why don’t you know this? Because you don’t need to know. These things are handled privately. But the pain is real, and I have created trust within my organization around the globe to be the person to call.
A mentor is a valuable asset — and I do have one. She is someone I went after and love from the bottom of my heart. If I end up half the woman she is, I can die happy.
When you show-up telling me you should be my mentor when I don’t want what you have, admire you or have even asked for guidance, remember that if I wanted your help, I would have asked.
My husband and I take this life very seriously. But those that don’t take us seriously need to understand that if us idealistic, motivated, bright eyed and bushy tailed individuals were to ever change, then we will become stagnant as a military community. Sometimes people want things to change back to the old school ways, but that isn’t a future. You can’t drive forward staring into the rear view mirror.
Yet it is a “been there done that so you don’t screw it up” type of mentality from older spouses that actually subdues dreams.
If you’re a senior spouse thinking that your offer of mentorship was only for the “military aspect” of life and you meant no offense, please remember that your offerings are not sensitive to the older business owners, vice presidents and career spouses that fell in love with a military member. When you devalue us and then get offended that we don’t seek your advice only based off your years associated with the military, we too get associated with arrogance.
It really goes both ways. We do need you and we very much value your guidance — but we also need each other, and those who haven’t been married to the military long have something to offer, too. Let’s just do each other a favor and help the best way we can by listening. You respect the fact that not being married long has no baring on what we bring to the table in the form of life experience — and we’ll respect what you can offer, too.
Editor’s note: At SpouseBuzz we pride ourselves on offering a variety of perspectives and opinions from across the military. Last week you read this, written by our editor Amy. This post was inspired by that situation.