The military spouse world often comes with a cool-kids-club sort of attitude: you’re either in, or you’re out. Not a military family? Out. No longer in the military? Out. “Just” a girlfriend or fiance — even if you’ve been one for a long time? Out.
And divorced? So, so totally out.
The “you’re not really a military spouse” attitude not just about the label. It’s about our treatment of the people on the edges of our community.
On the one hand I get it. Military family life comes with a ton of heavy sacrifice. In the midst of that, it can feel as if the right to say you’re a “military spouse” is continuously earned like some kind of really horrible Girl Scout badge. To “qualify” you must be full time, ring on finger, dependent ID card in wallet, farewells-at-the-deployment-bus, 100 percent in. No going half-way. No calling it quits.
Fact: If you’re divorced — no, you’re technically no longer a military spouse.
But my suggestion is this: every person — including divorcees — who has had skin in the game deserves respect for what they’ve gone through. Every single person. And so often our divorcee friends find themselves carrying the that “divorcee” label because of skin they’ve left behind.
Marriages crumble. It happens. And military life isn’t exactly a recipe for serenity. It’s a constant fire. Sometimes that fire reveals that the relationship isn’t meant to be long term. Some relationships just aren’t meant to last through that kind of thing. Sometimes people change or break because of the fire — and pushing the relationship forward regardless of how unhealthy it might be isn’t the right answer.
And that’s OK.
The problem is that when a former-spouse turns in his or her ID card, the military spouse community at large has a tendency to think less of him or her for that decision or oust them from the community they’ve called their own for so long.
In my book admitting a relationship is not healthy or is not working for you is its own act of bravery, not cowardice. To me divorcee spouses still carry the “military spouse” mantel — but in an entirely new way. They may still be dealing with solo raising military kids whose other parent is deployed. And they will always carry the emotional and relationship scars of military service.
So what if we, as a community, cast away the credence we so often lend the title “military spouse” and instead looked at each person who has had a piece of our community as equal partners in this military life? What if we gave our divorced spouses the respect they deserve instead of tossing them out like quitters? What if we took the time to listen more and judge less?
Oh how much richer our lives would be.