We should have discussed it at the beginning, when he first considered enlisting, but we didn’t. It’s caused issues for us ever since. It’s a hard conversation, filled with unknowns, but it’s one you must have with your service member as soon as possible. We never talked about it. Not when he first enlisted, not when we got married. Not after our first duty station. Not until our second, as we were leaving for our third did the full consequences of this topic rear its ugly head. It cause immeasurable hurt and despair, and caused more fights than I can count. The fact of the matter is, your service member’s career impacts you – Milspouse – your career as well, and you need to discuss this issue together.
What is your career plan?
It’s a simple question, with an answer that might be more difficult than anticipated. Knowing their career plans is essential. It’s something that will impact both of you greatly. Perhaps more than your realize at this moment. Are you willing to change your career goals for theirs? Can you have both? Only you can figure out the answers to these questions and more that will come up.
Are they a “lifer”? Will they go the full 20…or more? Or will they do 4 and be done? The answer can give you a very different outlook.
In a world of uncertainty and troop draw downs, nothing is certain. Yet, you must talk about this topic as soon as possible. Preferably before they join the military. It’s a choice that will impact both of you. It will impact your career just as much as theirs, and not for the better. The under and unemployment rate for milspouses is very high, the difficulty of finding work for even those with portable careers is high. You deserve to know this going in, and be able to make an informed decision or at the very least share your concerns with your partner and be heard.
It’s not just about the present.
It’s also about the future. Your spouse won’t be in the military forever. What will happen when they get out? What if your career is put on hold all those 20+ years, how will you enter the work force then? How will you make ends meet for your family then? These are things that must be considered now, while you still have time to find solutions that work for your family. The unexpected happens, these future plans may be needed sooner than you think. What happens if your spouse gets out unexpectedly due to troop draw downs or other reasons? Will you have the means to support yourselves? All of these questions matter, they may never happen but you should be aware of what could happen and take this into account. The best backup plan may be one you never need, but if you do find yourself in need of it, you will be thankful you have one.
It avoids resentment.
This is something I’ve struggled with. OH HOW I’VE STRUGGLED! I still DO struggle with it. Normal, rational, me understands it’s no one’s fault. It’s how things are. Angry and hurt me is resentful. Resentful that I lost a job due to a PCS. Resentful that I can’t find work overseas. Resentful that all jobs geared to military spouses are entry-level. That jobs on base pay less than I made 10 years ago working retail. That I’d make 25% more working a minimum wage job in my home state than I would on base here. Resentful me is angry, hurt and lashes out. Mainly at my husband. That’s not right, and it’s not fair. I know I shouldn’t, I know he in his heart of hearts, never, EVER, meant for any of that to happen, and has no control over it even either way. I still struggle with it.
Don’t let resentment build in you. It’s dark, it hurts and it hurts your relationship with your spouse, and it hurts you. I fight with this whenever the topic of my career comes up. We never had the career talk. We should have. I always thought it would be for a few years, then we’d be back to a “normal” life. Then it was 4 more years, then 4 more, then we were nearly at 10 and there was talk of 20. My heart broke. I never wanted this. Ever. I never thought it would be like this.
Don’t be like us.
Speak to each other, let each other be heard. Share your career goals, and let them share theirs. Discus what their career means for yours. Don’t let resentment ever get the chance to rear its ugly head. Don’t be like me. Don’t be like us. Talk about your career goals with your spouse and vice versa. Both of your career goals matter, and both can work together to create a happy, fulfilling and sustainable path for your family in the future. It may be hard, but you can make it work.
Have you had the career talk with your spouse? Have you found a compromise that supports both of your careers? Or have you made your career blossom in spite of difficulties associated with military life? Share your story in the comments!