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His career and my 2 cents.

August 30, 2010

You’ve read those blog posts and heard/overheard those conversations, right? The ones where the spouse of the soldier (etc.) bravely and calmly says that her husband’s career choices in the military really are just up to him since it is HIS career after all. Please tell me you have (though if you haven’t just search around the blog-o-sphere, you’ll find them, I don’t want to post links as I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelers)… because I need to suss some things out in regards to this topic.

First, I get it. I mean, I understand the whole mentality of not putting your foot down and DEMANDING that your spouse ETS or Retire or switch MOS, because generally demands don’t play so nice with marriages. And I’d be willing to bet that around 90% of us knew we were marrying the military type, so there is a certain amount of latitude that must be given. I get that. I really do. There is a part of you that feels incredibly selfish and demanding and not all that wonderful when you start to think about putting in your 2 cents (or 5 dollars) when it comes to these topics.

Second, I sort of understand the parallels I see some spouses trying to make between their civilian career and his. You know, the whole I wouldn’t want him telling me what jobs to take and not to take or when to move or quit, so I shouldn’t do it to him. Because, on some level that is totally spot on. I wouldn’t want Swiss demanding or telling me in no uncertain terms what I could and could not do with my career, to turn down opportunities or a big promotion for whatever reason. I am an independent lady after all, with a strong will to boot. I think we can all imagine how well that would go over, right? So it is, on the surface of things, understandable to draw the same conclusions about your say and his career.

However… for me, that parallel doesn’t really work unless your civilian job is that of a Blackwater contractor or maybe a MD with Doctors Without Borders (or you are in the military yourself). Because my job as a cytotechnologist or teacher or nurse or advertising executive generally only comes with ancillary requirements like occasional overtime or working weekends, maybe a pay cut or the rare travel to some safe garden spot for a short conference. No job I’ve ever had put my life in jeopardy, sent me away from home for a year or more every 15 moths or so or left my family to deal with the very real possibility of me not coming home- ever. And no job I’ve ever had came with contracts that couldn’t be broken or guaranteed moves every few years under penalty of jail time. And last I checked, most civilian jobs can or could be left at the office so to speak. None of those things can be said for a job in the military. Not a one.

Also, isn’t all we ever talk about how this career our spouses choose is really a lifestyle for the whole family, sacrifices and bonuses and all? So how does this whole Hands Off! mentality when it comes to his career jibe with our general thesis on military life? How can we, on one hand say that these deployments effect us all, but on the other say that decisions regarding the career that causes these deployments is no place for my opinion?

I guess my questions/issues on this topic arise because when it came time for Swiss to PCS the last time, when talks of retirement or staying in started to surface, it was a family decision. We talked about it together. I made me feelings and opinions known, politely of course, but Swiss always knew what my feelings on these topics were. We, as a family, talked about the benefits and cons of each of the duty stations and the job assignments and expectations that would come with each place (you know, light infantry versus mechanized units, 1SGT time or staff duty, etc.). We talked about wether or not this was the right time to retire, what the benefits would be to staying in and what impact that would have on our lives, my career, his career and all that jazz. At the end of the day, we made decisions based on what was best for our family. If Swiss was single, he’d probably stay in for another 3-6 years, but those extra deployments and PCSs just weren’t what made sense for us.

Now, with all that said, I really do want to open up a dialogue about this topic even though I haven’t shielded my views even a smidge (hey, I’m just being honest!). How do you feel about this? How much input do you give (or are allowed) on your spouse’s military career? Where is the line between being selfish and doing what is best for your family? How have you and your spouses dealt with these issues in the past? And are you a subscriber to the “Its his career” mentality? If so, why?

Okay Ladies, have at it in the comments! Just play nice with each other, okay?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. August 30, 2010 9:18 am

    Well for us, him joining was BOTH of our decisions. Actually he was ready to make the commitment about 4 months before I was. Had he done it before I was ready, the last few years would have been very different.

    Now it is his job, he is the one going to war, waking up early and dealing with being a soldier. But it is also my life to. It isn’t like what he does for a job just doesn’t affect me. It does big time. So the decision to stay in has to be up to both of us. I know if I said to him I could not take him re-enlisting again, he would listen to that and we would figure out another path. But then I would only say that if I really felt like it was a bad choice for us. And he knows that too.

    Maybe it would have been different if he was in the Army when we met? I don’t know. Even so, life can change you.

    Great topic!

  2. TammyJ permalink
    August 30, 2010 10:14 am

    So glad you wrote this because I’ve read so many of those comments too and they totally make my blood boil. If marriage is not a partnership, if the non-military spouse has no right to give her opinion, what type of marriage is that? We discuss my husband’s career ALL the time. I actually call it the “what if” game and we just played a round last night. He values my input in how his career affects our family. There are times when it is a wash, and I tell him, whatever he decides will be fine. Other times, I point out how the decision will have positive or negative affects on the family and we weigh the “trade offs.” The factors going into these decisions change all the time. What was good for us before kids is not good for us now. What was preferable when the kids were babies is different now that they are both in school. And the same goes for my “career” or lack there of. I haven’t held a paying job in over 12 years. But that was a decision we made TOGETHER about what we felt was best for our family. Because we respect each other so much and value the health of our family, I know we both strive to make the best decisions we can. It would have to be an extreme situation for me to demand he leave the military before he was ready (and I’m sure that would have to be about the well being of our children) but I know he values my feelings and we truly do make every career decision together…because we are in this LIFE together.

    • TammyJ permalink
      August 30, 2010 10:17 am

      Re-reading what I wrote, I just want to clarify; because my husband values the family and trusts my judgment of the emotional health of our children, I cannot imagine “demanding” would ever happen. If I honsetly and wholeheartedly felt that the family could no longer handle his career, I know he would understand. And that would be that. Open communication is just so vitally important.

  3. August 30, 2010 12:05 pm

    I totally understand and agree Tammy. Swiss and I are the same way- what either of us chooses to do effects us both and therefore must be a family decision… and we play the “what if” game too. I think you are spot on when you say that open communication is vitally important. Great response!

  4. August 30, 2010 12:58 pm

    Jumping off of what Tammy just said, in our home, ALL decisions of any magnitude are “family” decisions. Be it where to vacation, to what car to drive, to what holidays to spend with what set of IL’s. It’s just the way (in our home) marriage works. So a job, any job, is discussed. Be it a civilian change of assignment or his military career. We discuss. Sometimes my opinion is stronger and carries more weight, sometimes his. Just the way we roll here. While he may have stronger opinions on the “career” aspect of remaining in the military, I might have stronger opinions on the “lifestyle” aspect.

    That said, I think when you hear these “hands off” attitudes I think it speaks volumes for how those particular people’s marriages work. There is no right way to be married. Perhaps they work differently than us. Perhaps they are happy. However, what I take away when I read statements like that is a dissatisfaction for how it’s happening in their family. They’re saying one thing, “but it’s his job and he’s happy” but underneath you can see and read that they are quietly seething, “but it should be my decision TOO dammit!” Because I have yet to read anyone saying it, and saying it without some reservations.

  5. August 30, 2010 1:09 pm

    and I should add, my husband has been in almost 30 years now. lol. when I was younger I would ask him to leave the military for various reasons – fear mostly. When I was younger, and our kids were younger I disliked the imposition the military made on our family (1 weekend a month, 2 weeks a year – I laugh now). so over the years I asked him to leave and he said no. Asked when we got married, asked when our first child was born, asked when our 2nd child was born, begged after 9/11. But it was not just “no, don’t ask” it was “no, I love it, this is my job, this is why I want to stay, this is why I think it benefits our family to stay.” and he stayed because we both agreed that at that time it was best for our family. By the time our first deployment came I had stopped asking. At this point, unless something drastic changes, it’s status quo and he just reups when it comes around and mostly he tells me after the fact “oh signed another contract.” But, still, we’re on the same page – he knows that if I had objections I’d be voicing them.

  6. Sara G. permalink
    August 30, 2010 3:31 pm

    I feel the same way. When I met my husband just over three years ago, he made it very clear his career in the Navy Reserves was an important part of his life and he planned to stay until he could retire. Since he is reserves I didn’t think too much about it and figured, since I am a pretty independent person, a little time away if he were to get deployed would be something I could probably handle….right? Well, fast-forward a couple years and I find myself learning what that really feels like. SO MUCH has happened since he left a few months ago, things neither of us could have prepared for even if we tried, I can’t imagine going through this again. And I still have three more months! Luckily for me, he will be able to retire in about four years at the end of this enlistment, but I told him if he is considering an extension it’s something we will all discuss as a family. I may have known his commitment to the Navy was one he took seriously and has a lot of pride in, but I didn’t take a vow of silence or give up my right to opinion when that ring was slipped on my finger. We are a family, and we make decisions together. Every person’s situation is different, and so I try not to judge, but I would never sit back without weighing in on something that has such a huge impact on my life.

  7. August 30, 2010 3:39 pm

    I am glad you opened up this discussion. I have to say I am ‘that’ wife, who says “it’s your career and I won’t let you tell me what I’m going to do with mine, so I won’t tell you what to do with yours.” Does that mean I don’t weight in? Not at all. I tell my hubs what I see as the pros and cons but ultimately the decision lies with him.

    I have to admit that at the beginning of this post I was getting a tid-bit defensive. Once I got through the 5th paragraph I really came to see your point of things. It may be contradictory in nature but even though I realize and agree that the military is a lifestyle and not just a job and the effect it has on the families, I still feel like it’s a decision that is ultimately made by the active duty member.

    At the end of the day I feel that children, even teenagers will adapt. Granted I’m no body’s mother (yet), so what do I know? I do know that when I moved with my Air Force Father as a child there was no room for discussion, we sucked it up and pressed on with business in a new town and school. Each family and each child is unique and their needs should factor into the decision.

    • August 30, 2010 3:47 pm

      OOO, I forgot one important thing: For our situation, I’ve known since I met my husband that he would make a career (at least 20 years) out of the Army. So I don’t feel it’s ‘right’/fair for me to change the rules after the fact, and tell him no no… it’s not ok, this is too much, get out. But like so many other milspouses I was a mil-brat and could relate prior to meeting and marrying a soldier. I had an idea (couldn’t fully grasp sending your spouse to waruntil I experienced it) what I was getting myself into, how to navigate TriCare, Posts, PCS’s and many other aspects of military life. Both of these aspects influence/drive my position on the issue.

  8. August 31, 2010 10:36 am

    when we were younger – we realized that the Army was going to be a huge part of our lives – we watched all of our friends divorcing and decided together that he would get out of Active Army and go Guard. After the Iraq war started, and a lot of Guard folk were finding it hard to get or keep jobs, we made the decision, together, for him to go active again. Like you said, Tucker, there is a contract and I don’t think I could say – forget it, don’t go deploy, don’t go TDY – knowing that the alternative is Leavenworth! For those that say – oh, it’s just a job – no, it’s not.


  9. September 3, 2010 6:09 pm

    I just stumbled on your blog and found this post. Thank you so much for posting this! I feel like I’m looked at like a self-centered b*tch because I say that the Army is a joint decision, every step of the way, because we were married a few years before hubs decided to join. I think women who marry into the army can’t understand this, because they weren’t married to a civilian who became a soldier. It takes commitment from me, as well, and I’m lucky enough to have a husband who understands that and wouldn’t put our family through anything we either couldn’t or don’t want to handle.

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