By: Claire Gordon (@clairedon)
A Military Spouse who lives in a not-so-Military town is bound to attract the curiosity and intrigue of neighbors. Military families usually love sharing details of their lives with interested civilians. But sometimes that curiosity and intrigue can take awkward, irritating or wildly offensive forms. AOL Jobs asked a handful of Military Spouses what irksome things civilians often say to them, and we’ve compiled the top 11.
Even though these remarks can grate, Jacey Eckhart, the editor of Military Spouse blog SpouseBUZZ, and author of several books on Military Spousehood, says she’d prefer civilians said grating things than, for fear of being grating, didn’t say anything at all. “I’d rather air on the side of being included and treated like a normal person than any weird special behavior,” she says. “We pride ourselves on being resilient.”
And if a person wants to understand the Military Spouse’s life better, but doesn’t know how to approach it sensitively, Eckhart suggests starting the conversation with, “I bet you’ve met some really wonderful people.”
1. Has s/he killed someone?
It may sound obvious, but this question gets asked frequently. In most cases, a Military Spouse does not want to discuss whether his or her loved one is responsible for the death of a human being in casual conversation. “That’s like asking a woman if she’s had an abortion,” says Eckhart.
2. Aren’t you so glad s/he’s home?
If you weren’t glad your life partner was home, you probably aren’t the best life partners. Lori Volkman, a Military Spouse who writes the blog Witty Little Secret, says she feels the question whitewashes all the struggles of transition, as if there aren’t months of hard work ahead to refigure everything back into some kind of normal.
3. I don’t know how you do it!
Military Spouses don’t have insides made of steel. They haven’t been “dreaming since childhood of the day we’d get to be anxious single moms who carry cell phones with us to the bathroom and in the shower,” as a military spouse writes on the blog A Soldier’s Perspective. They aren’t missing the genes for loneliness or fear or suffering. They just fell in love with a person who chose to serve, and they’re dealing with it the best they can.
4. Your husband is in Afghanistan? I thought Obama brought them home!
Afghanistan and Iraq are not the same thing.
5. Are you and the kids going to visit?
If your Spouse is deployed in a place like Afghanistan, you probably won’t throw the children in the back of an RV and barrel through a middle eastern desert, dodging the occasional IED.
6. How can s/he fight in such an evil war that’s killed so many innocent people and was all about oil anyway?
Civilians will often volunteer their political positions on war to Military Spouses. But for most members of the Military, their service isn’t about serving any politician or ideology; it’s about serving their country period. “They don’t always separate the act of the service member from world leaders who make decisions,” says Volkman. “They tend to lump the military into one big category.”
7. I know how you feel. My husband was gone for a month/a week/a weekend.
Your Spouse going away on a two-week business trip in Geneva is not the same as your Spouse going away for a 12-month deployment in the deserts of Afghanistan. In the first case, your Spouse may bring home a box of gourmet chocolates. In the second, s/he may bring home a shrapnel-studded leg.
8. Don’t you miss sex???
“Hmmm, no I don’t miss sex. I’m a robot,” as a Military Spouse writes on the blog A Soldier’s Perspective. “Military Spouses learn quickly that our relationships must be founded on something greater than sex.”
10. Well, you did marry him knowing this would happen.
There’s no way to predict the potential costs you’ll face with a spouse in the Military: the missed anniversaries and lonely Christmases; physical wounds and mental trauma; giving birth to your first child with your partner halfway across the world. There’s no way to plan for the sleepless nights and panicked phone calls. Signing your family up for service isn’t signing away your right to hate it sometimes.
11. Oh yeah, the will is good. You guys die all the time.
This one comes from a poster on Scary Mommy, who was greeted with this line when she and her husband filled out his will together. When talking to a military spouse, it’s probably best to avoid comments/jokes/songs/or any other form of vocal expression that make casual reference to his or her higher risk of widowhood.