By Jaimi Erickson
Contributing Writer

Isn’t it the truth that we are often given timelines by our servicemembers that are rarely — okay, never — true? You know how it goes: They text you to say they will be home by six o’clock but when six o’clock rolls around they aren’t home, so you know they got tied up at work again.  

In fact, it has always been better not to be told what time my husband is going to be home for dinner because whenever he did tell me a time, it was never accurate. 

Military life is truly all-consuming for our servicemembers. As a spouse, you may get to the point of wanting to be done with the military lifestyle before your servicemember is ready to get out.  

My husband had me convinced he was ready to retire. Then, the date by which he was going to drop his papers rolled around and he had not done any retirement planning. He just wasn’t ready. I had prepared myself to be done, and then I felt like the military  won again. For a few years while I waited for him to figure out his timeline, I felt like I was treading water. My forever home plans and forever life vision had to shift if I wanted to live with joy rather than resentment.  

It is always about your mindset. No matter the circumstance, I know I can dig deep to find the positives. It’s not about ignoring or sugar-coating the negatives; it is about allowing them to help you focus on whatever positives exist. 

The key to remaining joyful as a military spouse when you stay in the military longer than planned, is to find what brings you joy. This mindset shift was sparked by a couple of books I read, which led me to take certain actions. I could either be frustrated or I could find my way to contentment. One book was written by a fellow military spouse and the other was written by a psychologist who has done research on what shapes our mindset. 

Military Culture Shift, by Corie Weathers, presents a researched look at current challenges within the military family and mission balance. The book is interesting for all military spouses to consider as they decide what role to play in community- building. Your time at any duty station or with any unit is not wasted time. It may be a time to pour into others, or it may be a season of working on your own personal growth. Whether you build community by caring for your family or by hosting monthly coffee gatherings for fellow spouses, you are contributing to morale.  

The other book that was helpful for me is Mindset by Carol Dweck, PhD. This book details the hidden aspects of what makes people successful. I think this is a key component to whether you, as a military spouse, will find contentment in each circumstance.  

Whenever I feel unhappy at a specific military base, I look for ways to contribute to my local community. This could mean writing articles to share about the amazing things at my current duty station or it could be connecting with spouses in the same unit. My contribution could be volunteering at church or creating a Meetup group.  

One lesson that has been true every time I experience it: If you are not getting invited to a table, it may be a calling to build your own and invite others to join you. Every time I have done this it has been fruitful, either helping me to make friends or building friendships between others. 

If there is one constant in this crazy life of being a military spouse, it is that everything is temporary. Your temporary situation may last longer than you had originally planned, but eventually military life does end.  

When you set your hopes on a specific plan for getting out of the service, and its timeline keeps growing longer, find joy where you are right now. I said earlier that I felt like I was treading water for two years. At times it was exhausting to keep being patient, but remember, even treading water makes you stronger.  

Service and sacrifice are part of the military spouse journey, too. We can thrive within this lifestyle and remain focused on joy in each season. 

About Jaimi Erickson

Jaimi is a mom of 4, military wife, and writer. She blogs about motherhood, kids activities and homemaking tips at The Stay-at-Home Mom Survival Guide. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest.

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