Military Life

13 Things I’ve Learned in 13 Months as an Army Wife

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Today is our 13 month anniversary. And no, I’m not one of those people who celebrate every single month’s anniversary. But this year we weren’t able to celebrate our one year anniversary, so we are celebrating 13 months instead.
13 has always been a good number for us – we met on Friday the 13th, and this past weekend we celebrated our anniversary on Friday the 13th.

Since 13 has traditionally been a good number for me, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share a few of the things I’ve learned in the past year of being a military spouse by giving you this list of 13 things I’ve learned in 13 months as an Army Wife.

13 Things I've Learned in 13 Months as an Army Wife | Julia Auburn

 

1. Military Wives aren’t as intimidating as you think.

I guess I’m biased since I am an army wife now, but the stereotypes I’d heard about military spouses were not at all accurate. I’m sure there are the rough, tough, clique-y army wives out there, but I haven’t really met any over the past year. And I’ve met a lot of army wives. Most of my army wife friends are really down to earth people. Most of them are a lot like me – new to the Army, new to marriage and learning things as they go. It’s been great to have others to walk alongside as I figure this whole “army wife” thing out.

 

2. Military balls aren’t as common as you think.

Ok, so I know they happen, but I’ve yet to go to one and I’m still kind of bitter about it. When you are dating a military member the comforting thing people always say is “well at least you’ll get to go to fancy balls.” I’ve spent so much time browsing Rent the Runway but to no avail. Thanks for getting my hopes up guys. I demand a refund.

 

3. The military can be a great community – if you let it.

Like I said, most of the army wives I’ve met are a lot like me. While some of them were Army Brats, or former military members themselves, and while most have been around the Army longer than me, most of the friends I’ve made didn’t have the Army in their life plans before meeting their spouse.

The military community is very diverse, but the best thing about it is that no matter how different you are from someone, you always have at least one thing in common – the military. You may be decades apart in age, you may have grown up in a different country, and you may speak different primary languages, but you are going through the same things in life and that provides a camaraderie that you can’t find just anywhere.

 

4. Sometimes you don’t want to be engulfed in the army community.

While the army community can be a great thing, sometimes you just want to feel like you are a part of the “real world.” My husband and I live off post, and while it is a bit longer of a drive for him to get to work, it’s nice for him to feel like he’s really leaving work at the end of the day. For me, it’s nice to feel like I’m a part of the community we live in.

Where we live now is a totally different environment than I’m used to. I grew up in the boondocks, outside a small town in Alabama, so living in a neighborhood in a relatively big city is different and exciting for me. We’ve had a lot of fun exploring the area. It’s also been great to have some non-military friends who know the area really well and can give us the insider’s guide to El Paso.

 

5. Be flexible.

Sometimes plans change. When it comes to the military it feels like most of the time the plans change. Deal with it. I know that doesn’t sound sympathetic, but I’m mostly talking to myself. Understand that the military isn’t a regular 9-5 job. One day it will be, and the next day will be a 15 hour work day. You never know what each day will hold, so flexibility is a must. Learning to roll with the punches is one of the most important things I learned in the first year of my Army wife career. I imagine this is a lesson that I will continue to learn for years to come.

 

6. Don’t take your frustration with the military out on your husband.

It can be really tempting to dump all of your frustrations and worries and troubles out on your husband, but don’t succumb to that temptation! Recognize that your husband is just doing his job, and sometimes [read: most of the time] the military is more demanding than we would like it to be. I wrote a little bit about this here.
If you just have to vent, vent to another army wife friend who can sympathize and one up your frustrating plans-changed-at-the-last-minute stories. Trust me, there is always a worse story out there, and it’s surprisingly therapeutic to hear other horror stories.

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7. Getting involved is worth it.

FRG, PWOC, RWB, Junior League, Church, all of those good things. Sometimes these organizations get a bad rap – but remember, any organization is only as good as its members. If you want to have a great, active organization, then you have to be willing to put some time and effort into building relationships with other members. You often get out of it what you put into it. Be willing to put the effort into these things, and they can be very rewarding experiences.

 

8. Don’t feel bad for asking about military discounts.

I’m really bad at remembering to ask for discounts, but thankfully a lot of businesses make sure to ask me, which is so nice. I never expect a military discount, so it doesn’t bother me if a business doesn’t offer one, but it’s always a nice surprise when they do. I’m trying to be better about asking for discounts and not feeling guilty for asking – after all, they offer it for a reason.

 

9. Going on-post isn’t as intimidating as you think.

The first few times I had to drive on post by myself I felt so nervous and flustered. There is absolutely no reason to feel this way, but I think it’s pretty common. It was like I was always fumbling over things when I would go through – my id card would get stuck in my wallet or I would forget to roll down the back windows. It seemed like a big, embarrassing deal at the time, but in all honesty, these things probably took up 2 extra seconds of the gate guards time. Trust me, they’ve dealt with a lot more than my flustered self.

 

10. Paperwork is annoying.

This is just a fact of life, but it was pretty prevalent in the first few months of marriage. All of the paperwork involved in getting a marriage license (then the whole rigmarole of getting our marriage license amended due to a typo), obtaining a military id, changing my name, getting a drivers license in a new state and all of the other little things that go into getting married to a military member seemed to pile up. But it’s finished now, praise Jesus.

 

11. There are a lot of lonely nights.

Everyone knows about deployments, but there are a lot of times you spend apart even when your spouse isn’t deployed. I honestly don’t remember if I knew to expect this or not, but it’s a reality in our life. In the 13 months we’ve been married we’ve spent about 3 of them apart, and none of that time included a deployment. These times apart help me to learn to really appreciate the time that my husband is home because it seems like we are almost always either recovering from time apart or preparing for time apart, or both.

 

12. Acronyms, lots of acronyms.

I’m not saying that I’ve learned all of the acronyms. I’ve just learned that there is an acronym for everything and that you can very quickly go from totally comprehending a conversation to being totally lost in about 2 seconds flat. On the bright side, it can be a fun guessing game if you don’t know what people are talking about but just nod along anyways.

 

13. Home is where the heart is.

This is a cliche for a reason, y’all. There is a part of me that will always consider my parent’s house “home,” but it was almost strange how quickly my new house felt like a home. Being married to my husband and finally living in the same place felt so right. It was very natural for our new house together to become our home. I can’t say for sure if I’ll feel the same in the next new place we move to, but if I had to guess, I would put my money on the cliche.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my takeaways for the past year+ of marriage and military life. Hopefully, this will give all of you non-military readers a little insight into the life of a military family, and if you are one, hopefully, this is something you can relate to.

13 Things I've Learned in 13 Months as an Army Wife | Julia Auburn


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10 Comments

  • Melissa McNichol

    I am plagiarizing #7 for Camp stuff. If i give you credit – I guess it’s not plagiarizing though – so maybe I will! : – )

    Great post from beginning to end. #7 is perfect for everyone to do and will be great to use for Camp!

    Thanks!!
    Love,
    MM

  • Amirah

    Really nice post Julie! Your voice really comes through in your writing and thanks for sharing your experiences. 🙌🏾 The part about “you get what you put into it… “ was giving me ag ambassador flashbacks 🙂.

  • Cassie

    I loved reading your list! My sister was married to a Air Force man and I would love to visit her on base in the summer times when I was out of high school. They moved around a few times, so I enjoyed seeing different parts of the country.

  • juliaauburn

    Thanks Cassie! That’s so cool! It’s definitely been an adventure living somewhere new, so I love having family and friends come visit 🙂

  • Shawniece

    This is a great list of things to clear up any myths or curiosity people may have. Forwarding this link to my niece who is involved with a military man. This will help her greatly.

  • Haley

    This was really well written and I enjoyed it! So much admiration for you and respect for both you and your husband! Thank you for yalls service!

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