When people are asked to think of a stereotypical military wife, they’ll usually think one of two things. The first would be the super-strong, independent, resourceful wife who can juggle everything that’s thrown at her. The second is a young, catty, gossipy wife who talks about other wives behind their backs constantly, causes lots of drama, and in general, is an embarrassment to milspouses, her husband, and the military in general. Both spouses exist in real life, but it’s the second I want to talk about today.
I got a link in my e-mail that took me to a wife who had posted a question in a milspouse forum. She and her husband had just PCSed, and she was having trouble making friends because so many of the wives she was encountering were just like that second spouse stereotype: immature, catty, childish, and gossipy. Her question was, Isn’t there some sort of standard as a military wife you have to uphold?.
The sad thing is that these wives are all too common. I hate to say it, too, because most wives are not like this. In my experience, there’s usually a clique of girls like this while the rest keep to themselves. But of course, the clique of girls that are immature and cause problems are also usually loud-mouthed attention seekers, and therefore, give everyone a bad reputation. Wives say they don’t want to get involved in family readiness because of girls like that — they don’t want to be involved in the drama, they’re worried about the type of girls they’ll meet there, etc.
But the question is, why does it happen if military spouses hold themselves to a higher standard?
The answer is, they don’t. Or at least, some of them don’t. And the sad truth is, outside of the higher standards they hold for themselves, they don’t have to. Sure, there are ways that a wife can get her husband in trouble — violate OPSEC, violate the dress code on base, etc. — but by and large, the only standard a wife has to abide by is the one she creates for herself.
And it’s too bad, because here’s the thing that a lot of (primarily younger) wives just don’t seem to understand: just about everything you do as a military wife, like it or not, does reflect on your husband. Will he get in trouble for it? No. Will he be thought less of for it? Probably.
If you’re the wife who constantly causes problems among the other wives, and is generally known as one of the least liked wives in the battalion, that’s going to make him look bad. If you’re the wife who shows up to homecoming holding a XXX-rated sign with extremely suggestive language, that’s going to make him look bad. If you’re the wife who constantly gets wasted all the time and makes no secret of it, that’s going to make him look bad.
The response when this unfortunate reality is pointed out is usually something along the lines of, but that’s not fair!. Well, too bad. Fair or not, as a milspouse, your actions reflect back not only on you, but on your husband as well.
So while there isn’t necessarily an official standard wives are held to — and considering we aren’t members of the military (despite what some spouses may think) we shouldn’t be — there is a standard that milspouses should aim to hold themselves to. No, that doesn’t mean that we have to break out our cardigans and pearls, and only speak when spoken to. But in general, it’s a good idea to remember that what we do doesn’t just affect us. It affects our husbands as well.
When my husband was away at training last year, our battalion commander sought him out to thank him for what I did to help out the unit. That was a proud moment, not just for him, but for me. I want to be the kind of wife that he can be proud to introduce to anyone, rather than embarrassed because of my reputation in the unit. That’s the standard I hold myself to — simply remembering that what I do reflects on him, and how will my actions make the both of us look? If we’re shopping at the commissary and run into one of the Marines in his unit, I don’t want them to be cringing because I’m dressed like a slob (or like I should be working the street). I don’t want him to have to answer to some other Marine because his wife was crying to him about the horrible things I’ve been saying behind her back.
No one is going to be perfect and always do the right thing all of the time. And there’s no military wife book of rules to guide us through how we should act. No matter what, there’s always going to be those few wives who don’t care, either, and will do and say whatever they want without a thought of how it affects anyone else. So while there’s nothing official dictating how we should act, the truth is, the standard we should hold ourselves to is this: would my husband be proud of me for this, or would he cringe if it gets brought up at work?
Plenty of wives will claim that they aren’t in the military, so it doesn’t matter what they do or say. But it does, even if it’s only unofficially. Fair or not, there’s a lot we give up when we marry into the military, and this is just another example. As a milspouse, it’s best to accept that you simply can’t just do whatever you want anymore — your actions reflect on someone else now, too. And while falling short of that standard won’t mean you have to answer to any official military authority, it will mean you’ll have to answer to your husband.
And really, that should be enough.
Bride and Groom courtesy Bigstock