I believe in any marriage, each party loses its identity somewhat. You become Mrs. So-and-So, or someone’s wife or husband. It is inevitable. The Good Chaplain was well known before he entered the military, so I spent a lot of time as “his wife.” I had a moment of satisfaction when he went into a store, and someone asked him if he was my husband.
It happens in the military too. I couldn’t remember my Social Security number for years because we used his for everything on base. In the past, spouses were often identified by who their husband was. “She’s the chaplain’s wife.” “That guy is married to the wing commander.” I’m guilty of it too. Heck, the title of my blog is Chappy T Wife. Today, we spouses try hard not to identify each other by our husband’s rank or job. But I like to know what the military member does so I can put things in context.
In our house, the Good Chaplain knew the military members he worked with each day, and I knew the children and spouses. That made for a good team. But it is easy to lose your identity in the military unless you take the time to be yourself, remember who you are outside the service, and develop your own persona.
I have three steps to help you do that.
First, ask yourself who you are besides so-and-so’s spouse. What do you do for work? What are your passions? What is your role in the family? How would your high school/college friends see you? Build your own identity on these things. I was the city editor of our local paper when the Good Chaplain was asked if he was my husband.
Second, develop your own interests. I love to read, and I read a lot. I can read 40 books in a year while the Good Chaplain maybe finishes two. I love football; he loves hockey. We support each other in those sports. I’m an extreme extrovert; he is an extrovert but not to my extreme. Come evening, I need to just sit and relax in front of the television, while he usually starts projects after dinner. Find a group of people with similar interests and socialize with them. A good marriage and partnership do not require you to be joined together at the hip.
Thirdly, don’t identify yourself by your husband’s rank or job. This is a hard one, and I am guilty of it. I like to think I would introduce myself as the chaplain’s wife because I was so proud of him, but I think it’s because that is how I identified myself. At most spouse club events, I would introduce myself with my name and maybe further identify as a writer. The Good Chaplain’s job would come up eventually, but rarely the rank. You definitely don’t want to be the one walking around, saying, “My husband is a colonel.” Or a sergeant, or an airman, or a general. We don’t care. We want to know you.
Have confidence in who you are, not who your spouse is. You may lose a bit of your identity in the military, but if you follow your own interests and path, you will find people will recognize you and ask your spouse if he is related to you.
Next time I want to talk about what happens when your spouse retires.
How do you keep your identity in your marriage and in the military? Answer in the comment section below. Don’t forget to follow this blog so you never miss out on any of my posts.