Monday, January 27, 2014

A New Military Spouse Orientation Plan

In which Bravo and Kilo discuss new MilSpouse orientation, the military divorce rate, and LeftFace's article "Suicide- a military spouse's story".

The past month has been rough. DH and I had a couple of dust-up fights with ANGER! and WORDS!...but between hashing out some hard issues and applying the wise counsel from our friends in fighting fair, we got to a better place with our relationship. Heck, we practically moved from emotional Alaska to emotional Hawai'i in the space of two weeks.

Kilo believes we need a New Military Spouse Orientation. So I asked her, "if you were putting an orientation together, what content would you provide?" This notion can't be new but the devil is in the details. I bet someone proposed it before and then ended up providing a fun-filled 5 hour long powerpoint presentation on how to register with the DEERS system. Kill me.

Kilo's notion is to discard all the rote crap you can get in an informational hand-out. No "how to read a paystub" or "how to get an ID card". She wants a focused, short gathering that will provide networking, counseling and affirmation on how being married to the military is hard but there are skills to make it ok. How to communicate. How to prioritize shared values like careers, babies, hobbies, sex. How to know when your relationship is really, truly opposed to on-going, and intensive work.

As a new spouse, you hold your relationship up to a number of mirrors to compare and contrast. Your friends' marriages. Your parents' marriages. Your past relationships. The Battalion commander's spouse's marriage. Your pre-marriage dating life. These comparatives can give a false perspective. As can military spouse blogs with their emphasis on self-sacrifice and doting domesticity. When you're living with someone in a work relationship that bears more resemblance to indentured servitude than not, hard is what you're gonna get. But what hard means in this lifestyle is different from hard in your sample group. Hard does not mean your relationship is inherently broken. Hard means that professional satisfaction may go in turns. Hard means that you need to talk harder, love harder, compromise harder, and negotiate harder. Hard means that you control the things in life that can be controlled; and you value the good things you have when you have them, like friendships, stability, and a soul-satisfying job. Hard means being there to support your partner with no questions asked. Hard means ensuring that whatever future lies ahead of the two of you are working together, both while you're in the military and when you lock that door behind you.

Kilo did some research and discovered that the US Military does not track spousal suicides. This is curious because they sure as sh*t track active duty suicides and most definitely know whether someone enrolled in TriCare is a spouse. The high divorce rate in the military, broken down allegorically by branch and call sign (with that "S"=Special Forces signifier leading the charge in the divorce courts just as they do in the Sandbox), is another area of concern. The military mostly seems to handle this by repeatedly telling soldiers not to beat their spouses and holding couples counselling for the first 3 couples to sign up; see the monthly Family Readiness Group (FRG) email flyers for details. Spitballing as we do, Kilo and I hypothesized that perhaps the Mil isn't as concerned about the divorce rate because they think the alternative is suicide. Possible? Heck, This Man's Army uses childcare services on Post as multi-year recruiting tools for attracting the next generation of soldiers. Weighing this as a cost-benefit analysis is totally possible.

What do you think?
Should the Military intervene early to prevent divorce?
Should the Military track and seek to prevent MilSpouse suicides?
Are there better tools available to offer New Military Spouses than FRG Happy Hours? 

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