3 Things That Happen When You Live Away From Your Military Community

3 Things that Happen When You Live Outside Of Your Military Community | We've all been there! | More at ofseasandsundry.com

Most military wives will- at some point- spend time living outside their military community. Whether its crashing with family during a deployment, staying in your home state while hubby does an independent assignment, or simply choosing to live farther from base in order to buy a home, many of us have had a taste of what life is like as a military wife outside of our military support system.

Three years ago when my husband got orders to San Diego, we saw it as a divine act sending us straight home. We had family in North County and also in south Orange county where we had lived before LTJG Husband joined the Navy. That’s why we ultimately chose to live nearly an hour from base during his sea tour.

Looking back, I’m still glad we made this choice because having family nearby during his deployments was such a blessing and in many ways it was a temporary relief to “escape” the military world and “play civilian” for a while. That being said, I found out a lot about life as a military wife in that time. Here are three things that I learned happen when you live outside your military community…

1. You Lose Perspective

This may come as a shock to my fellow military wives, but life as a civilian family is different. As in, way different. For instance, did you know that civilian families can make plans? Like, in advance! They have weekend time shares they visit spontaneously. The church they go to now will probably be the same one their kids will grow up in. They buy houses and do adorable, permanent things like plant trees and renovate to make things just so. They hardly hesitate to join groups and invest in friendships because they know that every new friendship might blossom into something rich and lifelong.

I love that my civilian friends have and do these things, and that for three years I got to be a small part of that. Here’s the problem though: You are not a civilian family. If your husband is in the military, good luck planning a trip in advance (I’m convinced this is why vacation insurance became a thing). If you buy a house as a military couple, you know you have to be ready to sell or rent at the drop of a hat. Your attachments are more hesitant, the reality of the temporary nature of your location mediating your desire to dig deep into friendship.

As time goes by, living without military community can cause some bitter seeds to settle, because you start to think: Everyone else around me is planting roots. They are planning! They are investing. Why do our roots have to be so shallow? It’s only natural to feel this way, but having consistent military community combats the feeling that you are the only one making these sacrifices.

2. You Miss Out On Military Benefits

Living outside your military community can knock you out of the communication loop. Technically, we lived close enough to attend the events LTJG Husband’s command put on, but the reality was that we only made it to a handful of them as a couple. The long commute meant he was often attending alone while I took care of the kiddos.

On an even larger scale, moving home with family during deployments can save you a lot of money on housing, but you miss out completely on the support that things like the FRG provides and the benefits of shopping on base. Sometimes the family support is worth the trade off, but there will always be a few challenges that your civilian support system simply won’t understand.

3. You risk going at it alone

The combination of seeing all the stability that your civilian friends have and the lack of military support can cause a huge hit on your morale as a military wife. It becomes easy to shut down, to hide away all the emptiness you are fighting on a daily basis. Too often, living outside your military community means you risk going at it alone.

There were so many things I loved about living in North County, and I was blessed to be a part of a great military wives group at my church that filled in for the community I was missing near base. Without them, I would have been lost during all the times my husband was at sea and I was home alone with all the endless needs of my two littles.

These three things don’t necessarily mean that living far from your spouse’s command is always a bad thing, but in my experience they are important things to consider! Now that we are back in the military community living on Coronado island, I can’t help but smile each evening at sunset when I hear taps playing outside our window. It is just another small reminder that I am once again surrounded by people that get it.


What’s your experience living away from community? What did you miss the most?

22 thoughts on “3 Things That Happen When You Live Away From Your Military Community

  1. This is so interesting. I know very little about military life even though my husband at one point applied to the military. He eventually decided not to go for it because of among other things the high chance of deployment. I also don’t think I’d be able to adjust to the unstable life of a military wife.

  2. These are all definitely true! When we moved to Texas we chose to live away from post and it was nice for the time being however I love living on a military installation.

    1. Sometimes it’s a good break! I’m glad to be living closer to our military community again now too though.

    1. We’ve never actually been able to live ON base (wait lists, etc) so far, but in Rhode Island we lived just outside the gates and now we are very close again to base as well. It’s a happy compromise :)

  3. So true! We lived 45 min from the nearest base when DH was on I&I duty, our previous duty station. It was nice having a nice “civilian” type of life…on the surface at least. There were still trainings and all the time’s apart…and the one time his leave got cancelled last minute when we were going to go home for Independence Day -_-;; We belonged, but never truly belonged. I missed the military community by the end, our brief trips on base were kinda nice in that way.

    1. That’s a great summary: “We belonged, but never truly belonged.” Very, very true. Thanks for weighing in, Kara!

  4. This is so interesting. My husband and I are a CARES team (we do events and help build community for our residents) at our apartment community that is 95% military. We live probably 20 minutes out from the fort. We aren’t military, but are learning all kinds of valuable info about how to help our residents. This is great info to help us understand more. I love your blog. It has been very useful to me.

    1. I’m so glad to hear that Brianna! That means a lot to me. Thanks for following along and for caring about the lives of your military residents!

  5. I had no idea how challenging military life was for the families. It must be hard feeling unsettled because you may have to move often. It’s amazing to me that so many families deal with this everyday while I complain about silly things. Thanks for sharing this insightful post!

  6. I love this! I’m having serious issues with #1 right now. Being “home”, surrounded by family while Zack is overseas has honestly been a nightmare sometimes. And it’s for the same reasons you mentioned. Everyone around me is planting roots and creating their lives, while I’m just sitting here waiting for him to come home and waiting to find out where we’ll be moving next. It’s horrible and definitely makes me very bitter. Plus I miss having the military community and being surrounded by people who actually understand what I’m going through. It’s a challenge.

    1. Thanks, Keating! You nailed it. It’s so hard to explain what we go through emotionally in the “wait” cycles, especially when civilians tend to think of it as exciting. “How fun! A new adventure!” It’s not completely untrue, but there is so much complication that comes with that.

  7. My time as a milso ended but during that time period, I definitely wish I had the community/support that understood the difficulties of having a military partner – but that’s why I turned to blogland so thank you for your support!

    1. I’m so glad you did so that we could all get to know you! Even though that phase of your life is past, I still look forward to following your travel adventures, Julie!

  8. Love these deep and well-thought insights into your life, dear friend! Continually proud of you every stage of military life I watch you in. You are an inspiration !!!

  9. We’ve only ever lived outside the community because of proximity to my job and I love/hate it. I love that I don’t have an hour commute every day and that I’m close to all of my friends and family. But I hate that I don’t get to be a part of the military spouse community on base, because there are definitely times I feel like I would benefit from it.

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