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.