As our family draws closer and closer to another deployment I am preparing as usual. I am updating my emergency information, writing down when and how my husband normally does his chores and setting a monthly alarm for the dog’s flea and tick medicine since he normally takes care of that.
I’m also preparing for something that most people would never even think about…but other military spouses know all too well. I’m preparing for the dreaded question, “How can I help you?”or the same thought in the form of a statement, “Let me know how I can help.”
I know what you’re thinking. You’re a bit bewildered by my statement. You’re wondering why that isn’t a nice, helpful thing to say?
In my opinion, “Let me know how I can help you,” is the equivalent to two politicians saying, “Let’s do lunch sometime!” It’s a kindness usually extended in words only with a rare follow up. Without a date, time, and place, the lunch will never happen. I understand people mean well… but my answer will always be a nod, a smile, and an, “Okay. Thanks.”
There is a pretty good chance that unless we talk weekly, I am never going to call you and ask for help.
There is also a pretty good chance that even if we talk weekly, I am never going to ask for help.
Because I don’t know how. And I can assure you that most military spouses you meet don’t know how either.
Our other half is gone. Our soulmate. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but it’s true. Theres a huge hole in our life and we don’t know how to fill it and it is a much bigger issue than taking out the trash, cleaning out the attic, or finding childcare. We go into survival mode and take care of it all by ourselves, and we are in general okay with that. But we are lonely.
If you want to help a military spouse, call and tell her you are bringing her dinner, or invite her over to your house. If the military spouse has young kids, she will likely not want to go out to a restaurant since it’s quite stressful to wrangle kids and try to carry on a conversation and eat and feed the toddler that wants to climb out of the high chair. Offer to watch her kids while she showers, or runs errands, or gets a haircut. Buy her favorite coffee or a Starbucks card – I promise she is tired. Tell her you are coming over with junk food and a chick flick to indulge on (after the kids go to bed, if she has them) because that time in the evening between 8 p.m. and midnight is incredibly lonely. Tell her you are going to help her weed that garden she forgot about the day he left and mow her yard. She needs you to set the date and time and tell her it is happening, because she won’t – she is afraid of bothering you, or pulling you away from your family.
Above all, please avoid the following comments while you are helping her stave off the loneliness:
- I could never be married to a military man.
I’m not married to a military man. I’m married to the man I love, and his job happens to be working in the military.
- You must be so lonely.
This will only get you a very sarcastic response.
- How do you make it a year without sex?
Really? I’m pretty sure that’s not the most important part of our relationship.
- I would be so scared/aren’t you scared he will die?
You’ll probably get sarcasm and a very angry/upset response to this.
- You must be used to it/you’ll get used to it.
Nope. You never get used to it, you just keep going and keep the finish line in sight.
- It’ll be over before you know it.
No, it won’t. It will drag like no other time in my life.
- My spouse was gone for a weekend/week/month, I totally understand.
No, you don’t, and we will probably never hang out with you again if you say this.
- Are you keeping yourself busy?
Nope, just sitting around eating bonbons and pining away. Can you tell we like sarcasm?
- Wow you must miss him/don’t you miss him?
*Insert more sarcasm*
- When does he come home exactly?
We don’t know. We might be able to give you a month, but that can change too.
- Is he done deploying after this?
No. He isn’t quitting the military (you can’t just quit anyways, contrary to what seems to be a popular belief) and we aren’t becoming an isolationist country.
You get the point. Please be respectful of our feelings and our situation, and remember to tell us exactly how and when you can help us, because we are not going to ask. Spending some time with us is the best way you can help.
Until then, we will be over here surviving and counting down to homecoming.
*Originally published in July, 2014.