Tis’ the season for resolutions! In case you don’t already have an overwhelming agenda of things to live up to this year 😉 may I add another to your list?
For the military spouses reading this, my message is: Stop apologizing all the time.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. Forgiveness — and my daily need of it — are absolutely central to my belief system. I believe that the only way to have healthy and functioning relationships is to apologize and ask for forgiveness when you’ve wronged someone. So I am definitely not saying you should never apologize.
What I am saying is that you shouldn’t have to apologize for, essentially, being a military spouse.
As a military spouse, I have apologized for everything from crying as I saw my husband off on a deployment, to having a difficult time with his 70-80 hour work weeks, to wishing he could’ve stayed in the hospital with me and our newborn baby 12 hours after I had a C-section (instead of having to go to a military class that couldn’t be rescheduled). I bet you have a hundred stories just like mine, and I bet in the midst of most of them you apologized, didn’t you?
We’ve all done it. Probably unknowingly and most likely out of routine or habit – but whatever the reason, it has to stop.
When we apologize for feeling distressed or scared or for something beyond our control, we not only cheapen our true apologies, we also assign blame to other military spouses in similar situations. It hurts our community as a whole.
And y’all know this world already has enough hurt to go around. Consider the common military spouse “apology pitfalls” below. Let them ruminate in your heart, and the next time you’re compelled to offer an, “I’m sorry,” consider whether or not an apology is truly in order.
Needing Time Alone
Everyone needs time alone. The great irony is that military spouses often need time alone at precisely the time they’ve been left …well …alone. Deployments and extended TDYs often leave spouses in charge of all household duties and child rearing responsibilities, not to mention the fact that they may have a career of their own to consider. The extra stress caused by those added responsibilities, and kids who somehow morph into stage five clingers every time mom or dad is gone are the perfect recipe for some much needed alone time — time to process how things are going, reassess goals, or just, ya know, BREATHE for a minute. Sometimes you just don’t have it in you for that girl’s night out or book club, even though you wish you did.
If a military spouse in your life needs a little extra alone time, don’t be offended, and don’t take it personally. Better yet — offer to watch their kids for them so they can have some time to decompress!
A word of caution, though: Time alone is like salt in the dish of life. You need enough of it to make things palatable, but add too much, and suddenly you’ve spoiled the whole thing. Don’t let your alone time drive a wedge between you and the rest of humanity.
People are meant to exist in relationships with other people. We need each other, both to bless and to be blessed. Speaking of…
Oy-to-the-vey – this one is hard for me, and I’m willing to bet it’s pretty difficult for you, too. We milspouses have got that, go-get-em or get-out-of-the-way attitude down pat! Sometimes, though, we twist that gumption and willingness to buckle down and get things done, into stubbornness and unwillingness to accept help. I know all about it; if I had a spirit animal or a patronus or whatever you want to call it, it would be a mule. Hee-Haw.
When we finally do break down and ask for help, we often do it in such a self-deprecating way that we put off other spouses from asking for help when they need it. If you wouldn’t be irritated by your neighbor asking you to watch her kids during her next yearly check-up, then why should you hesitate to ask her the same?
Stop apologizing for needing help, and just maybe we can all begin to break down this façade that we don’t need each other, because we do. Do yourself and those around you a favor, and ask for help when you need it – unapologetically and unashamedly.
Home Sweet Home
Recently, my husband and I agreed to stop calling the place he and I grew up, “home.” It was just something we did thoughtlessly or reflexively, having both grown up in the same place. We said things like, “They’ve had tons of rain at home this year,” or, “Did you hear that they finally got a Starbucks back home?!” Silly, small things. But one time, as we discussed whether or not we would be “home” for Christmas, one of our littles asked with tears in his eyes if Papa (my husband) would be home for Christmas that year. Bless their hearts, they thought he was deploying! To them, home is a flexible and changeable thing; it’s wherever we’re living at the time, not a place a thousand miles away.
I realized we could no longer divide our loyalties between “back home” and wherever the Army had stationed us.
I’m so thankful that we have a place to go back to, unimaginably grateful, but in order to have a full life, we have to go all in wherever we’re living at the time. I realize that it probably seems strange to some people that our family’s home changes names every couple of years, but it’s our life, and our normal, and I won’t apologize for that.
Not Being There
This is the one thing in my military spouse life that I haven’t quite figured out how to not apologize for. Because even though I can’t change the way things are, I am sorry.
I’m sorry that I missed the baby showers, weddings, retirement parties, funerals and memorials. I’m sorry that I wasn’t there to celebrate during life’s highs, and I’m sorry that I wasn’t there to grieve during life’s lows. And admittedly, the weak apology offered up for the inability to be there is at least, in part, and perhaps a little selfishly, an apology to yourself, too. The bottom line is that as a military spouse who has lived a full life and been blessed with meaningful relationships, you are going to miss countless significant events, and endless meaningful gatherings with the people you care about most.
And it’s really, really hard sometimes.
So maybe I’ve changed my mind — maybe “I’m Sorry” isn’t always about assigning blame. Maybe sometimes it just means that life can be tough and complicated and that we all need a little grace to make it through. Let’s stop apologizing all the time, and let’s start doing something about it instead. Let’s say we’re sorry when it’s called for, extend a helping hand when it’s needed, and give each other the space to thrive.