15 Things I Want My Civilian Friends to Know

This blog post has such a meaningful and important message – Military families often feel misunderstood by their civilian friends.

That’s ok, and it’s honestly hard to understand this lifestyle when you haven’t lived it.

In one sentence, the moral of this post is to do what you can to offer understanding to others who have different struggles than you.

Even if you don’t understand the feeling, always choose compassion over comparison.

Now let’s get on with it!

1. Many of us feel really lonely

Being far away from family, on top of experiencing duty-related separation with our military member, is really hard on a lot of military families. Checking in on us, scheduling visits, and offering actionable support means more than you’ll ever know.

2. We have little to no say on where we move to (or when)

9 times out of 10, military families do NOT get to choose where they move to, or how soon they need to move. Assignments are given and expected to be followed, even if it means you need to move in 3 weeks.

3. We usually feel like the odd one out

ALWAYS being the new person is hard. Especially for those of us who are introverts, are incredibly busy, or who have a hard time meeting new people.

4. When we say we don’t know, its probably because we literally don’t know

This goes for deployment dates, where we are moving to, when we can visit…pretty much everything. Often times, we really don’t have the answers.

5. We are asked to follow something called OPSEC

OPSEC stands for Operation Security. This means that sometimes we are told information that we CANNOT share over the phone, online, over email, or even through text. It can put our loved ones jobs, and sometimes their very lives, at risk if that information gets into the wrong hands. You can learn more about it here.

6. We are not rich

Although you may hear about our military discounts and other benefits, we do not live luxurious lives. Many military families face financial difficulties, and some even live paycheck to paycheck.

7. Reintegration is still really difficult

Reintegration means the phase right after our service member returns from a physical military separation (like after they come home from deployment). It is a HUGE adjustment for the whole family, and we still want support and love from you!

8. Reintegration is NOT the time to come visit

Contrary to what you might think, reintegration is a huge mix of emotions. From joy to frustration to messed up schedules, reintegration really needs to be just our little family until we are ready for you to visit again. We know you want to see them, but please respect our needs and requests.

9. Just because they are somewhere “safe” doesn’t mean its not hard

Worrying for their safety is obviously something we think about. But even if their safety is not at risk, we are still missing our person just as much.

10. Taking leave is a big deal

Taking leave is a tedious process with many steps. The service member needs to request time off with their immediate superior, including what dates, where they are going, and the reason for taking time off. There is absolutely no guarantee that it will be accepted (no matter the reason), and even if it is, it can be denied up to the moment it’s meant to be taken.

11. Hearing others compare business trips to deployment is frustrating

They. Are. Not. The. Same. We realize those trips can be hard on the family. However, it is different than zero communication with them, fearing for their safety, explaining it to your children, and being apart for months and months, with the end potentially being pushed back even further.

12. “Getting out” of the military is not like a 2 week notice

Many, if not all, service members have a service (aka time) commitment, which means they have a contract to work for a certain amount of time. ”Getting out” can literally take months, or even years, to achieve.

13. We don’t want to only talk about the military

There is so much more to us than the military. We have our own lives we lead, and its refreshing and relieving to talk to someone about things other than the military.

14. We don’t all love this lifestyle

There are loved ones who hate their situation regarding the military and the challenges it brings. And there are some who simply don’t love it, but don’t hate it either. There is nothing wrong with that. Remember to show love and compassion instead of judgement or unkindness.

15. We don’t all hate this lifestyle

There are also loved ones who love the military and the blessings it brings to their family. And even if they love this lifestyle, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t offer support or a listening ear.

This blog post is a collaborative effort through my Instagram account, anonymously featuring responses from real military spouses and significant others.

The term “civilian” in this context can apply to anyone who does not have a military service member in their immediate family or living with them.

“Military families” include partners, dating couples, engaged couples, and married couples where one (or both) are part of the uniformed services.

Please remember that these responses are from all types of military families across many branches and forms of service, each with unique struggles and experiences.

Feel free to follow along on my Instagram to get a small peek into military life!

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