You Know

It’s something that everyone hears all the time. I know it’s not just limited to military spouses, though that is the arena that introduced me to this phenomenon. It is a form of shaming and, in my opinion, it is undeserved and unfair. Still, I’m sure most people can recall a time when they’ve been told one of the following.

  • You knew what you were getting into when you married a military man.
  • Well it’s not like you didn’t know he would deploy.
  • You knew he was in the military and you still chose to be with him.
  • Moving around a lot is part of the military life, you know that.

In other words, it’s your own fault, we don’t want to hear that you’re sad, lonely, worried, or whatever emotion is at the top. I sometimes feel like I’ve lost all right to be frustrated by anything that occurs with the military because somehow, I knew that it would be like this. I beg to differ.

First off, there is more than one way to know something. In fact, as I see it, there are two crucial ways that you can know something: academically and “a posteriori.”A posteriori knowledge is that gained after experience. Because there are some things that you can only know after you’ve been through it. All the book knowledge in the world doesn’t take the place of actually living through certain things.

For example, I’ve been reading infertility blogs for as long as I can remember. If you think it’s strange that at 27 and child free by choice that I read them, ponder for a moment on the fact that I started reading them in college, if not before. I’m not exactly sure. Through these women and their struggles to have children, I know all about charting cycles, injection cycles, triggering, implantation. I know about their pain of experiencing a BFN (Big Fat Negative) after a difficult cycle. I know their joy when they have a pregnancy that results in a live child in their arms nine months later.

But of course, this is all academic knowledge. I could never say to anyone that I know what it’s like to be infertile. Because I don’t have a freaking clue. All the reading in the world does not give me the actual experiential knowledge. Now, there may be those who argue that the difference here is that no one chooses to be infertile versus my choosing to fall in love with a military man. To them I would say that I chose the man I fell in love with as much as someone chooses to want to be a parent.

Before I met B, I had an idea of how long distance relationships worked. I knew that they involved not seeing the other person super frequently. I had a friend who’s fiance and then husband lived in a different state due to her work situation and his being in school. I knew that it wasn’t easy on them. But I had no idea what it was like until B and I decided to enter into an LDR a mere three weeks after meeting. I started to clue in quickly when people would reference him as my imaginary boyfriend or try to set me up on dates. I experienced the crushing blow of cancelled plane flights resulting in missed visits. I lived through the frantic changing of airports in order to keep another visit from being cancelled. Before I was in an LDR, I had the academic knowledge of how one functioned. After dating long distance for 8 months, with 1500 miles between us, I can say that I know what it’s like to be in a long distance relationship.

It’s the same with the military. Before you live through a PCS, an OCONUS PCS, a deployment, a TDY, a whatever the hell they come up with next, you don’t really know what it involves. Sure, you can read about it. You can study it. You can think about it. But until you’ve been through it, you don’t know. There’s a difference in knowing that your spouse can deploy and actually having them do so. And until you’ve lived through the days, weeks, and months of separation filled with the concern for their safety, the loneliness, the good times, and the bad then you don’t really know.

In my time as a military spouse I’ve done two short-notice OCONUS PCS moves. I know all about those now. I’ve done a handful of one to two week TDYs where he’s on a different continent from me. So I have a decent understanding of those. I’ve been at the whim of the USAF, hurrying up to wait on whatever it is they want next. We haven’t done a deployment yet and I’m not sure that we will. So, while I have a book knowledge of what’s involved, while I’ve read blogs about what it’s like, while I have a tendency toward the empathetic and therefore can be really good at understanding what it might be like; I’ve never been through it. So I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s like to say goodbye to my spouse for months on end. I don’t know what it’s like to worry about his safety or cry over a missed call because who knows when he can call again.

There is knowing. And then there is knowing. There is reading all about it. And there is actually living it. Even after you’ve lived through it, every circumstance doesn’t stay the same. You can know what it was like to go through x deployment and that doesn’t mean that y deployment will be anything like it.

To the rest of the world, we get it. We knew they were military members. We could have chosen to walk away from the loves of our lives – yeah, sure, you betcha. But, the truth is that no, we didn’t know exactly how hard it would be. We didn’t know how we would react. We didn’t know how we would handle it. So please, keep your “you knew what you were getting intos” to yourself.

~The Countess~



About texancountess

I find myself in the calming roar of the sea, floating gently on the foam of the breaking waves. Blue. Green. Gray. The colors of the sea mark the boundaries of my soul. The tumbled glass finds its polish under the relentless pounding of the waves upon the shore. Thus am I. Rough transitioning to polish, refinement ever a process, finding my niche in the storms of life.
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5 Responses to You Know

  1. AMargaretV says:

    So true! And not to mention, just because we “knew what we were getting into”, doesn’t mean it still doesn’t suck sometimes. I’m pretty sure most women know that pregnancy comes with morning sickness, but nobody expects them not to complain about it when it happens.

    • Haha, exactly. I imagine though that not telling a pregnant woman that she “knew what she was getting in to” is self preservation. Those pregnancy hormones can make one crazy. ;)

  2. Army Amy says:

    Oh my goodness – yes yes yes! Can I say yes a thousand more times!

    I’ve definitely gotten the, “you knew what you were getting into,” spiel before. True, I knew in the logical sense that if/when my husband deployed it would suck. But I could not fathom it in the emotional sense. (I can barely remember the pain now a few months later; I’m convinced that my brain won’t let me really feel it as a method of self preservation. Sort of like how people block out the pain of labor after the baby comes.)

    Nor do I see any reason for people to tell me that I should have known. That’s just another way to say, “I told you so” without ever actually telling me so. It’s not helpful or supportive. And people don’t get that.*

    • Exactly this too. No one likes the person who runs around saying, “I told you so.” Which just makes me wish people would realize exactly how snotty it sounds to tell a military spouse that they “knew what they were getting in to.”

  3. I love when people say things like “You knew what you were getting into when you married him.” because I get to throw it right back at them. My husband and I had been married for FOUR YEARS (!!!) BEFORE he signed his contract. We had TWO KIDS BEFORE he signed his contract. I was a Pastor’s wife for nearly half a decade when my husband was in Basic Training. I did not sign up for this all those years ago. I had no idea our life would turn out this way and I’m willing to bet, I am not alone. Of the women I met while my husband was in Basic Training, ALL of them had been married for more than two years, meaning they too had no idea what they were getting into when they got married. People seem to forget that all kinds of people join the military at all different times in their lives. I was a wife, long before the Army got involved. I knew he COULD deploy, not that he would and certainly I did not know that two months into our current deployment that he would only get a year dwell time before he has to return to Afghanistan next summer. (Mind you, he wont even get home from Afghanistan until this coming summer season.) Just like I didn’t know I’d be raising kids with special needs when I became a parent. I had no idea I would end up a “single mom with a nice ring” at some point during my marriage.

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