Lessons learned from a seasoned wife



2013 came out of nowhere.  I’m pretty sure it was planned and possibly on people’s calendars, but I was delightfully unaware and living in denial.  To say this last year flew by would be an understatement.  I know people say things like, “I can’t honestly believe time has gone by so quickly,” but this statement rings so true to me.  Where did the time go? How did I get to this point of having a 10 and 14-year-old?  How are we already reporting back to sea?

I know this is partly our fault.  The Husband and I chose this path.  I agreed to the back to back sea tours before this shore rotation.  Now I see why shore duty is so important. I get it.  R&R is not a luxury.  It’s a necessity.  Would I go back and change things?  Yes.  We spent 7 1/2 years on sea duty. The last couple of years he was gone 10 out of 12 months, only to live apart (geo-bacheloring) for an additional year after it  all.  Yes, I would change it in a heartbeat.  All of this is said with hindsight.  In the moment I was supporting my husband.  I brought up these concerns, but they were quickly dismissed because we could do anything together. We were best friends and honest with what we needed from each other.  Now, I know love isn’t enough.  14 years later and I love my husband more now than our first kiss, more than our wedding day, more than the birth of our children, but love isn’t enough.  You can’t build a marriage on intermittent restricted emails and middle of the night calls from ports.  It doesn’t matter how much you love them.  You may be able to stay married, but no, you can’t build a marriage alone.

The last three years before shore duty were painful.  He was home long enough to feel like he wasn’t needed and short enough to feel it was doing more harm than good.  Schedules were interrupted and feelings were hurt.  Only people who have been there, done that will get that he wanted to be home, but didn’t have time to fit in before leaving again. I loved having him there, but he drove me up the wall and then would get called away.  We didn’t have enough time to find our rhythm and be a family.  It  was terrible.  Sea duty can be a nasty roller coaster if done incorrectly.  Our choices ( I say *ours* because our faults, just like our accomplishments are shared in this marriage) are what almost broke us.  *We* made poor choices and I hope by sharing them, others will become more aware of their own.

As 2013 begins and “The Year of Deploying” begins again, I thought it would be important to share what I have learned.  This may help you, it may not, It may be just for my own ramblings. Whichever group you fall into, I’m good with it.  If this resonates with one person, I’m glad I shared.

Lessons learned:

We should not have done back to back sea tours. There is a long story to this that some know, but we should NOT have done the second tour. We should have gone to shore and stayed on the schedule.  Some things are just not worth risking.

Never risk or gamble the quality of your home life. Never. It doesn’t matter how strong you think your family is.  It’s a chance not worth taking.

Marriage is a job.  It is work.  It is rewarding work.  If you put each other first, you will never have to worry about who will be there for you, who will care for you, and who will help carry the load when you are less than 100%.  With that said, marriage is a balancing act.  If you are only at 30%, your spouse needs to be at 70%.  This is something that cannot be maintained over extended periods of time, hence the need to take breaks (shore duty) when needed.

We *wives* don’t ask for help as much as we should.  We are surrounded with women ready to help and we still try to do it all alone.  We are foolish for this and have to get over our own egos.

Friendships are important.  For many of us, we are hundreds or thousands of miles from family.  Friendships are what we have.  Make them.  Cherish them.  These people are the family we get to choose.

Politics aside, people are going to think what they want.  Every once in a while I still hear a person state that the military is made up of people who couldn’t do anything else with their life. It usually follows with statements of HS drop outs, troubled teens, and those who just don’t fit into society.  I’ve come to realize *most* of these people are from an era where that was true and just smile and nod.  It may be completely offensive to my husband, his degrees, and his expertise, but it is a statement formed out of ignorance, not hate.  It’s not anything to get upset over.

War.  Again, many do not realize that no one, I repeat, no one wants peace more than our active duty service members and their families.  But, many confuse our support and care of our service members with support of causes.  This too, is ignorance and though I urge education on the topic, words must be well thought out.  So many believe if you are in the military you are pro-war.  Choose your words carefully, but know that education is key. If we don’t share, people will look to the media, including terribly thought out movies. *Shudder*

Not all wives are created equal or even out of the same chapter, book, or series.  We all have our own ways of dealing with loss, grief and every other *feeling* under the sun.  We are not made from the same mold and need to respect others, even if it means agreeing to disagree.

Anywhere can be home and make you happy, if you allow it. I’m a huge believer that happiness is a choice.  Let’s face it, few get to choose where they are going to live.  This isn’t a surprise.  You must decide if you are going to find the good in it.  And yes, there is always good. Sometimes it is just harder to find.  Moving to the Seattle area, some friends told us how beautiful it was and how much we were going to love living in the PNW. There were a few other friends who *warned* us about the weather and how they hated being stationed here.  There are pros and cons to every location.  So far, my family and I love living here and think the weather is great.  But, we choose to enjoy it.  You can choose to wake up during the winter months here and say, “Just great, another gray day. . .” Or you can look out the window and think, “Wow, it’s so beautiful and green year round…” It’s really up to you.  I’ve had the chance to live in a few different areas of the US and have a broader perspective that really helps me see the good in an area.  Perspective is key.  You always think the grass is greener until you’ve lived on the other side.

Children are resilient, but they are not unbreakable.  When we started to talk to our kids about the upcoming deployment, I never thought our 14 yr old son would take it so hard.  One of the biggest misconceptions of having kids is that it gets easier as they get older, that deployments and living this life become easier because, “they understand” more as they mature.  I had a woman tell me just the other day that, “At least deployments will be easier for you this time around because the kids are older!”  Ummm….no.  My kids might not need me to dress them and feed them this time around, but they are old enough to really understand what their Dad does, what is happening in our world, and how much they will miss their Dad.  It’s no longer just me going through the cycles of deployment. Now, there are three of us dealing with emotions, worries, and thoughts.  Add pre-teen and teen hormones to it and this next deployment will be a long one. I no longer worry about nap times and what they are putting in their mouth.  Instead I’m worrying over social media, the influence of friends, grades, supporting their hobbies/interest, and teaching our oldest to drive this year!?  I love my kids and the young adults they are quickly becoming, but I’m going to miss the days of being able to distract their heartache with a sucker.  Deployments don’t become easier for anyone, especially children.  We adapt, but we have to remember that the hurting, missing, and feelings don’t stop just because we’ve done this before.

I encourage you to think of the lessons you’ve learned.  We are never too old or too experienced to learn from one another or ourselves.  Again, these are just a few of my thoughts and lessons learned.  You are welcome to take what you like from it.  2013 has so many unknowns for myself and my family.  This year is already picking up speed and I find that it is a constant decision to stay present and live each day.  That’s my goal for this year, to be present and live each day to the fullest, because we can’t get this time back.  That, and to write…. a lot.

Here are some of my favorite quotes to kick off 2013

Let your life mean something. Become an inspiration to others so that they may try to do more and to become more than they are today. —Thomas D. Willhite

The appearance of things change according to the emotions and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty really are in ourselves – Kahlil Gibran.

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.” – Albert Ellis

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” – Life’s Little Instruction Book, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“Everything around us is made up of energy. To attract positive things in your life, start by giving off positive energy.” – Celestine Chua

Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. – Mark Twain

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” ~ Jim Rohn

Be present – it is the only moment that matters.” ~ Peaceful Warrior

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who are alive.” – Howard Thurman

History shows us that the people who end up changing the world – the great political, social, scientific, technological, artistic, even sports revolutionaries – are always nuts, until they are right, and then they are geniuses.” – John Eliot

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” ~ Pablo Picasso



6 thoughts on “Lessons learned from a seasoned wife

  1. Hi Zahi!

    Just remember it’s a personal decision. My experience won’t be yours and so on. I know that there are people that are ok with it all, I’m just making sure to be transparent for those who want my honest opinion. Because, it is just that, an opinion! 😉

    Best Wishes!!


  2. Wow! Thank you so much for this! My husband’s chief has this “career plan” for which includes back to back sea duty. I was not really happy about it. The hubby said it would be something that WE needed to agree on. So thanks for making it a bit easier on me come decision time!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing so much of your experience. I am new to this (navy) thing and as a new wife, (though I would not tell my husband and worry him for a second) I can tell you that I am terrified, my husband and I are older and I am scared that the first deployment is going to hit and I am not going to know how to help the younger ones. Entering into this at 26 is one thing but I cannot imagine doing this at even 23 much less 18-19! I just hope that deployment after deployment and child after child I can show as much strength and passion as you do. Thank you for your beautiful words.

  4. Thank you for sharing. We as a couple are fairly new to this and I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate you sharing your experiences.

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