Top Things Not To Say To The Spouse of a Deployed Soldier

Offering to wash our Goldendoodle Charlie would be a great help after a messy trip to the dog park

Offering to wash our Goldendoodle Charlie would be a great help after a messy trip to the dog park

From Liisa, SMSgt Temple’s wife: Rex is out today on a mission. Meanwhile I found this series online in a blog written by Army Captain Richard Connaroe. He had asked his wife and some of her friends to come up with helpful tips for civilians who find themselves dealing with a military spouse during a deployment. The advice is very much on point and includes even a list of what never to say to a military wife during deployment. Thanks to Capt. Connaroe for the permission to republish a condensed version of the original material.

From “Notes from Iraq with Capt. Richard Connaroe”:

Occasionally, Soldiers are complimented for their service.  While recognition never fails to bring a smile, there is a group of much stronger, much more deserving individuals:  Army Wives or military spouses.

The hardships that a military spouse endures are hard to imagine even to Soldiers.  To sacrifice a year or more apart from their husband or wife, often cases the father or mother of their children, and take on all household responsibilities is a thankless task.

Occupied with executing combat missions and reacting on muscle memory, Soldiers reflect on what he or she is missing back home only during downtime.  Although the spouse carries on, her life is never as busy that she forgets her husband.  And in this sense, her job is tougher than her Soldier’s.

Army Wives are left with the responsibility of maintaining a home, a yard, a career, children, cars, pets, and every task that their Soldier used to handle.  On top of that, the military spouse must worry that her Soldier is in danger and have faith that God will provide.

Those not in the military atmosphere try to offer support and empathy.  Often times, these well-intended attempts are not well thought out.  The following is a collection of such thoughts that are intended with consideration but come across as inconsiderate or oblivious at best.

My Army Wife, Devon Connaroe, compiled this “Top Things Not To Say To The Spouse of a Deployed Soldier” from fellow Soldiers’ wives.  The following list of lines from family and friends are memorable, because they are particularly discomforting.  In fact, they drive her into a world if isolation, believing that no one understands.

Five Army Wives, whom my wife has befriended during our last five years in the military, contributed to the list:  Robyn Mroszczyk, Melissa Salmon, Sheena Jorgensen, Erin Wackerhagen and Rasheedah Stewart.  Many of these sayings were not exclusive to one individual, but heard by multiple women.

Often, people may attempt to empathize with the situation by saying one of the following:

“I know how you feel.  My husband was away for nearly a week on business last month.”  Although, well intended, a short business trip is NOTHING like experiencing the weight of a deployment, which can last from six to fifteen months.

“I know how you feel, I was a single mom.”

The wife does stay alone and care for things, but a single mom does not have to worry about a husband being in danger.

“I understand what you are going through, I watch the show Army Wives.”

The show Army Wives is not a reality show; it is a TV drama that is meant to mimic what writers believe to be true.

People may offer what they believe to be a compliment:

“I don’t know how you do it.”

“I couldn’t deal if my husband left that long.”

Hearing this is not a compliment.  The wife does not have a choice to “deal,” and, often times, they don’t know how they get through either; they just do it because they honor and love their husband.

Some try to offer support and look on the bright side of things concerning the deployment.

“Well you only have 9 months left. The rest is easy now.”

Having a portion of the deployment completed does not make the rest of the separation easier.

If he is in Iraq, “At least he is not in Afghanistan.”  OR

If he is in Afghanistan, “At least he is not in Iraq.”

Regardless of his location for the deployment, he is still in danger and still separated from his family.

Often times, military spouses are asked questions with obvious answers.  Would you prefer if she answers with a non-obvious answer?

“Do you miss him?”

“Are you excited he is coming home?”

“Are you scared he will die?”

On the off chance that the spouse has taken her mind off these thoughts, you have now changed that.

Others carelessly encourage, “But he’ll be home for Christmas, right?”

Military personnel do not get to leave their assigned deployment for Holidays.  They are granted only two weeks of vacation to leave and visit their family.  Only a fraction of them can visit home at any given time, including holidays.

Believe it or not, those close to military spouses will at times grow tired of their friend’s sorrow, saying:

“You knew what you signed up for when you married a soldier.”

“You knew that he would be deployed.”

Military spouses do not marry the military; they marry the man or woman that they love who happens to be in the military.  No one can ever describe to you what the weight of a deployment is like or “what you are signing up for”.

At times, some people end conversations by saying, “If you ever need anyone to help you with something around the house, give me call,” without leaving a phone number.

Typically, a wife is not going to reach out for help, especially when the offer is half-hearted.

Finally, some people just do not think before they talk.

“I am glad my husband isn’t in the military, because he could die.”

Believe it or not, people who aren’t in the military still die.

Throughout a deployment, the spouse of a Soldier endures a great sacrifice.  A script on how to converse with the spouse of a deployed Soldier does not exist.  The right things to say are not lines stored on a pocket-sized notebook, which can be pulled out in the necessary moment. Upon meeting an Army Wife, you should not feel as though it is necessary to try to relate to her.  Although you may feel it is socially necessary to comment on the Soldier’s absence, there is really no need to do so at all.

Support, encouragement and graciousness are appreciated.  However, there is a key to interacting with the spouse:  sincerity.

Be yourself.  Be genuine.  If you don’t know what to say, silence is acceptable.

If you pray, comfort the spouse by sending your prayers to the soldier and his family.

If you are grateful for the sacrifice, thank the husband or wife for what they are doing for your freedom.

If you want to help, be specific in what you are willing to offer, such as mowing the lawn.  Empty offers are typically all encompassing.  If you aren’t willing to rake leaves or bathe the dog, don’t say, “If you ever need anything, let me know.”

Be a friend.  Show the spouse that you care about who she is, without defining her by the deployment.

In the end, it is the honesty and sincerity that means the most.

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68 Responses

  1. I’m not the spouse of a deployed soldier, ‘just’ the Mom…and even I get really annoyed with the “At least he’s not in….” comments.

    My soldier’s family lives a state away…so helping out is limited, we grab the grand-daughter for short stays as often as we are allowed. Luckily, ‘mom’ is pretty cooperative.

    Deployment is just no fun for anybody…but you need to know that there are plenty of people here at home who love you, miss you and are extremely thankful that you make the sacrifice. You have earned my deepest respect and admiration…and I’m sending you and your wife a big bear hug…as well as prayers for your continued well-being, in all aspects of your life.

    • Just send needed items to your deployed family members. It makes their day much better, plus the BX or PX runs out of needed items almost the day they arrive. More demand than supply sometimes. I love my fellow service members. I always think about, what would I like if I was in their shoes.

    • Just the Mom, No. I couldnt bear thinking about my child in a warzone. Your child will always be your baby, no matter how old they get. Trust me the Mom is grateful for you taking the kids. We so desperately need a break from the kiddos. I love my daughter, but sometimes I just need a break.

  2. I am also a mom who has trouble with the comments. I agree with Vickie that deployment is no fun for any family member.

    I salute all the military wives and husbands for stepping up and supporting their spouse who is supporting us and defending our freedom.

    Thank you, spouses!

    • My niece is in BAF. Her husband is home keeping things together. Always say Spouse rather than Wife. I am a female retired soldier with a husband at home when I was deployed. Don’t forget about the men at home waiting for their spouses coming home. I would like to know why there is so many differences between the services. The Army dislikes the Air Force and the Marines dislike everyone. I don’t know about the Navy. I think they need some classes on how to get along. I can see some emotions getting out of hand.

  3. I truly believe that a lot of the “thoughtless” things people say are their efforts to offer sympathy. Try not to be too hard on them.

    They CAN’T possibly know (without getting their hands on some literature that will force them inside the experience) what it’s like. Just like until it happens, I can’t know what it’s like to lose a parent. I’m sure I’ll say the wrong thing to a friend who loses a parent in my clumsy efforts to be comforting.

    (I suppose I was lucky when my husband was deployed that no one really said anything to me. Except for my neighbor, whose husband left for two weeks. She actually said, “I know two weeks is a silly thing to complain about. Look what you’re going through.”

    This allowed me to say, “If you’ve never been away from him that long, it’s hard for you. It’s all absolutely relative.”)

    • I used to think 2 weeks was a long time as well…until the deployment came. It has been so hard to endure 10 months and 2 to go. No one can know what it is like until it becomes their life. Two weeks is nothing compaired to this, but my children and I are hanging in there. It is so hard to talk to people and not be offended by their comments, but I think that they speak out of ignorance and I don’t think that they are intentionally trying to hurt us military spouses by their words.

  4. I am the mother of a soldier deployed to Iraq. Recently he came home on leave to his young family ( wife and two children under 4 years) in Colorado. I live in another state and did not get to see him because I am using all of my available resources getting ready to move out there to help them all in December 2009. I can’t leave my life here before that. Apparently he came home to a very unhappy situation as it’s been difficult for his wife to take care of the home, the children, the car, the yard, the shopping, as well as continuing her college education. In the six months he was gone, pretty much everything has fallen apart and he spent his entire 2 week leave trying to put it all back together; he was hurt and angry. I understand both side of the issue, and the kids are clean and well cared for while everything else has gone to Haites. I just wish I knew how to help until I can get out there. Does anyone know of people who volunteer to help with just an hour or a just a task that would make it a bit easier for the spouse waiting at home? I know that she doesn’t even have the time or where-with-all to seek out the kind of help she needs.

    • I too live in Ft. Carson and we are allowed 16 hours of free child care a month. My husband has deployed 5 times and I have used all the free resources on post for child care and discounted child care and have also had GI parties with other wives doing our cooking all in one day and getting creative with swapping childcare too. Needless to say it still hasn’t been easy but the free child care has helped.

      Hope you come soon!
      Lori

  5. I am a military spouse, and my husband is in Iraq. He will be back next January. I had to laugh when I read this because I hear these all the time, and everyone offers to help, but never really do anything to help. In my situation we moved to another state and my husband was deployed in under a month. Before we could even secure housing, so on my own I had to find somewhere to live, the houseing waiting list was over a year, figure out the community, find a job, unpack once we found somewhere to live, figure out childcare, and manage three very upset children. No one can really understand what that is like until they live it. overwhelming cannot even describe what it is like. The individual before me asked about resources and you sometimes hear about programs from army one source. There was one program recently I got excited about because they provide $500 per child for activites. Once I got everything together I learned that it was only for reservist. Active duty military do not have anywhere near the resources they need for families. The mother ahead of me asked about someone to mow the lawn or grocery shop, anything to help out. that is what should be done, but it seems like all people can do it say it….next time instead of thanking a family for their sacrafice show them by actions instead of words. Mow their lawn, have your company provide a military discount, or a moms night out. Show support. Because it is harder then you think, and actions speak louder then empty words.

  6. I had to chuckle a bit when I read the list. I have heard every single thing on that list, sadly most of it comes from my husband’s family. It also gives me some reassurance that other people are hearing the same nonsense and I wasn’t becoming a bitter person. If I could I’d love to post this outside my cubicle as a must read before speaking with me. My favorite is: “At least he’s not in Afghanistan.” Yeah, that’s my biggest comfort.

    It’s also reassuring to know that I’m not crazy for not wanting to ask help from people who I know in my heart are just paying me lip service. My husband constantly tells me to ask for help from someone but I look around and think “who?”. I’m bogged down with keeping up with the house and the pets, I can’t imagine what’s going to happen when we have kids, I just don’t have time for having someone do the job half-ass that I’ll have to finish or re-do later.

    • I get 99% lip service, too. I have 4 kids and am pregnant and have told to ask x resources on base for help and they just point fingers towards someone else and brush me off… no one actually REALLY wants to help at this base. And I have some good friends at this base, but we’re also approaching PCSing season w/ a good number of them moving and others just busy with their own lives and families. I was so sick a couple days ago with pneumonia I needed to go to the ER because I could barely breathe. Not a single person I called, texted, emailed, or even posted to facebook a cry for help was willing to come over. Finally my husband was able to get ahold of a coworker from where he’s deployed and tell them that they HAD to help because no one else would. I was very grateful, but the second I got home from the ER with antibiotics and an inhaler after xrays and breathing treatment…still very sick, I was on my own again.

  7. I’m heading out on my second deployment in a few days and my wife and I are more prepared this time around. The key is preperation! We only got the orders a month out and we have been able to put all of our affairs in order. I found that having a file box with all the important paperwork, phone numbers, instructions ready and constantly updated was really helpful. There are many groups out there that will help out, it just takes a bit of networking. I have been speaking with my classmates and their wives from west point and we have established a support network. To make it easier my wife transfered within her company to a city closer to her family and we our renting out our house while I’m gone. The best thing families and their Soldiers can do is to prep for a deployment way before they even get the orders to deploy

    • That’s so great she has a good network! I wish I did here! I’m at a base where very few deploy from and I get weird looks even on base when they find out my husband is deployed. We had less than a month’s notice for the deployment and so many things went unaddressed that it has been a very difficult deployment when I don’t even have my name on accounts for things like the phone and they won’t let me make changes despite my POA.

  8. I am not longer in the service and my husband is out as well, but I will never forget being that wife. Once you have experienced it you can NEVER forget those feelings or anything that was said above. Like most I hear all of these things as well and got the lip service too. If anyone reading this is not in this situations PLEASE follow through and listen to what this article says. It is probably the best possible thing you can so. I am happy to say that because I have experienced this myself I do try to help others who are still trying to cope with being a military spouse. God Bless you all! I can honestly say since I was both a spouse of a military serviceman and served myself, I would much rather be the one serving than to be the spouse who has to try and cope. I really think it is harder to be the spouse! No matter what though. You all deserve our gratitude and support! Thank you!

  9. ….women are deployed also, and their husbands deal with the same issues…. these Soldiers and their husbands are many times not given the same acknowledgement for their sacrifices. Just a thought.

  10. AMEN amen amen! ~from Army wife of 15 years with three deployments under our belt. cannot wait until 20 years are up!

  11. As a Army Veteran-Turned-Army-Wife, I know exactly what happens during a deployment. Unfortunately, that knowledge has not made it any easier to cope with my husband’s pending deployment. He leaves soon and my heart aches every day for him and our girls. My biggest pet-peeve when I was deployed was the half-hearted offers for help to the family. My husband and I weren’t married during my deployment so my three children (from a previous marriage) stayed with my mom. When my mom turned to those people for help, she received little. I learned from her disappointment and now when people make me that offer I politely reply “thank you for your thoughtfulness. I’ll keep it in mind but I think we’ll be fine.” Being a military spouse is the hardest job in the world, and I salute all of you!!

  12. iam a wife of a deployed soldier, this is his first time its only been 1 1/2 months since when seen each other this is the hardest thing to do i just want all the troops over there to come home safe god bless everyone!!!

  13. I think the hardest for me is people asking me to do extra stuff, and then looking down on me for trying to simplify my responsibilities instead of add to them. I asked to stop teaching Sunday School at church and the lady in charge of the kids told me how she feels more blessed when she is busier. The same lady asked me to come up with a service project for the kids, so I did, but then when it wasn’t getting done fast enough, she kind of condescendingly said, “maybe you have something going on in your life that I don’t know about?” (knowing that my husband is deployed!!)

    • i know exactly how you feel, people at church are the worst sometimes, they make you question you faith with their attitudes. they act like you have nothing going on in your life, it is so annoying. i am in the choir and other groups at my church as well, i recently made a decision to leave some of the groups and just focus on singing(i believe it is the one thing i am doing for God without anyone else being involved) but i must say i dont have the courage yet to say i am leaving the groups becuase i dont want to get that pity look, or get questioned about my relationship with God as a matter of fact i have a better relationship with God on my own than i do from going to church.. my advice to you is to take your time, think about yourself first becuse no one else will care for you if you dont care for yourself, being open and quick with your witty response helps too, maybe the lady will go home and think before the opens her mouth again.. and most importantly build your relationship with God either by listening to music, or listening to sermons from other preachers, that gives you strenght and you start understanding who you are in christ, its not about pleasing people its about you and him only…. i wish you all the best ..

  14. Another quote I don’t like, “It will be harder when he comes home because you will be so used to doing everything yourself.” It may be true, but I am having a hard time enough and don’t want to hear that it will just get worse.

  15. I’ve heard them all, too. People really do believe they are being reassuring, but they are not. I’ll take it a bit further and share that while I was visiting the state I grew up in I had an uncle say… “I really hate that Tim had to go to Iraq.” He said it with such anguish that I felt compelled to quell his over-concern, so I replied… “Thank you for your concern, but he’s on a secure airbase and is doing just fine.” The next thing my uncle said was… “Well, they can get him there, too.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. I’ve not felt the same toward that uncle since.

  16. I am a military spouse that just recently got married in Dec of 2010. My dad was in the military so I know how some of this goes but I am very new to some of this. I’m 20 years old trying to get my education with a husband who is deployed in Afghanistan. Some days I ask myself how am I going to get through this but I pray each and everyday for the Lord to give me strength and to send my husband back home to me safe and sound. I dont have any kids its just us and I’m trying my best to stay positive with all negative feedback that comes my way.

  17. I’m the wife of a deployed soldier, and the mom of a soldier on orders to feed soldiers in training. I’m very Proud! We all sacrifice for our freedom! This has been a learning experience for all of us.

  18. Apparently I’m an oddity. I’ve heard every comment directed at me listed above, but you know what? They didn’t bother me. I suppose I have a different take. My husband has been in the Army for 24 years. He has done 5 deployments. We were a couple for the past two. Between family and friends and ex-husband int he military, I think I’ve been through about 10. You know what…my husband DEPLOYS. It’s his JOB. Yeah… I knew exactly what I was getting into. But for those of you who say you married the man and not the military. Sorry. You’re WRONG. When you marry the man…you marry the military and all that goes with it. The military OWNS the man.

    Needing help? Be INdependent. I have been connected with the military in some way shape or form for all my 46 years. I have seen the military developing more DEpendent spouses in the past ten years. My mother single-handedly raised my brother and I during THREE tours of Vietnam without all the benefits spouses have now. In the two tours I went through with my husband (thus far) I ran a full blown horse facility and singlehandedly raised a special needs child just outside Fort Drum, NY (with it’s bazillion feet of snow) with minimal help….AND stayed up with all the military stuff that goes along with a deployment. The list of what I had to do is much longer. Blah blah blah. Who really cares?

    Is it hard? Yes. I guess. Do I whine about it? No. Do I understand that people on the “outside” try to get it but don’t? Yes. Do I realize that sometimes they don’t always know what to say or how to say it? Yes. But I am far less annoyed by THEM than I am by military spouses who complain and whine and can’t do things by themselves. Naturally this makes me far less popular with many FRG people. Am I there to support those who are going through first time deployment? Oh heck yeah!!!! But if you dont’ follow my suggestions (ie, if you’re not working, get hobbies; be involved with FRG; make friends; go to the FRG gatherings to MEET people) I dont’ know what else I can tell you. You’re on your own, I guess, because you CHOOSE not to seek out ways to get through deployment.

    Six more years til we hit our 30….and it’s all good.

    • Though I appreciate your strength. One thing to keep in mind is all military families and spouses react and situations are different. Yes we all knew what we were getting into and I agree with you there. If not then they are in for a rude awakening. However, I am one of those we did marry the man – not the military – and that is my feeling and view. The military is their job yes but it’s just that a job that will be there until they get out or retire; it won’t continue past that. The marriage will. I think it is good to express how one feels about things and I am not saying your opinion is wrong for you but to force it on others by saying they are wrong for saying they are married to the man not the military is not right and undermining to their feelings. Just a thought. I am glad that you are strong and face deployment head on. I know I do to and for me it’s is his job and deployment is deployment it comes with the job. It doesn’t mean that comments from others are not hurtful though….or that deployment doesn’t bite. We can all realize deployment comes with the job but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t bite and we don’t all have our struggles, each unique to our family and situations and places in our lives we are in.

      Just some thoughts.

    • One additional thought. If people are struggling with deployment I don’t think it is polite to basically imply they are whining, not independent, weak or anything along those lines. We all have our struggles. We can’t all respond the same way as we are not the same nor are the situations, things going on in our lives or where we are in life. I will say that not all FRGs are a great source of camaraderie. I have had some good experiences with some of them and others are just a clique of spouses feeling there is a chain of command among spouses or full of spouses on power trips which I have no interest in being a part of. Just because spouses don’t interact or participate with the FRG does not mean they don’t have a support system outside the FRG. Some may turn to their church and its members. We all need to stick together and respect that we all handle things differently and that we handle things differently as well. That not all our situations are the same no matter if we are in the same unit, command, assigned to the same ship etc. I don’t think any military spouse has the right to put down any other spouse for how they handle things whether it be directly or indirectly. I maintain that it is important for us to express how we feel our selves with our situation but respect that others don’t share our feelings. That we shouldn’t put each other down by saying others are whining, weak, not independent etc. By saying or implying those things doesn’t help the state of being of the spouse who is already under enough stress or whatever they may be feeling associated to the current or upcoming deployment.

    • Mary, thanks so much for that post! My husband and I are both 21 and he is on his first deployment. I get those comments and thoughtlessness too, but really, it’s just something to laugh about! I mean, they really have no idea! And mostly, do not mean to hurt anyone.
      It does get to me, like when my best friend was whining because she and her husband would be apart for 3 days, and I have my own share of friends who didn’t show when I needed them. But I can do it. I’m a Christian as well. If Christ is for me, none can be against me, and there is nothing that will happen to me (or my husband) that has not passed through His hands first. So, yeah :) Get up and do something! Put a little more away so you guys can have a little extra when he comes home!
      Also, just in case any of you are in the position of having your husband do something for our government that is controversial (without it being mandatory that it’s secret of course), it is perfectly ok to tell the morons who ask what he’s doing that he has been sent to an undisclosed location. Period.

    • hello mary,
      what u said about not just being married to a soldier but being married to the military is so true. my sister was a army wife for 11 yrs and when i met my husband who was in the army that is exactly what she told me. right after we were married he was shipped to germany, and though i had a lot of my family here for support his family couldnt understand why i wasnt with him. that was 30 yrs ago. in1990 he was deployed for dessert storm when he was in the army reserve, but was injured at fort devens. he turned stepped in a hole and broke his foot. he actually missed out on going with unit. he had a lot of mixed emotions, he one side was glad he was home safe but also felt bad he wasnt with his unit. again i had my family for support but some people dont think before they speak, but they do mean well. i try to say a prayer every night for our servicemen and women and their families. i know too my sister is in heaven watching over them all as well. i hope to hear from you.

    • Just a note, I most certainly DID NOT, marry the Military sweetheart. I married the man the day he was legal. Two years before the military was even on the radar. I OWN my husband (just as he owns me) the government is merely leasing. So speak for yourself. I didn’t sign up for anything, I simply chose to keep what’s MINE, through hell or high water.

  19. I’m a military wife and this is my husband’s 4th deployment. I thank you so much first for your service and support for military wives also. I’ve heard some crazy things and to save frustration this time around I would like to leave a link on my facebook of this so all my friends and family could read this. Thank you and God Bless!

    • Dear Sue:

      Great hearing from you! We’d love to have you join our wonderful group of volunteers. If you want to do a collection, we have three troops right now planning school supplies deliveries. One needs supplies including backpacks (new or used) by end of August – the next one needs them by end of September. The third is an ongoing effort that you can send to whenever. We also have a permanent address to ship to in Kabul at the ISAF HQ.

      Let us know what you were thinking of doing and we’ll be happy to help and give you the address to ship to!

      Thanks so much for your interest in our program!

      Liisa Temple

  20. I am pregnant with first child and huband is deployed to Iraq for one year. He will be finally with us when the baby will be five months old next year in March. He is missing out on so much I don’t get to talk with him much either. Yet people keep telling me that I am lucky I get to be with my parents for that year. It kills me…my parents can not replace my husband…don’t they know that. They other thing every thrid person says to me at work is tht Iraq is not danger so he is good or they would say march is coming up in 7 months…only little time left. Its tough for me…it was nice to read this blog

  21. I have to say as helpful as most of this is it does not necessarily apply to Navy deployments. For example Navy does not get 2 weeks of R&R. They are gone the whole stretch. One thing I find unhelpful and hurtful is when people say well think about the other branches who are gone a year to year and a half etc. He is only gone for six to eight months (sometimes longer). First of all deployment is deployment and it bites no matter how you slice or dice it. Another thing I find frustrating is when people will say to me well at least he is not in Afghanastan or Iraq. That is irrelevant, it does not mean there are not dangers associated with his deployment and that we don’t worry about their safety. I think one of the last irritants I can think of is the fact that though the Navy has often times shorter deployments than per say the Army what they have to deal with in addition to deployments are the very often and frequent underways. Though my husband is not gone for a year to year and a half a deployment he is gone more than he is home. For example He was underway for two months then home for a week or two then deployed for seven months. Gets home (for example lets say in Sept.) and then is underway every month they are home for weeks at a time before deploying again in (June) where they are gone for at least six to eight months. I just wish people were more aware that what they say to us military wives can be so unsupportive and hurtful even though they don’t mean for it to be.
    We are ALL Military Spouses and no one branch has it harder than another because deployment is deployment no matter where and how long it is. There are always dangers associated with any deployment and it is time military families are unvoluntarily seperated.

    • Thank you Elie for your very thoughtful and insightful comments. I am a Navy wife, and my husband is in his 10th month of a year deployment(that was supposed to be 5 months!) I am at home with our 4 month old daughter, and two teenage boys. He is my second husband, and the love of my life. In the last two years we have only been physically together for 3 and a half months. It is hard. It hurts. I do work, and stay busy, but do not live near enough to the base(2 hours away) because of my job to connect to other milspouses. Thankfully, he is retiring a few months after he returns, but this has been an extremely hard year and I have felt very isolated. The bottom line is not so much that I want him hear to do things for me, but that I miss HIM. He is my best friend and being separated so much has been hard on both of us. Thanks again for your compassion. God bless.

      • Army just changed their deployment times at the beginning of this year. Now they are only gone for 9 months but, they don’t get R&R anymore. We are almost through month 4 and have 5 to go.
        You know, the comments don’t bother me a whole lot. But recently my husband was injured when his truck struck and IED. His injuries were minor but he and his 1st SGT were the only ones that made it out safe. Two of the other guys were sent home with more serious injuries and unfortunately their gunner was killed on impact. As thankful as I am that my husband is safe and relatively unharmed, when people say, “Thank God it wasn’t your husband…” that isn’t very comforting, because it was SOMEONE’S husband!! I take no comfort in knowing that he had to watch one of his friends die.
        The fact of the matter is, I married a man, and 5 years later he joined the service. So even though I did not intend on marrying the military, that is what I got later on. And 2 kids after that he deployed. We had several months (1 1/2 years) to prepare for the logistics of him leaving. I can deal with the comments, the concerned looks, the lack of understanding, and sometimes just the sheer ignorance…but it became a little more real when I got that call from Rear D. I was lucky enough to be in a position to move back home while he is deployed to be close to family and friends so that support is nice.
        Everyone is going to deal with it differently and some may take it harder then others. Some may not realize how hard they will take it until they’re in the midst of it. In the end I know that when people make those misguided comments it is out of love, so I try not to be too hard on them.

  22. All so true!

    Yes, I “love” the offers to help with no follow-through or sincerity. My husband made sure to sit down with his parents and talk to them about helping me while he was gone. Their first move was to tell me in a scolding tone of voice, “We’re not mind readers; if you need help ask for it.” Their second move was to promptly forget that I’d asked help taking the trash to the curb once a week because I’m pregnant and not supposed to lift something that heavy – they haven’t done it once. Their third move was to start using me as babysitting for their youngest son (because with my husband gone and quitting my job to have a baby, I must not be very busy anymore!) while complaining that I left my son at their house too long the one time I actually used them for babysitting. Needless to say, I will NEVER ask these people for help with ANYTHING unless I am on my last leg.

    And I’d do just about anything for someone to come and help me move the furniture in my bedroom so I can fit a baby cradle in there – but only someone who WANTS to… I cannot bear to shift my burdens onto unwilling shoulders. That would simply add humiliation to all the other pains I’m enduring.

    My husband has just been cut from his unit’s mission because of the draw-downs and his MOS not being needed enough… he’s coming home in two weeks, just in time for his daughter to be born. But because I have gone through the months of separation involved in training and all the goodbyes and worry and grief, I now have a pretty good idea what all my fellow military spouses are going through and am very inclined to pray fervently for everyone in his unit that is still going and leaving family behind. My mom died last year and I have to say, it’s a very apt comparison – it can feel like you’ve lost someone in death when you have to say goodbye to a loved spouse for that long and send them into danger.

    One more thing not to say to military spouses: and that’s commenting on how good the money must be. Not necessarily true, depending on their rank, length of service, and obligations. This short deployment has been very financially stressful for us and for a lot of other soldiers’ families, too. Often you don’t get enough to really live on until the soldier is actually in-country.

  23. Thank you for this post. It’s nice to be able to hear (honestly) what the spouses of our military men and women think about certain phrases and so-called comfort. I’ll admit I have no idea what it is like to be in the military, or to have a spouse in the military. But I do know that it is an extreme sacrifice on both ends, and I appreciate all you do.

  24. I hate when they say, I know what its like, my husband works long hours. NOT the same! Are you serious? The worst is, well you were in, so you know. Being a disabled veteran on top of now army wife and mom. Sometimes I am so sick, I dont know if I can even make it. My 2 year old consoles me. This is our 3rd and last.

  25. I just love this! My husband is certainly deployed. He left 2 months after we got married. I believe I’ve heard everything. No one truly understands what your goin through unless they are goin through it or have gone through it. Its always tough and holidays just make it harder. But none of us know how we manage to get through it we just do, because we are so proud of our spouse and we love them with all our heart and as hard as the days and nights are for both of us we know that we will be together again. I just pray to God that he will be okay and put it in God’s hands because that’s all you can do. Just pray!

  26. Thank you for writing this. My husband joined the reserves after we got married and after we had a child. I did not intend to ever be a military spouse. What is the absolute hardest are the empty half-hearted offers to help. Before my husband left for basic, everyone rallied around us and said such sweet things about helping me in his absence. Now that he’s gone, these same people have dissapeared. I asked for help a few times, and did not get any so I just stopped asking. Its been a shocking eye opener – I’m really in this alone.

  27. [...] support though. Another reading assignment that really put this in perspective for me can be found here. SMSgt Rex Temple and his wife Liisa Temple after his presentation (Photo by: Shelby Register [...]

  28. I’m not married to my marine but I am attached to him non the less..I’ve been told some of these things before and it killed me on the inside. Like aren’t you afraid he is going to die..I almost teared up reading some of these. Especially the at least he’s not in Afghanistan…he is and I’m worried every second of everyday…until he calls me or emails me..another thing I’ve been told is why don’t you date someone you could see all the time…obviously I’m very happy with my boyfriend..its hard enough on me but even worse hearing things like this..

  29. Thank you. I was having a really hard night, but this made me feel a bit better. :)

  30. My son-in-law is in the military, and I live on a different continent to my daughter, so there’s no way we can offer physical help when he’s deployed. But I know the hardship she goes through. My husband fought in the Rhodesian bush war and we lived in a forest estate on a hostile border so when he was away I had to defend my children, myself and my home – not easy and so depressing. I feel for all of you, men and women, whose spouse has to go away for such a long time. It’s really difficult on the relationship.

  31. As a military spouse like many, I’ve heard the same things, I’m tired of getting compared to the show Army Wives, but not only that, I’ve been told in the past by several people solders were deployed for no reason and what they were doing in another country was worthless. My husband was deployed at the time. Then days later, my 5 year old at the time tells me crying that a student in her class said ‘Your daddy isn’t coming home because he’s dead”. She was so upset and I was pissed off. It had been about a week since we had heard from my husband, Luckily that same day he called and she spoke with him and knew daddy was safe. So not only adults but children who are not involved in the military life don’t understand and can be very cruel. I’m the type of person that will give a helping hand, I’ve tried dealing with my FRG to help out, but I get no response back or support from them. I’m 33 weeks pregnant now and haven’t recieved a call asking if I’m okay or if I need anything. The support I do have is from my wonderful friends, most are military and a few are not. I do what I can for them and others. Why? It’s not to make me feel better but because I truely understand. God Bless our Soldiers and their families.

  32. [...] I know. When I first read these such as things people say to the family of deployed troops, found here, or things that people say to people with brain injuries, found here, I cringe and how someone [...]

  33. My husband is deployed right now and just the other day my friend made a comment that made my jaw drop and just left me depressed the rest of the day. I had gotten a new cat the week before that my husband and I had been planning on and were excited about. A few days ago the cat got out somehow and was gone for a couple days, so I was already upset and sad. When I was saying how worried I was for the cat and sad my friend said “at least its just the cat and not your husband dead.” Definitely not a necessary comment

  34. It drives me nuts when people say “I’m sure the time will just fly by”… umm, no it won’t!! Or, “We’ll just do a lot of shopping”… First, I don’t enjoy shopping and second, how does spending money make me forget my husband is in a war zone. Or, “You’ll be fine”…. Yes I know, I will be fine, I will get through this but please quit trying to diminish what I’m going through! I’d be ‘fine’ if I lost my sight, or lost a limb, but it doesn’t mean its not going to be difficult.

    What gets me even more is the people who say these things seem to have a crisis in their life every other week over silly things and I’m always there to lend a shoulder or sympathic ear. I am a strong, level-headed woman and have been through a lot. Once in a while, I think it’s only fair that my emotions can show, that I get to be scared, nervous, angry, anxious, etc without having my emotions brushed aside or told how I should feel. Arghhhh, can you tell I’m a little annoyed?

  35. Thanks you guys. My husband leaves in a week for his first deployment, and I feel like the world is crashing down around me. Reading these blogs helps. I know people mean well, but the most common things I’ve heard are, “I’ll bet the money is good.” Or, “at least he’s not going to Afghanistan.” It’s good to know that you guys are going through the same thing. People keep asking me, “How do you deal with it? I could NEVER survive that.” Thanks. Thanks for reminding me how horrible it is going to be. I don’t know how I’m going to survive it. But reading this blog helped.

  36. I am a female Soldier who just came home from Afghanistan a few days ago. I came home from my 7 monthe deployment to find my husband gone – he had moved out of our home. As I waited outside for him to come home, he wouldn’t pick up his phone or call me back – as I stood outside in the rain with my bags, he texted that he’d moved out. The situation was made worse, as I had just moved across country before I deployed to accomodate his work assignment, so my unit was in another state – so I had no one here to offer any support. This past week has been immensely challenging for me. I am proud to think of all the wives and other husbands that have made it through longer and repeated tours God bless you all.

  37. I do not have some much time to comment, but I very much appreciate the sentiment of your site. Not in military community but would like to feel connected to someone in a similar situation. This sucks. Breathe deeply and pray that your spouse can transition to a civilian job asap.

  38. my husband is leaving in January 2013, this will be his first deployment. Thank you all for posting on this page, I think in the 20 minutes I have spent reading that I am a little more prepared for what is going to happen. It is going to be a long road for us, but we will make it through.

  39. My husband is currently deployed to a FOB in Afghanistan. There are times i don’t even want to speak to anyone who isn’t going through the same thing I am because of the things they say. I guess I’m a little tired of bending over backwards to try to understand how they feel.

    I’m not a big worrier, I don’t talk on and on about my feelings, I’m ususally the one that stands strong and comforts everyone else, but once in a while it would be nice to have someone just listen to me and say I’m sorry. Or if you need to talk I can listen.

    Things I’ve been told…

    “You don’t know how hard it is on me (by a friend and co-worker) because I’m worried about him AND you”. Really?? Yes, I’m sure it is much harder on you.

    “Stay busy, time will just fly by. We can go shopping” Again, really? You do remember I don’t like to shop… you are the shopper. So, you offering to go shopping with me is really more about you than comforting me.

    “It’s really not that big of a deal, he could die just as easily on a trip to Florida”

    “It will be over before you know it” … No. It. Won’t. I have heard this one so many times I want to scream.

    “He’s military, what did you expect” …. Yes, he is military and I am extremely proud that my husband is in the Air Force, however, it doesn’t mean I waived all rights to miss him or worry for his safety.

    And one of my favorites. “Don’t worry”…. Gee, why didn’t I think of that? I’ll just not worry.

    I know your post was written several years ago, but I’m so glad I found it. It made me smile and helps to know I’m not the only one dealing with people who mean well but tend to suffer from diarrhea of the mouth. LOL

    Thanks for giving me a forum to rant!

    • lol Your post made me laugh. I’ve had several people say, “You have no idea how hard this is for me because I worry about you”. It makes me want to drop kick them. I know people mean well, but some of these things are just ridiculous. Thanks for making me laugh, I’m glad I’m not the only one to here such craziness!

      • I guess we could always come back with … well, you don’t how hard it is for me because I have to worry about you worrying about me. LOL.

  40. Wow! This is so true I’m an army wife & my husband will be deployed for the third time On Sept. we have a 4 year old daughter who now is able to understand that her dad is leaving but not the fact that he is leaving for a year. Now, I dont only have to deal with my sadness but also with hers which is my job but it’s way more difficult now because I have to keep explaining this to her while I’m feeling down & lacking words to explain that he doesn’t want to leave us but he has to. This article is great because all those questions & stupid conversations have been part of my life specially the last months! I wish you all army wives success, love & patience. I will pray for your families & also please pray for mine. Thank you,
    Lau

  41. I’m just a guy married to a girl who’s in the military. We have no kids . . . I can’t even imagine how folks w/ kids make this work. In any case, we move often (10 times in 17 yrs) . . . She’s served 17 years before her first deployment (6 months) . . . then she was home for a year and now she’s deployed for another 12 months. During her 6 month deployment my mom was diagnosed w/ final stage lung cancer & not expected to live long . . . in any case, my wife was able to return in time to see my mom leave this place . . . and then they were both off to different destinations. My mom has been a mooring in my life as my dad was taken early in my life . . . blah, blah, blah.

    All that to say, military moms/wives have an unimaginable job . . . I couldn’t do it . . . but we (the military husbands) are an even smaller & forgotten bunch . . . partly do to our own measures (pride/stereo-types) no doubt . . .

    But we/I miss my wife and want her home . . . I don’t know what can be done for us, because we’re not likely to reach out (because our skulls are too thick I suppose) . . . but anyway, think of us if you will . . . because times are changing and more women are serving & serving honorably.

    Just my thoughts . . .

  42. My best friend deployed as a single mom of a precious 1.5 year old. Someone actually told her, well be glad you don’t have a husband to miss too…that would be really hard. SERIOUSLY?

    And I, who am deployed currently, have had people tell my husband, ‘Man, It must be nice to be a bachelor for 6 months.’ UGH…

  43. As we prepare for my husband’s 4th deployment (the third since we’ve been together), I’m hearing a LOT of these things. I think the one that is getting me the most this time is,

    “Oh, I don’t like that at all.”
    NO KIDDING, ’cause I love it (insert sarcasm). I’m sure people mean well when they say it, but SERIOUSLY.

    Another is, “WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?!?!?!?!” Ummm…the same things I do every day: feed myself, feed and love my daughter and dog, do laundry, clean the house…Any number of things. With the caveat that we will make time to talk to Poppa. Though, there are times when I want to say something really sarcastic like, “I don’t know, I was thinking I’d join the circus or start an illegal underground (and be a bookie for) and underground beetle racing operation.

    And I know this shouldn’t irritate me as much as it does, but the situation is stressful. My Mother-in-law is all wrapped around the axle about how my son has to leave our daughter and how much that breaks HER heart. I am the one who will be missing my partner in this, the man who I love to watch play with, sing to, read stories to the little girl we both love so much. I’m the one who will have to explain to a 2 year old who misses her Poppa that he can’t come home right now. Every time I see him laughing with her, snuggling, any of the loving things he does because he’s a loving father lately…Just makes me sick to my stomach. It will be a LONG haul.

    • i like your post, i really needed to laugh to day especially your comment about joining the circus or start an underground bookie.. i understand what your are going thru with my hubby on deployment right now and my 16month old son, my 12year old step daughter and her mom to deal with plus add my father inlaw coming to stay with us for the next few months to the list. the best advice i can give you is to pray frevently, pray like you are in a life or death situation, and you are in a life or death situation. situations like this make you depressed, please dont let that happen to you, think of your child, your self and praying for your hubby and thats it… hold on to God, ask for his grace everyday.. try to not get angry or grudge becuse that only hinders your prayer. sing, dance and line up activity (free or cheap) for your self, spend maybe $10.00 a week on a blouse for yourself or go to jamba juice. what i am trying to say is to do things that wont cost you financially but make you happy .. you dont realise it but little things here and there really makes you happy even if its for a little while… take care of your self and remember God is with you….

  44. My husband has been on 3 deployments to Iraq – 2 for 15 months each and 1 for 12 months. He is going on his first deployment to Afghanistan on Monday. Yes it is hard being away from him. Yes people don’t understand what we go through, but I really think they have admiration for us because they do have some idea of what we go through, even if they have never experienced it. Honestly, I always get embarrassed when they tell me I have the hardest job in the military, because I most definitely do not. I have it harder than a lot of civilian wives yes, but my husband has it so much worse than I do. He knows how dangerous it is and he does fear that he won’t make it back alive. He also has to worry that he will lose a limb or two, or that he will come back with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He doesn’t tell me his fears, but I know they are there. He has seen too much for them not to be there. He has seen friends die and then when he has gotten home two more killed themselves. He also doesn’t get to see his family. He misses out on valuable time watching his children grow up. I get to see our children everyday. I get to sleep in a comfortable bed, eat delicious food, and shower every day. Yes he signed up for the military, but it doesn’t make these things easier to deal with. He always tells me I have the hardest job (because I have no help from friends and family) but honestly I would not trade places with him for anything. I admire the men and women of the armed forces and I would never dream of saying my life is harder than theirs.

  45. [...] Another look at what not to say to the spouse of a deployed soldier, written by a military member [...]

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