30 August 2010

His career and my 2 cents.

You've read those blog posts and heard/overheard those conversations, right? The ones where the spouse of the soldier (etc.) bravely and calmly says that her husband's career choices in the military really are just up to him since it is HIS career after all. Please tell me you have (though if you haven't just search around the blog-o-sphere, you'll find them, I don't want to post links as I don't want to hurt anyone's feelers)... because I need to suss some things out in regards to this topic.

First, I get it. I mean, I understand the whole mentality of not putting your foot down and DEMANDING that your spouse ETS or Retire or switch MOS, because generally demands don't play so nice with marriages. And I'd be willing to bet that around 90% of us knew we were marrying the military type, so there is a certain amount of latitude that must be given. I get that. I really do. There is a part of you that feels incredibly selfish and demanding and not all that wonderful when you start to think about putting in your 2 cents (or 5 dollars) when it comes to these topics.

Second, I sort of understand the parallels I see some spouses trying to make between their civilian career and his. You know, the whole I wouldn't want him telling me what jobs to take and not to take or when to move or quit, so I shouldn't do it to him. Because, on some level that is totally spot on. I wouldn't want Swiss demanding or telling me in no uncertain terms what I could and could not do with my career, to turn down opportunities or a big promotion for whatever reason. I am an independent lady after all, with a strong will to boot. I think we can all imagine how well that would go over, right? So it is, on the surface of things, understandable to draw the same conclusions about your say and his career.

However... for me, that parallel doesn't really work unless your civilian job is that of a Blackwater contractor or maybe a MD with Doctors Without Borders (or you are in the military yourself). Because my job as a cytotechnologist or teacher or nurse or advertising executive generally only comes with ancillary requirements like occasional overtime or working weekends, maybe a pay cut or the rare travel to some safe garden spot for a short conference. No job I've ever had put my life in jeopardy, sent me away from home for a year or more every 15 moths or so or left my family to deal with the very real possibility of me not coming home- ever. And no job I've ever had came with contracts that couldn't be broken or guaranteed moves every few years under penalty of jail time. And last I checked, most civilian jobs can or could be left at the office so to speak. None of those things can be said for a job in the military. Not a one.

Also, isn't all we ever talk about how this career our spouses choose is really a lifestyle for the whole family, sacrifices and bonuses and all? So how does this whole Hands Off! mentality when it comes to his career jibe with our general thesis on military life? How can we, on one hand say that these deployments effect us all, but on the other say that decisions regarding the career that causes these deployments is no place for my opinion?

I guess my questions/issues on this topic arise because when it came time for Swiss to PCS the last time, when talks of retirement or staying in started to surface, it was a family decision. We talked about it together. I made me feelings and opinions known, politely of course, but Swiss always knew what my feelings on these topics were. We, as a family, talked about the benefits and cons of each of the duty stations and the job assignments and expectations that would come with each place (you know, light infantry versus mechanized units, 1SGT time or staff duty, etc.). We talked about wether or not this was the right time to retire, what the benefits would be to staying in and what impact that would have on our lives, my career, his career and all that jazz. At the end of the day, we made decisions based on what was best for our family. If Swiss was single, he'd probably stay in for another 3-6 years, but those extra deployments and PCSs just weren't what made sense for us.

Now, with all that said, I really do want to open up a dialogue about this topic even though I haven't shielded my views even a smidge (hey, I'm just being honest!). How do you feel about this? How much input do you give (or are allowed) on your spouse's military career? Where is the line between being selfish and doing what is best for your family? How have you and your spouses dealt with these issues in the past? And are you a subscriber to the "Its his career" mentality? If so, why?

Okay Ladies, have at it in the comments! Just play nice with each other, okay?


Unlikely Wife said...

Well, if you're kind of mentioning that Times article where the soldier retired partially because his wife was ready for him to do that- yet the solider made it clear it was his choice- and mil.spouse land slaughtered said wife because she obviously threatened him and wasn't supportive and doesn't deserve him- I'm kind of with the "it was THIER decision" side, not the crazy mil.spouse side of "it is my honor to never put in my two cents and always do what he needs me to do because my whole is his career" side. Now, I'm speaking in extremes, of course. Marriages are partnerships, and it is NEVER fair to allow a spouse to feel as if they aren't going to matter in any decision making.
I know that when husband re-ups this next time, we're in it for 10 more years. The way I see it, we just got married and 10 years will go by faster than I could possibly imagine. If he could tie-down one particular government dream job, I'd love it, of course. But he wants to finish out and I'm okay with that. The point is, we did talk about it. What I had to say mattered. I did tell him that I'd be cool with him getting out. Truth is, a lot of mil.spouses think that is unsupportive. I honestly have nothing to say in response to that, because as far as I'm concerned they have a different type of marriage than myself and husband have, so we're never going to see eye-to-eye. I married at 27 years old- I had quite a life before him, and he had quite a life before me. No one's going to fundamentally change because a) we're married, b) he's military, and c) other people think we're weird for not being all 1950s about it.
That's my $5 worth.

Katie F said...

I just posted about this the other day since we are approaching the time to reenlist. The last time the hubby reenlisted we weren't married or even together so it's different this time around
We are always honest with each other, we sat down and weighed the pros and cons, discussed each other's opinions and feelings and I told him exactly what I thought he should do. But I also told him the final decision was up to him. He knows where I stand, I know where he stands but since I'm also not the one to deploy and spend time away from my family I told him he is the one that has to make the decision to reenlist
This may not work for everyone but this has always worked for us. We were individuals before we met, we each have our own careers and we fully the support the other in anything that we do. SO regardless of his decision I will be supportive. However this decision is not mine to make. He knows where I stand and what I feel is best for us, we've discussed it numerous times but the final decision is his and I'll support him either way. Cause if he get's out and were living off my career for awhile I would want him to do the same

loquita said...

Very timely, because we are just now making a decision about what we're doing next...

I with you 100% in what you described -- talking together about pros and cons, and both parties freely sharing what they prefer and desire for the future. Exactly what we try to do in every aspect of our marriage.

But then I have to agree with the two previous comments -- after all the discussions were over, I left the final decision up to my husband.

For him, his military service isn't just a job, and it's even deeper than a career. It's a way of life for him -- he is serving his country, and serving the Marines in his command. He feels a sense of duty to accomplish certain things because he gives up this way of life, and not in an "advance his career" way. I hope I'm making sense?

I don't want him to have regrets by leaving this way of life before he was able to accomplish everything he feels is his duty.

So that's why I leave the decision up to him. If he stays in or gets out, my goal stays the same -- look out for his happiness. Maybe that is somewhat 1950's housewife, to put him "above" or "before" me -- I don't know, but it's important to me regardless.

Sorry if I rambled, thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts on this, I have actually been doing a lot of thinking in this area lately. And thanks for sharing your take on so honestly. :)

Feminist Military Spouse said...

I don't know. I see your point and I don't, but this is because we really navigate military life differently than almost everyone I know. Yes, deployments affect everyone and yes, to a certain extent, I suppose it is a family decision.
DH and I agreed to a non-interference pact before we married. I don't think he always likes it, but the price he pays for me not interfering in his career is that he gets no real say in mine either. This means that he may PCS overseas by himself, depending on where my education and career are by that time. It has meant him geobacheloring it for a couple of years so I could go to school and study what I want where I want.
I don't believe that the military is a lifestyle, or just another job. I think that equating it with other careers is why the civilian population, like Ms. Sisk, wants us to shut up about our "sacrifices". I guess I also don't like the idea of calling it a lifestyle, because once you do, it becomes a defining component of your life and it becomes easier to accept that you can't go, do or have the goals, dreams, desires you want because the military comes first. This is where I don't drink the Kool-aid. I don't believe that anyone has the right to dictate these things to me. I don't believe my only option is a conveniently portable career. I don't believe that what I say or do should really have an impact on his career. I don't believe that I need to spend all my time doing unpaid labor for the military. Nor do I believe that his paycheck, given to him for his labor, has any bearing on who I am or what I do, as is so often thrown up in my face. I didn't sign up and therefore I retain all the liberties of the average citizen.
So I think these types of internal conflicts are what drive the dichotomy you observe. I think a lot of people are torn on how to negotiate dealing with the military while still retaining a sense of self as a human being outside of this organization.

Scatterbrain said...

Wow, perfect timing on this post. I am still frighteningly new to having my husband's career bend my own life and I'm struggling with this very debate right now.

My hubs has the opportunity to stay, but he may choose to go.. and I don't know how I will deal with it if he chooses to go. I'm trying my best to wrap my head around the idea that I married a military man and will therefore have to live with everything that comes with that choice, but before we got married, it never occurred to me that he could be CHOOSING the deployment.. no one is particularly ordering him. In this situation, it's his choice.

It is yet to be seen whether my opinion matters in his decision.. Right now I'm just trying to figure out how to keep the resentment at bay if he does choose to leave.

We did discuss the pros and cons as a family though. I honestly gave him my opinion, but I did not "put my foot down" because in my head, I figure if he really wants to choose to leave, I'd rather him leave.. I don't want him to resent me for holding him back. You know? Even if not holding him back means just the opposite for me.

Tsoniki Crazy Bull said...

What Feminist Military Spouse said.

Except my husband and I didn't make a no-interference pact when we got married. I happily moved around and took care of things and at one point or another (thankfully very short amounts of time) probably helped mix the kool aid. But now, now we have kids that are getting older (and a new baby) and I'm itching to be settled. Like settled settled, not oh yay we'll be here for 18 months settled. We'll see what happens when it's time to stay in or get out - I'm thinking by then I'll be done with school and really wanting not to move over and over again. It's a hard life decision to make.

Oh and we talk it out together, he understands my frustrations and we both know that there's not too much we can do about both of us being 100% happy 100% of the time. Marriage is a partnership and the decision to stay in or not should be made by both people.