It’s Your Transition, Too

As the spouse of a military leader, you may have invested significant time and energy over the years in support of your leader’s military service and in support of the broader military family. You may be an active duty member yourself as a member married to member, or were part of the active duty community at some point in the past. Whether you have worked outside the home, worked at home raising your family, offered your services as a volunteer or pursued your own education or other interests, chances are your life has been directly affected by being the spouse of a military service member. You may have relocated frequently or endured several geographic separations during your spouse’s military deployments. While you may never have enlisted or attended Officer Candidate School or a service academy, you have been connected to the broader military family throughout your spouse’s career.

This Transition is Different

While you and your active duty member have “transitioned” many times over the course of your time together, the transition from military to civilian life will be very different for both of you. While the military has provided a framework and structure by providing access to base housing, a limited group of duty locations, and a ready support network of military resources in most new assignments, the transition to civilian life is much less defined.  As part of this process, you and your spouse will discard old routines and roles, detach from your military identities and turn inside to search for a new sense of who you are.  It is also helpful to focus less on what you are retiring from and instead emphasize what you are retiring to – a new professional or personal opportunity for growth and fulfillment.

Changing Roles and Routines

While everyone transitions differently, don’t be surprised if this one feels very different for you and/or your spouse. Wearing the uniform for so many years, it is not uncommon to feel a bit of an identity loss when it comes off. One day, everyone is asking your spouse for guidance and opinions. The day after retirement, it is a different matter. Your spouse is the same person inside, but upon retirement, the ground has shifted, and it is time for both you and your spouse to regain your footing in a new environment.

You may find yourselves reversing roles, with the retiring member appearing far less certain, decisive and, at times, unsure about how best to move forward. He or she may be leaning on you more than ever as you both move forward together to determine what is next.

Share Your Expertise

If you have transitioned your own career during your spouse’s military service, you may be in a great position to share some tips on networking, resume preparation and resilience with your spouse. It may have been a couple of decades since your spouse last interviewed for a job while your own interviewing skills may be far fresher. While your spouse should seek input from colleagues and outside experts as part of the transition process, you might be the first “in-house” expert to provide a fresh perspective and helpful guidance.

Pursue Your Dreams

Separation from the frequent relocations and shared military family leadership responsibilities may give you the opportunity to pursue dreams you may have put off during your spouse’s military career. This could include going back to school to get that degree or credential you’ve always wanted or taking up a hobby or volunteer opportunity you never had time to pursue. Take the time to figure out what is right for you.

No Need to Go It Alone

  • Remember that you are not alone in making this important transition to civilian life.
  • Don’t hesitate to reach out and speak with your friends and colleagues who have made this transition and ask for their advice.
  • Take care of your health and encourage your spouse to do the same.
  • Talk with each other and remember that this is a process that will take time and requires adjustment and flexibility.
  • Take advantage of the tremendous resources available to support both of you as you seek out what’s next in life’s journey!

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