The internet is full of helpful tips on things you can do to be a good military spouse — but there aren’t a lot of resources on what NOT to do to avoid being labeled as a bad spouse. The military is a surprisingly small world, and the longer your soldier is in the smaller the world gets. You can do everything right and be a gem of a wife, but one big-enough slip can get you a negative reputation that follows you throughout your soldiers career.
Now, don’t get too nervous. You aren’t going to be blacklisted if you’re running late to a steering meeting, or if you wear a cocktail dress to a black-tie ball. The things that can give you a bad reputation are a little deeper than that, and are actually extremely easy to avoid with a little bit of respect and common sense. With no further ado, here are 8 behaviors to avoid as a military spouse:
1. Don’t wear your spouse’s rank.
Your soldiers success depends on how well they do their job, and has absolutely nothing to do with you. When they get promoted, it is their promotion, not yours. Their rank is their rank, not yours. You are not a (pick one: Master Sergeant, Major, Chief Warrant Officer, etc.), your spouse is! And only your spouse. And all the rights, benefits, and respect that comes with that rank belong to your spouse alone. So don’t be that wife demanding special treatment because of your spouse’s rank. If you want to get saluted at the gate feel free to join up and earn it yourself.
2. Don’t treat other spouses according to rank.
This ties in very closely with point one. You are a spouse, you don’t have rank. Likewise, other spouses do not have rank. So do not ever treat spouses as if you outrank them. Your spouse might outrank their spouse, but you have absolutely nothing on anyone. That’s a really easy way to make yourself look like a fool because there is a lot more to people than what their spouse does for a living. There are spouses with PhDs. Spouses that used to be NFL cheerleaders. Spouses that have been in the Olympics. Spouses with 6 figure paying jobs. Spouses that speak 5+ languages fluently. How foolish would you look talking down to the wife of a junior enlisted soldier, only to find out she is a gold winning Olympian with a PhD, and is paid hundreds of thousands to travel and speak at Ivy league universities?
3. Don’t act entitled.
The army is very generous with its benefits, and a lot of companies go out of their way to support the troops and their families. There are a lot of perks with being affiliated. But after receiving so much for so long, many spouses begin to act like they are personally entitled to everything they want, exactly when they want it. Watch yourself, and remember that nobody owes you anything. You are not entitled to discounted meals everywhere you go, or to free access to whatever event you want. It’s okay to inquire about discounts and benefits, but if a particular place or person doesn’t have a military deal, just be gracious and carry on. Don’t throw a fit and demand special treatment just because you have a DOD card.
4. Don’t bother the commander.
In the civilian world this is common sense, but for some reason in the military world the line gets blurred. The commander is the boss, and his or her job is to make sure their soldiers are combat ready and able to win wars. That’s it. They are not there to give you status updates on your spouse’s whereabouts, to play therapist to your emotional problems, or to handhold you through day to day tasks. And while there are always instances where you will need to contact the commander on your spouse’s behalf (pay issues, medical paperwork, leave forms, etc.), you need to ask yourself two things: 1. Is my spouse aware and okay that I am contacting their boss? 2. Is this something I would contact my own boss with? If you can’t answer “yes!” to both of those questions, just don’t do it.
5. Don’t act like the FRG is there to serve you.
As a voluntold (lol) FRG leader, this is very near and dear to my heart. The purpose of the FRG is to provide you with information, and connect you to resources. If there is an Easter Egg Hunt happening on base, I will tell you when and where. If you need after-school childcare, I will connect you with a CYS representative. I am NOT here to: Babysit for you, run errands for you, cook meals for you, clean your house for you, drive you to doctors appointments, do paperwork for you etc. etc. etc. If it is something your spouse or a friend would normally do, or something you would pay someone to do, then it isn’t something you should be asking the FRG to do. Don’t try to bully me (or any FRG leader) into doing something by complaining to the company commander. Don’t go over the company commander’s head to the BN. They are all going to think you are as ridiculous as I do, and when I go out with the company commander and BN for dinner tonight, we are all going to laugh about you.
6. Don’t dress provocatively at your husband’s place of work.
And let’s be clear here: the entire military installation (including the PX , gym, and commissary) is your spouse’s place of work. The FRG meeting is your spouse’s place of work. The brigade ball is your spouse’s place of work. Whenever you are on military property, or on military time, it’s your spouse’s workplace. And whenever you are on military property or on military time, you need to represent your partner well. Don’t show up to his office in booty shorts and a crop top. Don’t run into the PX in your bikini. Don’t wear a sheer club dress to the brigade ball. Dress as if you might run into your spouse’s boss or coworkers at any second, because chances are you will.
7. Don’t hang out alone with the opposite sex.
This piece of advice is a tough pill to swallow for many, and probably doesn’t seem fair to everyone. But like I already said, the military is a small world. And it’s a very gossipy small world. Someone is always watching, and chances are they are going to twist whatever they see into something insidious. You could run over a casserole to a sick soldier, but by the time the gossip mill is done you are having an affair and are pregnant with his child. It may be untrue, and it may be unfair, but this is really the easiest way to get a bad reputation. Avoid alone time with the opposite sex and you will save yourself a huge headache.
8. Don’t be an OPSEC Nazi.
Without a doubt, OPSEC Nazi’s are some of the most abhorred people in military circles. OPSEC is Operational Security, and OPSEC Nazi’s are people (typically civilians) who go way overboard enforcing it. They are the people who instantly message you the second you post “We are over halfway done with deployment!” or shush you if you dare mention your spouse might be home for Christmas. Most everyone understands not to share specific information, such as “My soldier is flying out of this overseas location at this date and time.” But saying you are halfway done with deployment, or excited to have your spouse home for Christmas, are obviously not OPSEC violations. The OPSEC Nazi doesn’t understand that though, and thinks any information is sensitive information. They are always lurking around, waiting for you to say anything about the army, so that they can flex their muscle and tell you how wrong you are to say anything. They are basically just trolls, and nobody likes a troll. So don’t be a troll.
And that’s it! See, not too bad right? Most of the above are easily avoided by simply not being a jerk. Of course, there are other ways you can get a bad reputation: getting into fist fights, showing up drunk to official functions, trying to sell drugs to the BCs teenage daughter. But if you haven’t figured out those things on your own, you’re probably beyond hope so I am not going to waste time writing about it. Just be classy and kind and you will be just fine.