Hey you, military spouse, here’s an interesting question: How do you define success? What does it mean to you to succeed at this military life?
It’s a question worth considering. We spend so much time keeping our heads down and moving forward, just hoping to survive the next military life challenge. Do you ever stop to think about what it would mean to not only survive your spouse’s military career but also for you to be successful while they are serving?
When we recently asked this question to a group of military spouses, we were surprised at the answers. Every person had their own definition of success, and their answers were different depending on where they were in the cycle of military life. It’s okay to change your own definition of success when you enter a new season. After reading their responses, maybe you will have a better image of your concept of success right now.
A successful military spouse doesn’t give up
Let’s be real, military spouse: There are some days when making it into bed without crying is considered a success. Right?
I’ve been there, and I’m sure you have, too. There are times during deployment or unaccompanied tours that success means checking off another day on the calendar and realizing that we are one day closer to being together. Other spouses echoed this sentiment: “[Success is] knowing that I made it through another day without coming completely undone at the seams.”
This is a very real part of military life. If this is currently your definition of success, then that’s fine. Own it and try to make every day of deployment a successful day.
A successful military spouse is happy in the present
Other spouses recognize that we can’t always focus on homecoming or retirement or the next big move. A military spouse shouldn’t waste their life waiting for their service member to finish their military career. Instead, a successful military spouse could be someone who has learned to make the most of any situation and enjoy life at that moment: “My kids are growing too fast and I need to accept that right now is my life and right now needs to be enjoyed because I will never get right now again.”
A successful military spouse follows their own dreams
Several military spouses told us that they defined success by their ability to achieve their own goals while their spouse was active duty. One spouse told us success meant “making sure that your dreams don’t get pushed aside just because his job takes precedence.”
There are many military spouses who go back to school, earn a degree, find a job, or start a company—all in the midst of PCS moves and deployments. Is it easy? No. But it is possible. For those brave spouses who reach for lofty goals, success is the day they earn a diploma or land that dream job: “It can be very challenging to build a career or complete schooling. But I still want to make it happen! I still want the career that I’ve been dreaming of since fifth grade. So success for me is making my dreams and goals come true.”
A successful military spouse takes care of their family
For many military families, the spouse who stays home is the family’s anchor while the service member is deployed. Some spouses see taking care of the home and raising children as their primary job. One spouse stated, “For me, overall success is keeping my family happy, healthy, and loved.”
This type of success can be hard to measure. However, some older military spouses who make it through a full career could see their children grow up, attend college, or even join the military themselves. One seasoned spouse shared with us that success meant “having my last child graduate high school this year. Having a successful career that has helped put one of my children through college. I never thought I would be able to do that!”
A successful military spouse has a strong and happy marriage
Finally, many military spouses define success by the strength of their relationship. Military marriages go through some of the greatest distances and communication challenges of modern times. Successful couples manage to grow closer together and strengthen their love despite these obstacles: “For me, it’s not necessarily having to have a great career right now or my dream job, dream home, etc. It’s supporting each other through all the tough times, raising our child together, and just constantly moving forward in some way. If we can make it through all of that and learn and grow together, then I’ve been successful.”