I already knew I had a stellar soldier for a husband- but right then I kinda hated it. Perhaps you have one too. The kind of spouse that strives to be his best at everything and sets his sights on maxing out that PT test every time.
Before kids and the military, my husband and I used to go for long runs and chat about our life. It was quality time that usually ended with ice cream and a favorite show (oh how we miss our twenties). Once the military entered the story, early morning PT became his primary time to workout and I fit in exercise around everyone else’s schedule.
On this particular day we decided to go for a long overdue run together. As I laced up my shoes, I was about to remark on how nice it was going to be to run together when he put in his earphones and said, “but I won’t be talking, I’m working on increasing my pace”.
“That’s okay,” I said- more to prepare myself for the pain that was likely to follow, “I’ll do the same.”
We started off together, listening to our independent playlists. When we faced hills, he attacked them with purpose as I managed to keep up. When I was forced to stop and fix my hair, he jogged in place and focused on his watch. Finally, as we approached the last mile, my stellar soldier surged ahead- or maybe I started to lag behind. My legs begged for me to quit despite what my heart wanted. I started to accept my fate as officially “smoked”- when I had a thought.
Without realizing it, we were both shaped in two entirely different ways by the military lifestyle.
The military has a way of creating fantastic leaders that translate into fantastic role models at home. Mine appreciates organization, routine, and logical ways of finding solutions to everyday problems. He teaches our kids the values he loves about the military including work ethic, respect for authority, loyalty, integrity, and others.
The military had done something entirely different for me.
As difficult as it has been to constantly maneuver around his schedule, I have learned to embrace the role that creativity plays in chaos. I have to fit in my own self care- not because someone tells me to, but because it keeps me from losing my mind. Relationships in the home are more likely to come before order, and definitely more important than perfection. Leadership as a military spouse has become more about adaptability and a strong “whatever” mindset.
I watched from a distance as he finished his run and then checked his watch. Shame washed over me as I thought about how frustrating it is to be married to someone who folds laundry better than me, often thinks to start the crock pot before I do, and was in better physical shape than I was. To sum it up in view of the finish line, the military had made a stellar leader out of him and leisurely pace keeper out of me.
Unless you are in a marriage where you or your spouse quit along time ago, almost no one likes to be left behind. In fact, if you’ve been married for any length of time, you have likely experienced surging ahead or lagging behind your spouse in one area or another. What you do when you find yourself there, though, reveals the state of your true character.
“Do I finish strong or just slow down in defeat?”
As much as we try to experience life at the same pace, marriage will often ebb and flow throughout the marathon. The military lifestyle almost guarantees we will have different ways of approaching it. Each spouse brings strengths, each spouse brings weaknesses to manage. Both have something to offer when the moment is right. From a strengths perspective, my stellar husband has expressed the same feelings I was having on days where no amount of logic or order fits into the chaos of life. Sometimes, being a leisurely pace setter pays off.
One thing was clear, his pace challenged me to dig deep and find something new within myself or I would fall behind. The military, despite our different experiences, has taught us separately that the kind of battle buddy we are for each other is a matter of life or death for marriage. As a military spouse, I’ve learned that I don’t quit. I can’t quit a deployment. I can’t quit on a bad day. I’ve learned to finish strong even if it’s looks or feels different than I originally pictured. So I did as he waited for me.
It’s not easy to be married to someone who has thrived in the military. He has been a perfect fit for this job from the beginning. But it’s only difficult because he expects so much of himself and in turn I must do the same.