This is a topic that I have wanted to write about for a while. It’s not important to everyone, but it is very important to some -and that should be respected. For those with no military affiliations I am talking about officer and enlisted spouses; the spouses of our military’s officers and enlisted personnel.
But who am I to even dive in to such a potentially inflammatory topic? My spouse is an officer, so I am an O spouse. But, in another life, I was married to an enlisted person thus I was once an E spouse. My perspective is unique because I have truly lived and understand both sides of the fence. From writing letters to BMT, to wondering what to do for a lieutenant colonel promotion party – I’ve seen a lot of the Air Force.
And now I’m here to share what I have learned; allons-y!
So the big question –
Q. What is the difference between E and O spouses?!
A: The difference is that the E spouses are married to Es, and the O spouses are married to Os.
Any tired divisive chat about education or snobbiness are simply not true. I have known many driven, educated spouses on both sides. I have also met unkind spouses on both sides (and can tell you that they didn’t mean to be mean – they were just having a terrible day). Any implied divide is created and unnecessarily negative.
Time spent on riddling out differences is simply time wasted. It’s better to focus on what E spouses and O spouses all have.
We are all people. We all experience deployments, TDYs, and very long work days that keep our spouses away from home. Some are intermittent single parents, and we all juggle the domestic work intended for two adults. We get to experience the range of reintegration issues when our spouses come back home (mine always forgets how to sort the recycling). And sometimes we even experience the same profound loss when a unit meets tragedy.
We live a unique lifestyle, and a lot of people don’t understand how we do it. We can do it because we have networks, we have support. The support varies widely depending on task and expectation, but it’s there. Spouse-to-spouse support is the most unofficial and the strongest. I’ve relied on spouses for small things (like shower curtains), and big things (literally; six barstools). I have similarly tried to help other spouses when I could, whether it was keeping a baby busy, lending $40, or just chatting every week while our other halves are away.
“…supporting false walls is a waste…”
Married to the military or not our lives are all about relationships and meaningful human interaction. Creating or supporting false walls is a waste of energy. Our time is much better spent connecting with others and supporting them when they need it.
Besides, being thoughtful is a thrifty habit and that’s something we can all do, regardless of our spouse’s rank.