How to Answer the Crazy Questions People Ask Military Spouses

Answer the Crazy Questions People Ask Military Spouses
Spouses performing a ski at a Spouses' Dining-In event at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. (U.S. Air Force/Jacob Wongwai)

When you join the military spouse community, you're going to get a lot of questions – questions from your family, your friends and complete strangers who think they understand what your life is now like because they watched an episode of "Army Wives" a decade ago. Sometimes, you want to roll your eyes and laugh at the questions, and other times you can quietly admit you've asked those same questions.

Here are 10 common questions and ways you can answer them nicely. And while we don't encourage sassiness in your answers, if you decide it's necessary, well -- we support you.

1. What is a military spouse?

This one should be pretty easy to answer. They have an example standing right in front of them: you. Since you are married to a service member, you are now a military spouse. Here's where it can get tricky for other people to understand. The military spouse community includes spouses of active-duty, National Guard and Reserve service members who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Space Force and Coast Guard. Spouses of veterans and retired military service members are also included in this community. For the most part, once you're a military spouse, you're part of the group forever.

2. What benefits do military spouses get?

As a military spouse registered with the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, or DEERS, you are eligible for benefits including health insurance, life insurance and installation support services. Your identification card allows you to access the installation, receive medical care, get medications at the pharmacy, use the gym and wellness facilities, shop at the commissary and the exchange, and many other things.

3. What are military spouses called?

First, it's important to know that military spouses come in all genders, so we don't generally use the term "military wives" to talk about the community. Military spouse is the term we prefer, and you may also see milspouse or milso. It's also important to realize that while our ID cards refer to us as "dependents" of our service member sponsor, we do not use derogatory terms when referring to each other or the community. Ever.

4. Can you deploy with your service member?

We're not really sure why people ask this question, but for some reason they do. Never say never, but no. Deployment orders don't include family members. Perhaps people get deployment and moving confused, or maybe they aren't paying attention when you say things like "deploying to Afghanistan," but either way, the answer is going to be no.

5. Why is being a military spouse hard?

Being married is hard at times, and being a military spouse brings unique challenges. Most people aren't geographically separated from their spouses for months at a time for work, often with little to no notice. Most families aren't told to move across the world on what seems like a whim because a spot needs to be filled.

Related: 5 Reasons It's Hard to be a Military Spouse Who Is Also a Veteran

6. How much money does a military spouse get?

Military spouse is not a profession, so there's no pay. There is, however, some additional pay that your service member receives if they have dependents. This can be confusing for some new spouses and those outside the military. For example, the Basic Allowance for Housing increases for service members with dependents, including a spouse. But simply marrying a service member does not give you any money.

7. Can a military spouse have a career?

Yes! Many military spouses have successful careers, but it's not easy for everyone. Moving every few years is hard on spouses who require licensing for their careers. Additional stressors on military families such as unpredictable hours, deployments and last-minute moves also make it hard to work traditional office jobs or regular hours. And military spouses who are stationed with their service members overseas may not be able to be employed thanks to rules created by the host country with the U.S. State Department.

8. Do most military marriages fail?

Statistically, the number of military marriages that end in divorce is very similar to the number of civilian marriages that end in divorce. It's hard to compare the two, because of the variety of stressors placed on marriages, but the military divorce rate sits at about 3% and has for several years.

Related: Tips for a Happy Military Marriage

9. Do military relationships last?

They do! The friendships you make in the military can last decades, even if you don't see each other through that time. Military spouses make some of the best long-distance friends, the kind that you can easily catch up with over coffee, the ones who will drop everything to help you out years later. Military marriages can also last decades with a little hard work and a lot of patience, respect and intentionality.

10. Is military life like "Army Wives?"

Yes, and no. Just like other shows we enjoy watching, such as "9-1-1" and "Chicago P.D.," "Army Wives" is a drama. As in, everything is more dramatic. Could the things that happen on these shows happen to real military spouses? Yes. But would they all happen to the same group of friends on the same installation in the course of a few years? No.

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