- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Military Spouse Series: Mission Transition - Weathering the storm together
by Janet Farley, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: Wil-Trans

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As a military spouse, some assumptions can be made. You are, by default, an extraordinary individual skilled in the art of starting over. You have to be in this crazy, live-on-the-edge kind of life we lead.

Military Spouse TransitionEvery few years, you pack up your life and those of your children and spouse, and move to a new “home,” be it around the corner, across the country or far, far away to foreign lands where you struggle to speak a new language.

In the process, your worldly goods suffer scratches, nicks and gouges that will always be there, despite the paid-out claims designed to compensate you for them.

Through it all, you persevere.

You make new friends. You look for a new job. You help your children acclimate. You make nice with your spouse’s co-workers. You diligently search for and find the right hairstylist, doctor and orthodontist, or at least the ones for right now.

At some point, after one tour or too many to count, you do those things for what you imagine will be the last time - in a military-to-civilian transition.

With this move, your camouflaged spouse’s “uniform” may not require extra starch and you won’t need to show your ID card to make a purchase at the grocery store.

In some ways, it is like other PCS moves and yet it’s not. It’s the big one that many of us long for only to discover it’s not as easy as we thought it would be.

According to a recent Pew Research Center Survey, there are certain characteristics that seem to increase the likelihood that a veteran will have an easier time readjusting to civilian life.

For example, veterans who are college graduates, understood their missions while serving, were commissioned officers and had strong religious beliefs tended to have an easier re-entry into civilian life than others.

Interestingly, the survey notes that post-9/11 veterans who married someone while in uniform had a more difficult time readjusting to life after the military. In fact, the findings suggest that the chances of these veterans having an easier re-entry into civilian life with spouse were reduced from 63% to 48%.

Ouch. Whatever happened to the ‘two heads are better than one’ theory?

Researchers in the study point to reintegration after deployment challenges as the reason the transition to civilian life is so difficult for Post-9/11 veterans.

Frankly, it’s no shocker that deployments, at any stage of the cycle or for any military member or family, are difficult.

There’s a reason why less than 1% of those in the United States serve our country voluntary. It’s not a life that just anyone chooses. It’s a difficult life of sacrifice, whether you wear the uniform or are married to it.

When you couple the stress of a military-to-civilian transition with the stress of reintegration after deployment, regardless of how long a couple has been married, there are going to be patches of rough weather ahead. Add in a less than lucrative job market, and there is the real potential for a perfect storm.

Making it through such a storm requires patience, perseverance and a genuine desire to move forward.

- Accept that deployments change people on both sides of the wedding ring.

- Don’t force deployment readjustment and career transition. Take them both one-day-at-a-time, step-by-step, minute-by-minute.

- Be patient with each other. Talk openly and honestly about your feelings with one another or with a professional who may be able to help you figure things out.

- Look at your military-to-civilian and military spouse transition time as an adventure, and a chance to start something exciting and new together.

- Work as team to find your next jobs. Attend the transition assistance program workshops together and collaborate on your job search activities. Be each other’s best cheerleader, though good moments and disappointing ones.

- Take care of yourselves. Getting to know someone all over again can be physically and emotionally draining. Eat right. Get enough sleep. Exercise.

In the end, surveys and statistics can say anything. In life, you get the final say-so.

Janet Farley is the author of "The Military Spouse’s Guide to Employment: Smart Jobs for Mobile Lifestyles” (Impact Publications, 2012) and “Quick Military Transition Guide: Seven Steps to Landing a Civilian Job” (Jist Publishing, Inc., 2012). Follow her on Twitter @mil2civguide and @smartjobchoices for tips, news and inspiration.

U.S. Army photo by Jason Kelly/Released

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