Tuesday, March 18, 2014

10 Things A Military Spouse Can Control

There are so many things that are part of military life that we can't control. It's a given after a while that it's impossible to make life plans that will always stick because things always change. It's a given that your spouse will be gone a lot. Another that you will worry and sometimes not sleep well when they are in harm's way or you know they are struggling. It's also a given that the military will throw you a lot of curve balls that will turn your life upside down on a regular basis. So what can we control? How do we maintain a sense of control over our own lives and the development and growth of our life, our marriages and our families when so much is out of our control?

Here are 10 things I jotted down on a list one day that we can control. It's good to take back a sense of power and remember that there are super important things we have great influence over.

1. I have influence over my household and how we live in our home. I can help maintain a positive, loving, calm environment. Putting on peaceful music, keeping things as clean and orderly as possible, setting up rules and behavioral expectations that will create a warm, welcoming environment for the family are just a few ideas.

2. I am responsible for how I speak to my husband. I have a big responsibility to my marriage and what I bring to it. My attitude and behavior towards him have a huge impact on the spirit of our home and the well-being of our family. Even if he's in a bad mood, I have the ability to manage myself so that I don't make it worse. Sometimes it may be the reverse and I have to consider how I sound to the family and to my beloved. Taking care of myself so that I am well and sane makes a huge difference in my ability to manage myself.

3. I have 100% control over how I speak about my husband. Do I build him up in my eyes, his eyes and others? Showing disrespect to my husband in conversation with others tears him down and weakens our marriage. It also damages our relationships with others.

4. I have power to control how much time and energy I give to things outside our home. Do I let too many other activities, whether they be phone calls with friends and family or commitments to work, volunteering or anything else take away from the well-being of my family. I have to learn to balance these things so there is as little upheaval as possible for home and family -- and that I do not tire myself out and find myself constantly on empty.

5. I can control what music I listen to. Music can set the tone for calm, motivation or even sadness, darkness, anger and violence. The atmosphere I create or allow around me influences how I feel and act. Choose wisely. Sad country songs during deployment equal instant cry. Peppy pop songs help get the house cleaned faster. Workouts too become more powerful with the right music. I chose the soundtrack for my life.

6. I can control screen time. Spending too much time online or watching TV can steal precious minutes and hours from things that are really enjoyable and important to us. When my husband was on deployment I learned I shouldn't watch military movies. They made me too sad in that moment. Even now I don't enjoy them the way I did before he went to war.

Lone Survivor was tough for me. I found myself in the movie theater sitting next to my husband hyperventilating, shaking and wanting to scream at the screen to tell them NOT to let those people go down the mountain. TV can be a great momentary break from the day or it can be a total brain drain time suck where one can get lost and quickly end of staying in pajamas all day. It's easy to waste a lot of time on screens or allow them to control our moods and mindsets. On a related note, I have GREAT concerns about the damage video game addictions are having on military relationships - but that's a subject for the guys and another day.

7. I can manage my mood. It's totally okay to have a rough or sad day. But in every mood there are things we can do to help ourselves or make things worse. Sometimes a giant cry is just the right thing, other times a kick in the seat of the pants is needed, or a fantastically tough workout. Learning to know ourselves so we can help instead of make things worse is important.

8. I have great influence on how we raise our daughter. Those are decisions made best between mom and dad and when we work together we have a far better chance of success, especially when we face the change and upheaval of military life in the world of our children. When we help them learn to be brave, strong and resilient they see us as the steady shore to hold onto as they grow and while they also deal with the constant change of military life.

9. I can control how we spend our time when my husband is away working. Do I let everything slide or do I use our time to learn, grow and have fun. Sometimes it has to be a little of both and there is a balance to be found, but when I consciously use that time to build our family rather than just fall apart and wait for him to get back we get much greater rewards and build wonderful memories. We can take trips, day adventures, plan activities with other moms and kids, or have a little more downtime than usual. I have a lot of influence over whether those are sad, wasted times or happy, productive times.

10. I can greatly influence how our family feels about military life. Do I complain, nag or disrespect the life we lead and my husband's career path or do I act with dignity, respect and honor towards it? Do I take time to teach my kiddo about all the rich meaning and history of the military, of proper military/base conduct, patriotism and duty and honor? Anyone associated with the military knows that it has it's problems as any organization does, but there is a lot to love and respect and appreciate about the military. We have a great opportunity to build a stronger family and stronger kids through those rich traditions if we take advantage of them.

So, you see, it's easy to feel like the military controls everything and we just run ragged trying to keep up. But when we really look at things, we still maintain the balance of power over the well-being and happiness of our lives, homes and families. When we let the outside disturbances become small ripples (as often as possible) instead of crashing swells we are able to maintain our influence and peace within our own families and stay strong and brave.

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