Racial slurs. Personal attacks. Liberal use of the F-Bomb. It’s one of my sexiest jobs to cut that crap off SpouseBuzz– and stop cutting just before readers call me a Censor. Or a Nazi. Or a Nazi-Censor-clad-in-nothing-but-my-Thought-Police-jackboots.
Which is, in fact, a good look for me.
So I was paying attention when a chief’s wife dared to mention in the comments section of a post that she, too, served. Replies rained down upon her like she had taken up work in the sanitary department of a chicken factory. One guy accused, “Entitled dependent, you only served dinner.”
I hate that stuff. It blemishes our online community. Then again, I love that stuff. That’s the stuff the most profound schooling in our community is made of. In my sociology classes, they taught us to pay attention to the unwritten rules that a society enforced most fiercely.
The rule we enforce: Thou Shalt Not Be Dependent.
You can pose nude for a calendar. You can live apart from your service member. You can raise 56 cats in a one bedroom apartment. Who cares about that? But do not, under any circumstance, be dependent in any way upon your service member.
Do not admit you are a stay-home parent. Do not admit that the moves make your career difficult. You must especially never, never imply that you have supported your service member’s career in any way.
Even if your soldier has deployed six times in the past ten years for at least nine months at a time.
Even if you are one of those trained Army FRG leaders or command spouses who steps up to help someone through the injury or death of their soldier or Marine.
Even if you delivered twins on your own during a month-long Alaskan blizzard at Elmendorf AFB while your airman was TDY in Tampa, do not mention it.
According to the unwritten rules of the military, you must never admit that you and your servicemember and the military are entwined in any way.
What is wrong with being dependent?
Of all the things that matter in military life, why would people be so intensely against being dependent on each other?
Some of our readers have said that it isn’t the dependency so much as the degree of dependency. Others have said that service members who have had the worst marriages are the ones enforcing the anti-dependent rule. Which I guess I can understand.
But still, I have to wonder what work the anti-dependent rule is doing? Sometimes I think we look at these ultra-competent partners of military members and accuse them of dependency so that we don’t have to look at where the real dependency lies—with the service member.
I do not, in any way, mean that as a slur. I’m saying that the nature of life in the military makes some serious physical demands on service members. Look how hard it is to figure out what you are going to do with your truck during a year long deployment. Look how hard it is to find someone to keep your dog for a month while you are out on sea trials or in the field. How easy is it to find someone who will keep your kid—even for one night –when you have the duty?
No one has to get married in the military. But if a service member wants children, pets, love– they need to depend on a partner. The partner needs to depend on them. The dependence can be economic, physical, intellectual, social, emotional or all of the above. It’s a marriage.
What’s wrong with that? I interview a lot of long married military couples. One thing I consistently see is how these successful couples split the duties of a life built inside the military and split the credit.
I heard these spouses say things like “our” benefits. “Our” deployment. When “we” got orders. I also hear them talk about how they can’t imagine their service member doing any other kind of work.
I hear their service members say stuff like, “I could not have done it without her.” Or, “The kids turned out so great because of her—she did all the work.”
I’m starting to wonder whether the key to a good military marriage is a healthy degree of dependency on each other. There also might be an element of sharing the credit for a life well lived with your partner. What does a little dependency take away from the accomplishment of a service member’s career? Nothing. And it may even mean that they have a life to come home to when the military career is done.
So maybe the things I ought to add to the list of things to edit is this criticism of a life that is interdependent. If that is what works, it is a disservice to criticize, attack and condemn dependency. Maybe we ought to just look at it a little harder to figure out how it works.