Chris Pape is the creator of Macho Spouse, a website dedicated to connecting male military spouses, but for nearly a decade, he didn’t think much about being married to the military. He was proud of his wife’s career in the Air Force and her service to the country, but he didn’t consider himself part of the military community.
He considered himself a regular guy living a regular life. Sure, his wife’s career took him to a new place every couple of years. Sometimes she was deployed to combat zones, but he said, “When she was home, everything was normal … She had her career, and I had mine.”
Until he didn’t have it anymore. In spite of all his experience as a video producer, after leaving a good job in Arkansas, Chris couldn’t find a job after the couple PCSed to South Carolina in 2011. His career crisis brought home to him that his life as a military spouse, starting over every few years, might not be as normal as he thought.
“I was losing my identity one move at a time,” he said. “According to society and family, I should be the one making the money here, but I’m not. I’m the guy sitting at home doing the dishes.”
After finding little in the way of encouragement or advice for male military spouses, Chris decided to create a resource by seeking out other men who were married to the military and compiling video interviews with each one. He wanted to know their stories for his own benefit and share them for the benefit of others like him.
“I wish I would’ve kept track of my mileage,” said Chris. “I went to 20 cities in 12 states in 2012,” bringing home video interviews and insights from other male military spouses.
Tapping the web design expertise of Taurus James, another Air Force husband, Chris created Macho Spouse at www.malemilspouse.com. The website is a home for his video interviews, links to blogs and other support. Connection is the biggest benefit, he said.
“When I did my first interview, last January,” Chris said, “I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt so good. This was in North Carolina, and I had about a 3-hour drive home. I felt like I could run all the way. I finally found someone who understands me and gets me … That was definitely the most exciting time in this project was that contact with other male spouses.”
According to the Macho Spouse website, DOD estimates in 2010 put the number of men married to military members at nearly 190,000. The Macho Spouse site includes a global locator for men who want to add themselves and connect with other spouses.
Chris said he learned more last year through working on Macho Spouse than he learned in his first nine years as a military spouse. His wife, Dana, is learning too.
“It’s been beneficial for her, for me and for our marriage,” he said. “She’s learning what I’ve been feeling over the last several years by listening to what these other guys are saying. … She’ll say ‘I’m about to cry. I had no idea this is what you were going through.’”
Addressing the needs of male spouses is not just about including them in spouse events, Chris said. Like women, some men who are military spouses want to participate and some don’t. There is no one right way to reach out and support spouses of any gender.
“Even though we’re all one group,” he said, “we’re a broad spectrum of people. I don’t think one person can say what’s best for all military spouses, or even the majority of military spouses. Guys are fiercely independent, and it would be wrong if I started telling people how they should live and what it takes for them to be happy.”
Chris said he’s building a wide range of information that he hopes will serve the spouse community, informing them about financial and mental health issues as well as connecting spouses or sometimes just giving them a good laugh. He’s not trying to do it alone and is looking for spouses who can contribute blogs, videos and other types of expertise to the nonprofit venture.
“I told myself, ‘Look, Chris, it took you ten years to think about reaching out for help.’ This resource that I’m building is going to be for guys like that. They may not know they need it today, but eventually they’re going to need a source of support, and I want Macho Spouse to be there and be ready for it.”
For more information, see the Macho Spouse site or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.