Q. As a brand new Army spouse, I am finding it very difficult to adjust to this new lifestyle. I just completed my first military move from a major U.S. city to a suburban town, and I am devastated. I left a great job that I worked very hard to get, only to find myself scrounging for employment in our new duty station. I don’t fit in with the other Army wives I’ve met because I don’t have children and don’t plan to. In short, the beginning of our marriage has been incredibly stressful.

My question has to do with moving. I know of many military families who have been stationed in the same place for long periods of time, thus enabling their families to plant roots and establish themselves in schools, jobs, etc. Are there specific fields in which a soldier must work in order to stay in the same place? I would like to know other people’s experiences with this matter and also how spouses manage to find gainful employment when they have to quit their jobs every couple years.

— Sarah

You have already encountered the questions that most military spouses ask themselves at one time — or every time they move: "Where do I fit in?" and "Do I still have a life?"

Feeling devastated is natural when you have just left behind everything you know to follow your husband, Sarah. Building a new life takes time. Finding friends, a job, adjusting to marriage and military life may not happen in a hurry, but it can happen.

Kathie Hightower and Holly Scherer are friends, experienced military wives and the authors of "Help! I’m a Military Spouse — I Get a Life Too." (2nd edition, March 2007.) They have walked in your shoes.

"Our first move was to rural Alabama where I saw no possibilities for a job for me," Kathie said. "I also had no children and didn’t feel I could relate to many of the military spouses I met."

Kathie said several assignments went by before she developed a positive focus.

"It took me awhile to figure out how to look for the possibilities — possibilities that I now firmly believe are available in every assignment," she said.

"People are unhappy when their expectations do not meet reality," said Holly, describing her initial military experience.

"I was expecting my husband to have his career, for me to have mine and we share dinner together at night," she said.

"The reality is, yes, you are making sacrifices being married to the military, just as your spouse is making many sacrifices to serve his or her country," Holly said.

"There is no doubt that you will have to be incredibly creative and proactive to continue a career," she said. "You may well end up switching careers or approaching your career very differently as you move."

Although some military families are able to stay in one place for extended periods, it’s better to embrace the mobile nature of this life, Kathie said.

"Trying to figure out how to ‘homestead’ in assignments is setting yourself up for disappointment and could very much limit … possibilities for success in (a military) career," she said, pointing out that it could also impact family finances and relationships.

"Most military spouses will be faced with and overcome more challenges in a short amount of time than most civilians will ever have to face in an entire lifetime," Holly said. "You will grow and be able to accomplish things you never imagined."

For more ideas and suggestions, see the Spouse Calls blog.

Next week: Another long-time military wife weighs in on Sarah’s question.

Terri Barnes is a military wife of 23 years and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany. Contact her at and see the Spouse Calls blog here.

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