There is no doubt that committed relationships bring about change, and some of that change is to our identity. Many women follow the marital tradition of taking on our husband’s name. So that’s a physical change to our ‘official’ identity. But what about the more subtle changes? Making decisions as a couple is a complex tapestry of communication and compromise. From my work with women on self-love, confidence and self-care, I want to throw the doors of conversation open on this…
When marriage means relocating, perhaps due to work commitments as in the case of many military wives, how does that decision affect the woman?
This is a tricky one, because relocating as a military wife is not a decision you both made because you fancied a new life somewhere – or maybe you did – but often it just kind of happened to you. You go where the posting is.
I’m curious how this may subconsciously affect women’s identities. What does being told that you are moving away do to your sense of self? I’ve discussed this with some wonderful, strong women that I know, who are in situations just like this.
One lady reported feeling guilt and worry about forcing her children to relocate; changing their school and social group. She constantly second guesses herself, wondering if she is doing the right thing as a parent.
As a mother who is not the breadwinner in the family, there is a sense of being between a rock and a hard place when it comes to decision making for your kids. You are the mother, and you want to take your children’s best interests into consideration. However, the decision to move is less about you, and more about your husband, the breadwinner who supports the family financially.
So there is responsibility, but also powerlessness. What a cocktail! Would you find this bringing up confusing emotions for you? I’m sure that I would!
Another lady reported to me feelings of the dreaded ‘imposter syndrome’ and having a ‘chameleon’ identity – always needing to fit herself into new environments. Never quite settling long enough to really be herself.
This seems to be about keeping up a mask – happy marriage, fitting in with new friends, maintaining a sense of calm for your kids, while hiding your worries from them.
And then there’s the BIG one.
The stigma of patriotism… the wife of a very highly decorated veteran shared with me that one of her main points of shame within – was that of being considered less of a Patriot if she didn’t feel great, supportive and happy with her husband serving his country in the manner he did. That her everyday feelings and challenges was somehow worth “less” in the eyes of the world because of the job her husband held within the military. And I have come across this statement often.
Let me stress, that ALL of our feelings are valid and need to be heard. No matter what job our partners have. We are all human beings, not human doings, and having troubles or feeling bad DOES NOT equal not being proud of supportive of the mission. If we are not okay, the partnership won’t be either. And then all suffers, both you, your family and potentially the mission.
So, taking yourself seriously is key. You hold value equal to that of your partner. Always. No matter what they do professionally.
This is where a solution hits me right between the eyes. Whenever conflicting emotions of some kind come into play, the answer is within.
This is one of those tricky situations that are massively soothed by a simple answer.
So what’s the answer?
Begin with you. I want to encourage you to work on your relationship with yourself. When you feel guilty for not being everything to everyone, remind yourself that it is technically impossible to be that.
Try being there for yourself first. Get your head around the fact that you are not some perfect, emotionless robot who can pick up her whole family’s life, relocate it, and just carry on without experiencing any turbulence.
Stop trying to be perfect. Open up. Tell your husband, your friends and your family when things get tough. Show yourself some love, and ask them for some support.
Admit that you have days where you are not 100% sure who you are, what you are doing or why you are doing it. And you know what – we all have those from time to time! You may be worried about upsetting your partner by not being totally thrilled about moving. But again, he might feel the same way! You will never know if you don’t talk to each other. Either way, your truth is your truth and when you hide it – resentment will brew. And trust me – not into a nice vintage Bourgogne but rather a toxic cocktail of “you owe me” and “you had your turn!”.
There are benefits to relocating, and there are struggles. And you are a non-perfect, feeling human being who embraces both sides of the coin.
Allow yourself to feel. And don’t punish yourself for struggling – the struggle shows you are really trying!
It is my experience, both personally and professionally, that sometimes all it takes is one woman’s courage to share her true feelings and thoughts, for others to do the same. And when we can share and talk about our challenges, without fear of being judged or appearing less than perfect, we will automatically feel a lot better. Being vulnerable is a true strength. Because we all are.
Hiding how we feel inside comes from either lack of experience of feeling comfortable with self-assertion or from a core belief that if we DO speak up, we are afraid of what we might be unleashing in terms of our inner selves. We could call it “Fear of Eruption”. If I start expressing myself will I be able to handle it? Or will it result in trouble, conflict and crisis?
This is where learning to communicate assertively without placing guilt, blame or judgment is essential. When we own our choices and our own part in the story – and speak it in an honest and loving way – we are truly free to communicate as equals. And equality is a big deal when we have made this choice for our family isn’t it?!
Above all, I want to encourage you to remember the self-care. When you are honest with yourself, and let yourself feel, then your relationship with yourself improves. With that, the weird, dissociated feeling of being root-less, being in limbo and the imposter syndrome begins to fade away, and our relationships with others become more honest, and more real.
This is about doing the best we can with what we have. And at the end of the day – isn’t this just what all of us are trying to do?