I am a MilSO. (Also milso, MILSO, etc. etc.) A MilSO is a military significant other—a spouse, a boyfriend/girlfriend, a fiancé(e), a partner. So, friends, that makes me a MilSO.
I knew almost since the very beginning of our relationship that Andrew planned to be in the Army. I’ve always had a thing for men in uniform, as many of my friends can attest…
…so learning that Andrew planned to work as a dentist in the Army only made me more excited about our blossoming relationship.
Becoming a military spouse isn’t something to take lightly, though. It definitely took me a little while to see past the superficial “men in uniform” thing and to really think about what being a military spouse would mean for me.
It means moving around every few years, possibly to pretty undesirable locations. But maybe also to Hawaii. I really thought, until about sophomore year of college, that I would go home to Long Island, go to grad school at Stony Brook, and live at home indefinitely until I could support myself. A few things happened sophomore year that changed those tentative plans. First, I began to think that maybe four years of post-high school education was enough; by junior year I was certain that grad school wasn’t for me, so that nixed the Stony Brook plan. Second, I fell more in love with Boston than I ever thought I could, which nixed the “let’s go home to Long Island” idea. Finally, I fell in love with someone else: Andrew. By the summer between sophomore and junior year, we knew we had something special, and started planning tentatively for the future.
Of course, that meant that I wouldn’t be able to stay in Boston like I had thought I might. And while I didn’t exactly like living in Baltimore while Andrew was in dental school, I knew that our tenure there was temporary, thanks to the Army.
I’m really looking forward to moving around every few years. I’m sure it’ll be tiring eventually; I imagine that once we have children it won’t be nearly as easy to pick up and move as it is for just the two of us. But I’m excited to live in places I never would have considered had I not become a MilSO. For the first two decades of my life, I truly believed that I would live on Long Island for the rest of my life. But Andrew won’t abide living in a place without mountains (and I won’t abide living in a non-coastal area), so we have to figure out something that works for both of us. And moving around with the Army will hopefully help us do that! (Just…pleeeease don’t send us to North Dakota.)
It means family holidays are much harder (in a lot of cases). When we were living in Maryland, we were within five hours of both of our immediate families (until my dad moved to Florida, anyway). We alternated Thanksgiving and Christmas every year, and while the drive to New York during the holidays was never a picnic, it was still never more than six hours.
Now we’re in South Carolina. Driving-wise, we’re 7 hours from my dad in Florida, 8 hours from Andrew’s parents in Maryland, and 15 hours from my family on Long Island. With a dog, traveling is even more difficult—we either have to take her with us or board her, neither of which is a great option.
I guess this is part of growing up in general, but it still makes me sad that I didn’t get to go to New York for the holidays this year.
It means that having a career will be pretty difficult. I’m currently unemployed for the first time since before freshman year of college. I worked all through college and I’ve been incredibly lucky to be able to not only find a job immediately post-graduation (I started at the American Cancer Society 8 days after I graduated in May 2011), but also be able to find jobs after that—once willingly, and once because I got laid off. When we moved to South Carolina, we knew we would be here for less than a year, so we thought that it might not make a lot of sense for me to get a job just to have to leave it again almost immediately.
We also knew we wanted to get a puppy, so someone would have to stay home with her in the beginning to train her—i.e., me, because Andrew can’t exactly take time off from his residency to potty train a puppy.
I’ve applied to some part-time things, but haven’t heard back from any of them. This worries me quite a bit about my future job prospects. How will I ever get a job now that I have this huge gap? Are potential employers already judging my six-month gap in employment? How will it affect me when it’s a year or more?
Andrew’s salary can support us pretty well right now. But I would really like to get my student loans paid off in the next five years, which is an aggressive but possible goal—if I get a job. We definitely can’t do it on Andrew’s salary alone. And what about children—it would be awesome to be debt-free by the time we have kids, but to be debt-free and to have enough saved that we can get by when I’m out of work again what with that whole childbirth thing and all—it makes my head spin.
It means that we will be well-provided for. I receive health insurance through the military (Tricare) and Andrew’s healthcare is completely free. We get discounted car and renters insurance through USAA. (If you’re a MilSO and haven’t transferred everything over to USAA—do it. It’s awesome. We could both rhapsodize all day about USAA.) The Army realizes that it’s pretty difficult for a spouse to maintain a career while their soldier is on active duty, so they provide extra BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) for soldiers with dependents. Thanks to the Army’s Family Readiness Groups, if Andrew is ever deployed, I’ll have direct access to important information about him while he’s overseas. He will also receive hardship pay while deployed, which will help defray the costs of him being gone for six months or a year. And God forbid he gets injured—or worse—the Army provides extremely well for us and our children, should we have them.
It’s cold comfort—more money each month won’t bring him back from overseas, should he ever be deployed. It won’t return him whole and healthy, or restore him if he gets hurt. But the military provides such an incredible support system—from FRGs to spouses groups to USAA benefits to healthcare—that the hardships, when they come up, are as well-mitigated as they can be.
Being a MilSO has its ups and downs. I’m beholden to where Andrew is stationed, even if it’s thousands of miles away from both of our families. It’s tough for me to maintain a career, as I’ve already experienced. But I have a support system that’s second to none, and I get to be married to this guy, so really—the upsides easily outweigh the downsides.by