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Can a civilian spouse really empathize with a military wife?

When someone says, “I totally get how you feel,” many times, they really don’t. As a military wife, I often hear those types of sentiments from civilian spouses. Can they really empathize or are our circumstances beyond comparison?

Military spouse and civilian spouse

“My hubby has to go away for the weekend with work. The kiddos and I are not going to deal with this well!” When I saw those words while scrolling through my news feed on Facebook, I rolled my eyes. I admit it, I was annoyed.

A part of me understood that little kids could certainly have a hard time when a parent leaves, no matter how long. On the other hand I wanted to ask her, “Are you serious?”

Please, don’t compare

The woman who had made this comment was no different from many women whose spouses leave town for work. It was hard for her because as a couple you are a team. You get used to your routines and certain tasks being handled by either one or both of you.

When half of the team leaves, that routine is disrupted and it can be difficult to adjust and to deal with all the responsibility. That I could understand.

However, what I couldn’t understand (at the time) was how anyone could compare her husband’s two-day business trip in a plush hotel with his own bathroom and a clean shower to a year away in a dangerous foreign country that my husband possibly won’t return from. How could she compare her 48 hours of sleepless nights to my 15 months of sleepless nights, to my fear of every knock on my door, to seeing my husband for only 14 out of 400+ days?

Love is love

One day I posted the question for my readers on Facebook which asked, “How do you feel when a civilian wife says she knows how a military spouse feels during deployments because her husband is going away on a business trip?”

As I expected there were many comments which implied that the two were different situations and you can’t compare them. Some comments were even harsher than that — and came from spouses who were currently going through deployments. However, there was one comment that struck a chord with me because of its sincerity and compassion.

The reader stated that there really is no comparison when it comes to missing someone. Whether it is two days or one year, it is hard to watch your significant other leave you for any extended period of time when you love that person.

Do they really understand?

While I still roll my eyes a bit when I hear someone stress about their (civilian) spouse going away for a short period of time, I feel empathy too because us military spouses of all people know how hard it is to watch our loved ones leave. That reader was right in that love is love and distance is distance — no matter how far. If anything, as military spouses, we can use our deployments to show others how strong one can be even when your other half is not there for the time being.

More about military families

Military homecomings: It’s not always like what you see on TV
6 Ways to keep the fire burning during deployments
How being married to the military is different than civilian marriage

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