- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I can’t take much more of this military lifestyle. It’s really beneath me. When I was dating my husband, he made it seem like this life would be the creme de la creme. But even my parents are surprised at the way we have to live, and they are asking me to come back home to live with them and finish school.

My husband is a West Point graduate, so I thought we would have a better standard of living than this. Have you seen lieutenants’ pay? Surely the Army doesn’t think anyone could live on that. I’m frightened to think I could be like other wives whose husbands are the same rank as mine. They have children already, and I don’t see how they are making it.

My father is upset because my husband told him he would provide very well for me. Instead, my parents are basically supporting us — they bought our furniture and washer and dryer and regularly send me money for food and rent. We live in some awful apartments in Bowie because it’s all we can afford and there wasn’t any base housing. Our neighbors are not very friendly, and I don’t have money to get my hair done, nor my nails or pedicures. I shop for makeup at Wal-Mart when I can scrape up some money.

My parents have offered to move us into a better apartment, but I just hate it here so much I would rather go live with them until my husband earns more. He could do so much better with a civilian job. The Army has got to do a better job of taking care of its own instead of forcing them to live in poverty.

-Can ‘t Understand the Military Pay Scale

Dear Pay,

You didn’t say how old you are, but it’s apparent you are immature. I think you are discovering that the economy is making it tough for many people, including our service members and their families. I also need to let you know that marriage is not for the faint at heart. In other words, you can’t look at one aspect of a relationship and decide to throw in the towel. Don’t misunderstand me; I know finances are important and having financial problems can be detrimental to a marriage. On the other hand, this sounds more like unrealistic expectations rather than true financial difficulty.

It seems as if you’ve never left your parents’ reins and realized you are a married woman. You would leave your husband and go live with your parents because you can’t afford a pedicure? Wow, this is terrible. Over the years, I have become an expert at doing my own nails, my hair and makeup, and I can give myself a mean peppermint pedicure. After all, who knows what I like better than me?

You are fortunate to have some financial support from your parents, and it’s their business if they want to continue to provide it. But to make disparaging remarks about your husband and his career, in my opinion, goes too far.

Here’s my advice. You live close to Andrews Air Force Base. You should visit the Airmen and Family Readiness office and ask for a community readiness consultant. The staff can help you with relocation, budget, free computer classes and how you can find employment. You also can speak to them about the stress you feel about your new marriage and living in the D.C. area. They can refer you to someone for marital counseling, which I think would be great for you.

I know there can be long waits for on-base housing, so start looking for better off-base housing if you are unhappy with your current home. If you don’t stay with your husband, I think you will be leaving prematurely and for no good reason. Let me know what you decide and take care.

Dear Ms. Vicki,

Since my husband returned from Iraq, all he does is play stupid video games, and it’s ruining our marriage.

I´ve spent a lot of time showing him how much I love him and how much I support him and his career, but now I´m getting resentful. I just don´t understand how he can wake up in the morning and play those darn games before he goes to work. If he comes home for lunch, he plays video games. Then when he comes home from work, he plays until the wee hours of the night. He hardly notices me and the kids anymore.

I feel guilty about my feelings because I think he needs the space, but then I think about how much time he has spent away from home and how much I missed him when he was away. Now that he´s home, I´m still very lonely, and I miss him more than ever. I really need some advice on how to tell him that I need his time, his love and his affection.

- Married to a Video Machine

Dear Video,

Don´t break the video games, but you must have a heart-to-heart conversation with your husband. I can see you are becoming increasingly resentful because your husband is isolating himself with the games. I think this is a stress reliever for him; many service members report the same.

When our service members return from Iraq or Afghanistan (many for the third or fourth time) we expect them to turn all that energy or action off and become husband and dad or wife and mother. It just doesn´t come so easily. I can perfectly understand why you are feeling as you do, and I support you, too. You are ready to move forward with your marriage and re-connect with your husband, and rightfully so. Please allow me to encourage you to continue to show your support in this situation.

Start with this first. Write him a simple letter telling him how much you miss him and that you would like to spend more time with him. Place it in a cute card you can purchase at a drugstore or Wal-Mart, and leave it on the game. Hopefully, he will respond favorably.

After you begin to engage in dialogue with him, I think you should recommend that you both see a marriage therapist. If he doesn´t want to attend any session, then I still recommend you see one for support and guidance. You should contact Military OneSource at 800/342-9647. They can refer you to an experienced therapist in your local community. The services are free. Keep in touch at your leisure.

• Vicki Johnson, a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three, has been counseling service members and their families for 15 years. Her column, Dear Ms. Vicki, runs in The Washington Times Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]

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