- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I have wanted to write to you, but don’t know what was holding me back. I found out my husband cheated on me while he was deployed. He sent photos and letters to the house in his totes. It was dumb of him, but in a way, I’m thankful.

I have gone to his chain of command, but they haven’t done anything about this problem. We now are going through a divorce; we have two children together and he has an older child also. I found out about his cheating two months before he returned from Iraq, but he didn’t only cheat on me. Soon after he came home, I found out from a reliable source that the woman he had the affair with is having his fourth child.

I do still love him and am “in love” with him, even though I wish I wasn’t. I have decided to stay in the area so he can have a relationship with his children like he should, but I’m afraid my feelings are just going to get hurt even more.

I’m not sure what to do or where to go. I won’t be able to afford much rent. I will try to make this work for my children because I did not have a relationship with my father.

He was supposed to be giving me $500 a month for child and spousal support, but as of Saturday, I got something in the mail about the divorce and it said it’s dissolved with no spousal support - he wouldn’t agree to that. He also did not want marital counseling. His only reply was “there’s nothing here anymore.” I’m OK with that. He will not ever reconsider the divorce.

I will really need a job and help from the state. I’ve been looking for a job, but I have no real prospects. It doesn’t help that I don’t have my high school diploma or GED. I really would like to hear back from you. Thank you for your help.

-In Need of Help and Direction

Dear In Need,

Gosh, you’re in a tough situation. I’m not sure if you got legal advice before the divorce was filed, but you definitely should revisit the legal person who helped you through the divorce.

Trying to support yourself and your two children without any income is not feasible. My advice is to depend on close family and friends to help you through this tough time, perhaps living with a close relative or family friend until you can get on your feet. I hope you have a few people you can count on.

I know you want the children to be near their father and this is a good thing. However, it sounds like he is not willing to be reliable financial support to you and the children.

As a start, please consider getting your GED, and then look at a community college. They offer many certificate programs that can get you started to a great career. Afterward, continue with a four-year program. You can do it!

In the meantime, visit your closest resource office on base, for example, Army Community Service or Airman and Family Readiness Center. They still may be able to offer you some information on education, and how to go about receiving help from the state. Take care of yourself and your children.

Dear Ms. Vicki,

What can you do when your Family Readiness Group (FRG) does not support you?

I have volunteered many hours to our unit, but when I really needed help, no one was there for me. I was sick and in the hospital. I did not even get a meal brought to my house and the other gals refused to baby sit for me. To make matters worse, the unit did not want to let my husband come home, and when they did, they made him leave and return to Iraq when I hadn’t recuperated. The FRG even spread lies and rumors about me and my illness.

I can’t believe this happened to me after all I’ve done for this unit. The Army always says they take care of their own. This is a lie; no one took care of me. What can be done about this?

- No Support from FRG

Dear Support,

I’m sorry to hear about your illness, but it sounds like you are doing much better. I say this because you probably don’t realize how much strength you really have, and your strength has gotten you through this tough time.

Who told you the unit was spreading lies and rumors about you? Why didn’t this person come to your aid? Don’t get caught up in gossip, because it will make matters worse.

You report that you’ve given so much to your husband’s unit by volunteering for the FRG. I hope you did this from the goodness of your heart, not as a coupon you could redeem for services when needed. It just doesn’t work that way. Neither the Army nor the FRG is a social service agency, nor is it a Burger King where you get to order what you want and have it your way.

The FRG is there to offer resources and serve as a link to other much-needed services. It’s not a baby-sitting service, errand service or for mobile transportation. The Family Readiness Group is an official, command-sponsored organization of family members, volunteers and soldiers belonging to a unit, that together provide an avenue of mutual support and assistance, and a network of communications among the family members, the chain of command and community resources.

FRGs should help to create a climate of mutual support within the unit and community. Basic FRG goals include supporting the military mission through providing support, outreach and information to family members. Unit FRGs can help foster a sense of belonging to the unit and community and provide a vehicle for families to develop friendships while they gain information about the unit and community. FRGs can help spouses develop a more positive attitude and understand why deployments are necessary.

In your defense, I have heard of some ladies in an FRG providing such services as baby-sitting and transportation. I would discourage it because boundaries can be overstepped and it leaves some with ill feelings. Continue to take care of your physical health, and let go of any ill feelings for your emotional health.

• Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at dearms vicki@yahoo.com.

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