- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I am 35 years old. I have three wonderful children and a wonderful, devoted husband. We live on post in very nice housing. My husband gives me everything I want, and I lack for nothing. It was always his dream to have a perfect wife who stayed at home and X number of children. He has maintained an excellent Army career and has been promoted on time for the past 12 years - once ahead of time.

Looking into my home, you would think I have the world in the palm of my hands. Only I don’t! This is not the life I envisioned for myself. I wanted a career, too. I always was an honor-roll student in high school. Believe it or not, I was voted “most likely to succeed” in my senior year.

My parents saved up money for me, my brothers and sisters to go to college. They were very disappointed when I went to college for just one year. I met my husband, and when he asked me to marry him, I accepted his proposal. My entire family was very disappointed.

Now, after 16 years of marriage, I am asking myself, “Is this all life has to offer?” I am bored, with no life, and my husband is getting ready for another deployment. This time, he is going to Afghanistan.

This time, I find myself asking, “Why should I be here waiting for him?” I want to continue my education, find a job and possibly start a career. As a matter of fact, I would like to have friends and go out sometimes for happy hours.

My husband, however, always objects to these things. He says my place is in the home and to be with him and our children only. He doesn’t want friends, he doesn’t like going places, and even if I want to go shopping to purchase things for me, he is right there beside me.

Do I continue to go on with things the way they are or change them when he deploys?

- Needing a Change

Dear Change,

You are vacillating between being a martyr and a victim. You are 35 years old, married for 16 years, with children; you love your husband, and you were most likely to succeed in high school. You want more out of life, but you are too unassertive to make steps toward that goal. Why are you pretending? Why are you blaming your husband?

Your answer to your problems is to make personal changes when your husband deploys. OK, but what will happen when he redeploys? Will you return to the status quo? I hope not.

Listen, if you want to pursue higher education, do so. If you want friends, start by being a friend. If you want a career, start by asking yourself, “What am I passionate about doing?” Then figure out if there are any educational goals that would complement that passion.

Before your husband deploys, talk with him about the many individual goals you have. Let him know that having his support would be great, but either way, you are ready to embark on individual growth and accomplishment.

Finally, consider speaking to a professional counselor or therapist for support and advice on this issue. Contact your counseling office on base for availability. If it’s not available, contact Military OneSource (800/342-9647), and someone there will connect you to a local provider off base for free sessions.

I wish you all the best. Continue to take care of yourself and your family.

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I am an E-7 in the Army, and I’m married. My wife worked when we were first married, but now, after socializing with all of the fat, 250-pound Army wives who do nothing but sit around and bake cookies and bread all day, she has decided she wants to do the same thing.

My wife is a licensed practical nurse and could get a great-paying job, but she is saying she doesn’t want to be a nurse anymore. She says the work was too tough, and she just can’t take it anymore. I told her to try living in a foxhole, dodging improvised explosive devices for a year, and then she could talk to me.

I don’t think it’s fair that we are more than $80,000 in debt and she doesn’t want to work. The only reason she is tired and doesn’t want to work is because she has gained 30 pound swapping recipes with her new friends. She says I’m being too hard on her and she is not one of my soldiers. I just think she wants to flounder around and have me foot the bill.

She said she will go back to school for a different degree or learn a trade. The only way I will agree to this is if she will work and go to school. I’m willing to help support her with that. I can help take care of the kids, cook, clean and do the laundry. I’m not willing to let her sit around and continue to gain weight and not help bring an income into this house.

Please print my letter and let these women know that it’s 2009. No woman needs to be a stay-at-home mom. They can’t have it both ways. Women always say that men want to have their cake and eat it too. That may be true, but women want to do the same thing.

Now my wife is angry that I took the checkbook and the debit card from her. I won’t let her bring more bills into this house for me to pay. If she wants to leave, she can leave. I’ll keep the kids, and she can hit the door.

- Fed Up

Dear Fed Up,

This is not about who’s right and who’s wrong. Moreover, I think there is more going on than your wife’s ended nursing career, her weight gain and the debt. These are all real issues that definitely will cause discord and ruin a marriage, but I think this is only the tip of the iceberg. I would recommend marital counseling to work on some of the true issues that are affecting your marriage. You may discover it has little to do with the amount of your debt.

My immediate professional instinct is that you are very stressed. There is much you can do to change and improve your financial situation. But here’s the deal: Stress can be paralyzing and can make you feel like you are spiraling down a black hole. Right now, you are feeling powerless and like you have no control to change your situation. When we start ruminating on these thoughts, we can say and do things we later regret.

There are many resources within the Army community to help you. I think you should contact Army Community Services (ACS) immediately and discuss your situation with the people there. They will connect you to the right department, which could include consumer counseling, budget counseling, etc.

Finally, my advice would be to stop criticizing, blaming and being condescending to your wife about her unemployment and her weight gain. Instead, let her know about the stress you are feeling and how her employment would help the family. I’m not sure what area of nursing she worked in, but there are many options for her. She also should speak with someone in ACS regarding employment information. If they can’t help her, they will connect her with the right agency that will.

Stop looking at the whole picture. This is too overwhelming for you at this time. The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Keep in touch and let me know how you are progressing.

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 dearmsvicki@yahoo.com.

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