When Veterans transition out of the military, it’s not always easy for them to step back into the civilian world. For some, this transition is relatively painless, especially when they have a job or other plans lined up. But many others take months to fully discover who they are as civilians. This becomes even more complicated when you’re married or have a family who has gotten comfortable with military life.
Military Spouses Need Support, Too
For active-duty spouses who are about to ETS, it’s important to remember that you’re not the only one making a transition. Military transition can be difficult for plenty of service members, but your family has also become accustomed to living the military life. It’s not always easy to go from military spouse to Veteran’s wife or husband.
If you know anything about how things can change for Veteran spouses who have just recently entered civilian life, you might want to help these spouses prepare for this emotional transition by introducing them to military spouse transition programs. Military spouse transition programs extend many of the military-affiliated or nonprofit transition programs available for active-duty service members.
The military to civilian transition can have ripple effects for the entire family, so make sure you think about these military spouse transition programs in advance and make your spouse familiar with which ones would benefit them the most.
Determine What a Spouse Loved Most about Military Service
When Veterans transition, it can be hard on a spouse, too. It’s hard to tell what they’ll miss most without having a conversation with them about those elements. Since the entire family is transitioning, this is a great time for a family conversation about what everyone will miss most.
Using this information, you can start to decide how to move forward. Perhaps your spouse built up a lot of friendships while you were active duty. You can support this by encouraging an annual friends retreat in a nice location. Once you uncover what they miss most, you can start to look for ways to fit this into your new civilian life.
This is also a great time to have conversations in general with your spouse. It is likely that their priorities might have shifted, as well, and having a conversation with them about their immediate goals can help you both to make a comprehensive plan for the future. Many of the transitioning-out steps apply to you directly, but make sure that you evaluate some of the programs below because these could also assist your spouse in these difficult transition times.
Reflect on what your new normal looks like together. For couples, this is a great opportunity to reconnect and determine both of your priorities. Working together, you can define what this looks like and maybe even take on some new projects or hobbies jointly during this military transition period.
Get Spouse Transition Support
There are a few programs out there where spouses can get direct military transition support, too. Check out the ones below as a starting point, no matter if you’re a military husband or wife.
1. Evaluate the My Step Program
The My Step Program is formally known as The Military Spouse Transition Program, which has multiple steps within it and is found on the MySECO website. They break this down into three different stages: Stepping In, Stepping Through, and Stepping Beyond. Stepping Beyond is for those military spouses whose service member is getting ready to ETS and move into civilian life.
The Stepping Beyond Program assists military families with overcoming challenges in the transition process and creating a comprehensive military transition plan with obstacles in mind. My Step is available on the internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
2. Investigate Transition Employment Assistance
The TEAMS program is part of the Veterans Employment and Training Service Curriculum. TEAMS workshops help spouses who are preparing with a service member to transition out of the military. They come in four different workshops, ranging from two to four and a half hours. They have been held both in person at numerous bases and virtually worldwide. Make sure you have investigated all your options before diving in during this military transition.
3. Attend TAPS
If you do wish to physically attend your spouse’s Transition Assistance Program courses, you’re in luck. Military policies allow all spouses to go to these classes alongside their soon-to-be Veterans on a space-available basis. Spouses are eligible for VA- and DOD-administered survivor benefits details, job placement counseling, counseling on saving, budgeting, credit, loans, and taxes, and transition plan assistance to achieve financial unemployment objectives.
Review Health Insurance Options Closely
As a member of the military, your entire family probably benefited from your service when it came to healthcare coverage. The civilian world can be a whole new ballgame, so you need to make sure you do your research before accepting a job. Look at the finer details of your available healthcare plans, especially if you have children or other dependents who have specific needs. What was covered by TRICARE may not necessarily be covered by every private insurance company.
In this way, think of your transition to Veteran status as one that impacts your whole family in a variety of ways. You might want to be upfront with employers in regard to what you or your spouse needs in case you need to mirror some of your military benefits.
Maintain Military Friendships
Even once you’re no longer active duty or living that military life, it’s nice to have a connection with other people who instantly “get it.” With Veterans, there’s an immediate and shared understanding of what it means to be in the service.
Likewise, for spouses, it’s often easier to connect with other spouses who have lived through military life. Many of these spouses, even when they are no longer active duty, can share the emotions, logistics, and strategies around things like deployment and career pressure and their impact on a marriage. You can also bond over trying to grow and spend time with your family during your unique military life.
If your spouse has built friendships with other spouses at different bases or has a network of trusted allies they want to stay in contact with, support that. There’s no shortage of social media tools or group chat options to maintain these friendships, but there’s also nothing like seeing them in person. A yearly getaway for a weekend can be extremely beneficial for allowing spouses to reconnect with their friends.
Another great way to ease the military transition process is to volunteer with your military spouse. Is there a military or Veteran cause that you and your spouse both support? Reconnect with the community you love by giving back together and maintaining connections to a group of people you’re proud to support.
There are many national, state, and local organizations you can work with, so brainstorm together to find something you’re both passionate about! Even if you’re no longer in the military, you can serve those who are. There are plenty of ways to offer homefront help, and it’s even better when you and your spouse can do it together.
Get back to BASE-ics and volunteer on a military base! Learn more here: How to Volunteer at a Military Base & Serve Our Country!
Expand Your Network in the Veteran Space
One of the best ways to continue to support both of your interests is to look for places where the military community vibe is still strong. In the entrepreneur world, there are many organizations where Veteran and military spouses can network and partner with one another. Usually, these groups don’t make much distinction between whether you’re a military spouse or a Veteran spouse. Most people thankfully see this as one big military family and will act accordingly to welcome you or your spouse in. There are many active duty, reserve, and Veteran families and personnel who would be happy to get to know you!
A great way to get started is to simply visit Google. Search for “military family support groups near me” to see what’s available in your area.
Join AMSE and the Military Spouse Chamber of Commerce
For those military spouses who wish to start a business or are already actively involved in self-employment, creating a network of other military and Veteran spouses can be especially beneficial for your future.
The Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs and the Military Spouse Chamber of Commerce both aim to build networks between military spouses starting and running their own businesses. Many of these spouses, who are mostly women, collaborate with each other or make referrals to one another, as well. These networks can uplift military spouses who still wish to have connections and a sense of comradery frequently provided by military service.
Investigate Bunker Labs and IVMF
If your spouse wants to open a business, another great Veteran and military resource to help with that is Bunker Labs. They offer programs to military spouses and Veteran spouses looking to grow their footprint as entrepreneurs. The introductions made in these groups can be especially valuable alongside the curriculum itself.
Check out small business loans for Veterans: Small Business Loans for Veterans: What They Are and How to Get Them!
Know That Military Spouses Might Want a Career Change
For many military spouses, their career has taken a back seat due to the focus on their partner. However, this may change when the service member is moving into retirement or a different field altogether. Military service members transitioning to become Veterans should set aside time to speak to their spouses about any employment or business-related challenges their spouses might be experiencing and create a custom action plan for their family. This will help support the military spouse in stepping into a greater career role should he or she desire it.
It’s a change for the whole family when an active duty service member decides to exit the military. Recognize that this adjustment looks different for everyone and that there’s no one timeline for transitioning to civilian life.