when expectations & the reality of military life aren't the same

by Kristin Bentley

Every woman has felt disappointment from having high expectations that don't match reality. At times, the shock of it can be devastating. And as a military wife, we're even more susceptible. No matter how hard we plan something out, it happens all too often that our way of life just gets in the way.


Your husband's leave request isn't approved - you know, the one he put in to attend the upcoming family reunion - because his unit is suddenly leaving for training that very week. Or he gets back two weeks late on a deployment, and misses your son's first birthday. 


Unfortunately, the reality is that we're never guaranteed anything, because in the military everything can change at the last minute. And chances are, it will.


But the most successful people in life aren't those who plan for success, instead, they are those who know how to keep going when things don't go according to plan. Most things in life won't happen the way we expect them to, because we can only control ourselves and not our circumstances or the people around us. Not even our children. Especially not our children.


Having high expectations isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, we can only be as successful as the goals we set for ourselves. But we need to remember that we must stay as flexible as possible. And we need to be less critical, allowing ourselves a break from time to time. Sometimes Hubby is going to come home to a house that isn't perfect, and our roots might be needing a little salon love. But he's home, and that's all that really matters.


So how do we keep ourselves on the up and up, while keeping our sanity and sense of humor? Well, that's exactly it...we have to maintain our sense of humor. 


My husband and I laugh together whenever something doesn't come together quite as we'd planned. I always remind him that it's not possible for our life together to be perfect. Something has to go wrong from time to time. If anything, to remind us how very blessed we are for the miracles we've received. 


Our son spent a week in the ER after he was born, and the evening before he was discharged I fell down our stairs in a failed attempt to rush back to the hospital after a much needed nap and a successful pumping session. It was my first time breaking a bone, and I managed to break my ankle in three places. The very next morning, I had a job interview up in Seattle for a reporter position. I showed up...on pain pills, with crutches, and in a boot. When everything else seemed all wrong, I somehow managed to still land the perfect work-from-home job.


When our son turned six months old, we found out my birth control had failed and that we were expecting again. After a failed vasectomy, I had a tubal ligation the morning after our only daughter was born. And what a blessing she is, our only girl in a blended family of six. Thankfully, my husband was able to be there for the birth. A few days after, he left to compete in an International Sniper Competition. 


The more I try to control and plan my life, the more life seems to have its own plans. And it's like that for all of us, especially as military wives. 


Luckily, there are a few tricks that will help get you through, the next time disappointment hits...


1. Be realistic in initially setting your goals and resetting them after falling short.


2. Redirect your negative feelings to something positive. Hanging out with positive friends and family might help.


3. Adjust and adapt your strategy and tactics when disappointment arrives. Approach the task, goal or vision in another way. Reinvention may be needed.


4. Flood your disappointment with hope and extreme positivity. Use positive self-talk.


5. Know what went wrong so the mistake (if any) won’t be repeated. Evaluate objectively without emotion. Replay only what you want.


6. Visualize success immediately upon receiving negative news. See solutions.


7. Breathe deeply. Breathe slowly. Take time before reacting.


8. Avoid placing all your “happy eggs” in one basket.


9. Know that the sun will come up tomorrow. You are still blessed. Success is getting up one more time from defeat. Never give up! Get more determined.


Put on your mental armor of positivity that is impenetrable to disappointment. Check your fragile ego, give it a motivational talk, and simply change direction. Your life journey will be full of disappointment every time reality - and the military - doesn’t meet your expectation. But it's these valleys that make our mountain peaks feel as high and the views as beautiful. Happy travels!


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