You’re looking at your kids and you’re attending yet another family event by yourself. You’re wondering why the hell you’re doing this because you’re basically already a single mom. You’re seeing to all of your kid’s needs so why do you put yourself in this constant cycle of deployments? The loneliness and the frustration have you thinking about just leaving him. How many more deployments must you go through?
It’s so tough, but as a military spouse, these are the struggles we endure. We push through because there’s a great level of loyalty and pride we have as military wives, after all, we are all married to our heroes. But most military wives are burnt out, lonely, and flooded with emotions, and today I want to let you know that you are not alone.
In This Podcast
- 5 things you should never say to a military spouse
- Tips for deployments
5 things you should never say to a military spouse
- “My spouse travels for work, so I totally know what you’re going through”.
- “I don’t know how you do it. I could never be married to someone in the military”.
The minute you say something like this, there’s a great amount of shame [and] there’s a great amount of frustration because you are telling me [that] you’re better than me. You are telling me that you have made a better decision, and I’m going to tell you right now, I’m married to my hero. (Veronica Cisneros)
- “You chose this life. You knew what you were getting into when you married him”.
- “It will go fast. Don’t worry, you’re used to this”.
- “Girl, I’m so jealous! You must get so much alone time. It must feel like you’re dating when he gets back”.
Tips for deployments
1 – Take care of yourself
It is important for you to care for yourself as much as it is important to model self-care behavior for your children.
If you have a goal, pursue it! Yes, it’s going to be hard. Do it anyway, because if you don’t, you will resent him for it and resentment is a killer for marriages. (Veronica Cisneros)
Meet friends and family and find support for yourself. You do not have to take care of yourself alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with the kids if you need some time to yourself.
2 – Ask yourself: am I on autopilot as a way to avoid my emotions?
Stop hiding them by distracting yourself with tasks or chores. Provide yourself with the opportunity to process your feelings, fears, and ideas. You can do all this with your children because they are going through this as well.
3 – I know you are feeling alone, reach out:
Reach out to non-judgmental friends and family who support you and are willing to listen. If you need help or someone to vent to, reach out, and let it out. Do not hold these emotions in because it is unfair to you, and it will only do more damage.
4 – Take people up on their offers:
If someone offers to help you, take it. We all need a break and it does not make you any less of a parent or a spouse if you need a day away.
5 – Identify what is in your control and what is not:
Remember, the only thing ever fully in your control is yourself, and everything else is outside of your control. Do not take other things on.
The biggest lesson I learned with recognizing what’s in my control and what’s not is being able to realize [that] my husband is deployed, this is completely out of my control. Worrying and distracting myself with nonsense is not going to help me, so what is in my control is me, and if I’m in my control then I need to take care of myself. I need to do what is best for me so that I can consistently show up … at my best. (Veronica Cisneros)
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Meet Veronica Cisneros
I’m a licensed therapist and women walk into my office every day stressed and disconnected. As a mom of three daughters, I want my girls to know who they are and feel confident about their future. I can’t think of a better way to help other women than by demonstrating an empowered and unapologetic life.
So I started Empowered and Unapologetic to be a safe space for women to be vulnerable and change their lives for the better before she ever needs to see a therapist.
Thanks for listening!
My husband is deployed. This is completely out of my control and worrying and distracting myself with nonsense is not going to help me. So what is in my control is me and if I’m in my control, then I need to take care of myself and I need to do what’s best for me so that I can consistently show up, maybe not to a level of perfection, but at my best.
Hey girl. Imagine a life where you feel supported, connected and understood. I get it. Being a mom is hard, especially when you’re spinning so many plates. We exhaust ourselves trying to create the perfect life for our family. You deserve to enjoy your family without the stress perfectionism brings. On this podcast, I provide practical and relatable life experiences. I teach women quick and easy to use strategies to help them reclaim their identity, re-ignite their marriage and enjoy their children. If you’re ready to be challenged, then pull up a chair, grab a pen and paper because it’s about to go down. I’m Veronica Cisneros, a licensed marriage and family therapist and this is the Empowered and Unapologetic podcast.
It’s about 12 or one o’clock in the morning and I hear this noise coming from downstairs. I’m up studying, I’m in grad school and I’m all alone. Willie’s on deployment, and he girls are asleep. So I immediately grabbed something to defend myself and I rush downstairs. Well, I don’t rush downstairs, I tiptoed downstairs to see what the help was and I met with water, water dripping from the ceiling. What the hell am I going to do? It’s not like I can call Willie to have him help me. What am I going to do? Well, the only thing I could think of is to call my neighbor and ask them what to do. There’s all of this water dripping from my ceiling and I don’t know where it’s coming from. I don’t know why it’s happening and so of course, I called them. One of my really good friends at the time, she has her husband come over, they immediately shut off the water.
I didn’t even know that was a thing, but they do. They immediately shut off the water. I ended up calling a plumber and the plumber comes and of course he gives me bad news. He tells me, okay, the problem was fixed. However, you got to make sure that, all this is black water or whatever the hell it was, we got to cut through it. We have to call this person. We have to call this person. And it’s like, “Dude, can I just get back to studying because I’m in grad school and I have a paper that’s due tomorrow and to test what the hell?” And of course I wanted to just freak out because this is all on me. Like all of this is on me. I’m thankful for my neighbor. I’m thankful for the plumber. I’m thankful for the other people that came out. However, I don’t have time for this. I don’t have time for this, and why the hell do I have to do this all by myself? Why do I have to do this by myself? Why does Willie have the luxury of being away?
Yes, I said luxury. Yes, his ass is in Afghanistan. Yes, these are the thoughts of a military wife. So we take care of it. Mind you, we just moved into this house. We literally just moved in two weeks ago. Two weeks ago was also all we had to move, to pack and get into our house, that we had just recently purchased because Willy was going to deploy. So we knew we had limited time. But really, fricking leaky sink or leaky ceiling. Like, are you kidding me? But this is the truth. This is what it looks like. As a military wife, you are met with so many obstacles. Here I’m at with a great amount of loneliness. You are met with all of these insecurities, all of these frustrations. You don’t know what to do. And of course you want to reach out to friends and family. However, they have no idea what you’re going through.
And most of them will tell you, “Ah, you’re used to this. You’re going to get through this.” That’s not motivating. That’s not encouraging. If anything, it’s a swift kick. It’s a swift kick to the balls, the balls that I don’t have. But it is a swift kick to the balls. That’s the only way I can describe it because you’re all alone. Have I said that enough? You’re all alone and you’re doing this with kids and you’re doing this with not having all the answers, with constantly being reminded by tasks and expectations, being both the mother and the father here, kids, but you can’t show anything. You can’t show your sadness. You can’t show your frustrations because your kids are watching. You can’t show your frustrations with your friends because you will be met with somebody saying, “Ah, you’re used to this.”
When somebody says that you secretly want to punch them in their throat. And I know I sound like totally aggressive right now, but that’s really how frustrating these deployments are. And FYI, you never get used to them ever, like ever, ever. I don’t care if you’ve done a seven month deployment, a nine month deployment, a year, it doesn’t matter. You never get used to this feeling of being alone. You just don’t. And there are times where the D word pops up. There are times where you’re looking at your kids and you’re attending another family function by yourself and you’re wondering, why the hell am I doing this? I’m already a single mom. I’ve already been able to go ahead and attend to my kids’ needs. Why the hell do I put myself in this constant cycle of deployments of feeling alone, of feeling overwhelmed or feeling frustrated?
Why do I constantly put myself into these situations when I could just leave? And yes, it’s saying that out loud, it’s embarrassing. It’s shameful, but it’s the truth. It is. It’s the truth. You’re by yourself so often that you start to think of why not just leave because I can’t do another deployment. I can’t fill this way any more. Independence Day is coming up and I thought long and hard about what I was going to discuss. And I knew without a shadow of a doubt, I had to make sure I focused on military, military spouses and the struggles that we endure. I Googled it just because I thought, well, it’s important that I have like a professional or educated definition of Independence Day. And I’m going to read it because why the hell not?
We celebrate American Independence Day on the 4th of July every year. We think of July 4th, 1776 as a day that represents the declaration of independence and the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation. That’s what Google says is the definition of Independence Day. However, what comes up for me with regards to Independence Day is a battle. It’s a battle that not only our military wives face, but also our service members. And I think about the struggles that military families endure and how civilians aren’t even aware of it and how they might take things for granted. I’m not saying all, but I am saying you get to take for granted that the one thing you’re looking up in preparation of Independence Day is maybe a recipe for a dip or a perfect drink to host for your barbecue.
Military families think of Independence Day completely differently. We think about the sacrifices military families have made. And I’m serious when I say no one will ever understand what it really means to be the wife of a service member, in my case, the wife of a Marine, long deployments, constant worry, feeling alone, moving, adjusting, meeting new people, fake smiles and painful, fake smiles, constant sacrifice, homecomings that last way longer than you’re mentally prepared for. You’re told to go out and meet at a certain time and you bring your family and your friends to go ahead and meet and greet your husband when he comes off that bus. But in reality, it’s four or five hours later than the designated time. You do this all while being a single mother.
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t change any of it. Matter of fact, I miss it. There’s a great level of loyalty and pride we have as military wives. After all, we’re all married to our heroes. However, most military wives are burnt out lonely and flooded with emotions. I can’t tell you how many times I avoided watching the news. I hated when the doorbell rang for fear there would be a military official on the other end. Don’t get me started on the resentment that I built because I put my life on hold for my husband. There’s a great lack of communication and you’re constantly in this fearful state of expressing yourself because your husband is away. He’s at war, he’s fighting for our country and you don’t want to add to his plate, but you’re so overwhelmed.
There was times, no lie, there were times that I wished I could trade spots with him because at least he had a break. And I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it’s true. I’m just being honest with you. There were times where it was like, “Dude, I wish I can be away. I wish I can be surrounded by my friends, surrounded by my brothers or my sisters, but I’m not.” I’m surrounded by all of these kids all of the time. And I’m surrounded by all of these expectations. I’m surrounded by things that I need to fix in the house that I have no clue what to do. And yes, YouTube helps, but only so much because I don’t even know how to use these damn tools. I have no clue what the hell the difference is between a Phillips screwdriver and normal screwdriver, have no clue, but yet these instructions are asking for them.
And sure I can do all of these things on YouTube, but I don’t want to. I want my husband back. I want to stop feeling this way. I want to stop feeling so freaking overwhelmed and flooded by emotions. And I want to stop being so freaking scared because I don’t know if he’s going to come back. And I guess ultimately that’s what really these frustrations are and why I want to switch spots with him because I want to know what’s going on out there. I want to know if he’s safe and I want to stop being told that everything’s going to be fine and you only have five months now instead of seven, or you only have a week or you should be used to this. I want people to stop telling me that and instead ask how they can help.
Willy retired a couple of years ago, I think it’s been three years and I do miss it. I do miss that comradery, the minute you walk up or you, I shouldn’t say walk up, well, yes, walk up, but the minute you meet a military spouse, you don’t have to say anything because you understand their pain. There’s like, I don’t want to say it’s like a secret society because it’s not. It’s not even a society that we want, but there is this sisterhood. And when you’re around other military families, you do feel this sense of validation. To be honest, I wish I felt that with my family. I wish I had felt that with my friends. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t for lack of trying, because my family and my friends were there for me. But what was missing was understanding. So what is the main problem?
The main problem is no one really understands and people are under the impression that we’re used to this. You are constantly putting your life on hold, what you want and what you need because of the hell. Who the hell is going to watch your kids? The hell that you’re currently in, how much judgment will you be met with if you decide to go back to school and pursue your dreams? I mean your husband’s gone. So you’re going to be gone too. That’s unfair. That’s selfish. Like all of these things are happening and they’re big problems. They’re big problems that nobody talks about. Why is this a problem? Well, because again, you’re alone. And I know I said that probably a bajillion times, but it’s true. You’re met with unrealistic expectations and you’re unsure how to cope. You can’t cry because you’re trying to stay strong for your kids. You can’t cry because the minute you allow those tears to fall, that’s it, you’re down and it’s very difficult to get yourself together.
And sure the military does provide classes. However, what’s really lacking is understanding. I know I’m circling back to it over and over again, but for those of you listening, and I know there’s military families out there that are in my audience, I want you to know that you’re not alone. You’re not, I hear you. I should have been you. And it’s really important you understand that these are issues. You don’t have to go through these problems alone. Because the effects of these problems, the effects of holding it together and trying to stay strong are more than likely this buildup of anxiety. You have all of this stress, all of the stress that’s going on in your body, this physical feeling of being overwhelmed, your heart racing, your constant tight shoulders, and your body being clenched all the time.
But then you have this constant worry, worry about whether or not your husband’s going to come back home, worried about how long this deployment’s going to be, and if it’s going to be extended. That stress and that worry is what we call anxiety and most of us women aren’t educated on what to do with this anxiety. Instead we’re met with surround yourself with friends, don’t worry about it, distract yourself with household chores, brush it under the rug. What happens when you do all of that is you start to build resentment. You start to build resentment towards her husband, and you start to build resentment towards your family and your friends, and you then start to seclude yourself and withdraw. I know because I’ve been there and that’s not healthy at all.
I mentioned the D word, divorce, and it does cross your mind. It does, because again, you start to think of all of the things you’re already doing on your own. Why continue to subject yourself to this? This is why communication is extremely important in a marriage. And yes, I understand you don’t want to put more on your husband’s plate. However, it’s important you process through these emotions, whether it be through journal writing, or share this with him. And I’m not saying that you have to throw divorce at his face. Not at all, but just let him know that you’re struggling, because guess what? So is he. He’s struggling as well. But when we’re not sharing our struggles, when we’re not communicating our struggles, we feel alone in this. It’s important you also develop an understanding of what his struggles are, not so you can take that on. Not so you can take that on. So you have this understanding, you fill this empathy, fill this validation because that’s really what helps strengthened my relationship with my husband, especially when he was on deployments.
We were able to share each other’s pain. And although there were some similarities, there were also a great amount of differences. I started to develop an understanding of what it was like on his end and how difficult it was for him to attend very important ceremonies, very important school functions, via FaceTime or vi Zoom. One thing I absolutely love and adore about my husband is he never missed a school function, ever, or celebration. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t know what he had to do to ensure that he was there, but he was there. He wasn’t there physically. He was there virtually, and it took me a while to realize how much pain he was in as well and how much he was suffering. I didn’t know that. All I knew was my pain and it wasn’t until I provided myself with this space of being open and honest with him that he did the same in return. I remember there was one time where we jumped on a call and it was a quick call and he had informed me that he had just ran over an IED and they took the blast and it was like, “Wait a minute, you were just blown up?”
And I could see the fear in his eyes and I can see that he was also trying to hold it back. I was in grad school at the time in my internship and there was a part of me that immediately wanted to like, just grab him through the screen and just bring him home. And I knew I couldn’t. There was a part of me that wanted to hide my emotions because I wanted to stay strong for him, and I’m doing it in air quotes, but I also knew better. I did. I expressed to him how important it was for him to speak to somebody about this. And there was also another part of me that knew better because I knew Willy. He was going to go out again. He was going to go out again with his Marine and even though he didn’t need to, he was going to do it because if his Marines were fighting, so was he.
And it was very difficult. It was very difficult to get off that phone call with him, so difficult. So I’m on here not to complain, not to overwhelm you with all of these emotions, but I’m on here, military wife to military wife to let you know again, you’re not alone and to provide you with tips and tools. And for those of you that are not military wives, I also want to give you five things you should never say to a military spouse or a partner.
Number one, “My spouse travels for work. So I totally know what you’re going through.” Girl. I’m going to tell you right now, if you say that to military spouse, you better have some protection on you because you say that to us and the first thing that comes to my mind is kick her. And I don’t mean to be mean, but it’s true. It’s like, “Dude, did you really just say that to me? That your husband’s traveling for work. He’s in a nice ice hotel. My husband’s on the other side of the world, sleeping on the ground, eating an MRA. Like, are you kidding me? Are you for real? Or are we really going to go there? And in addition to that, more than likely right now, as we’re talking, he’s probably being shot at. Like, get the hell out of here.”
Number two, “I don’t know how you do it. I could never be married to someone in the military.” Girl, bye. Like, please, are you for real? The minute you say something like this, there is a great amount of shame. There’s a great amount of frustration because you are telling me you’re better than me. You’re telling me that you’ve made a better decision. And I’m going to tell you right now, I’m married to my hero. I’m married to my hero. Don’t you ever say that to a military spouse? And I know for the most of you, you’re not seeing that with an intent of being mean or even shaming us, but these statements cut so deep. So it’s important you’re mindful.
Number three, “You chose this life. You knew what you were getting into when you married him.” Really? So I chose this life. You knew what you were getting into when you married him. Girl, you have no clue because I had no idea what to expect, nor do I have the idea of what to expect with the next deployment or the next move? We never, we have very little information and yes, we’ve experienced deployments and yes, we’ve experienced moves, but every single time it’s different. It’s not the same. So please don’t ever say that to a military spouse.
Number four, “It will go fast. Don’t worry. You’re used to this.” No, I’m not. No, I’m not. And it’s not going fast. Watching my kids cry themselves to sleep. Do you know how long those nights are? Do you have any clue how long those nights are? I don’t know what to do to take away that pain, except for sit there and hug her and also cry because I’m experiencing it too. That is so painful, listening to your daughter say that my dad’s going to miss another birthday of mine. It’s just so hard. I’m not used to this, nor is any other military spouse used to it.
Number five, “Girl, I’m so jealous. You get so much alone time. It must be like you’re dating when he comes back. “I don’t even know what to say to this. Like it’s not great to be alone. Everything that I mentioned in the beginning of this podcast is feeling alone and it is heart-wrenching. It is heart-wrenching and don’t be jealous about my husband being shot at right now. Don’t be jealous about my husband being on the other side of the world in ridiculous conditions, probably hasn’t showered, probably has an ate and is being shot at, or has to make really hard decisions to protect the lives of his brothers that will possibly cost the life of somebody else. Girl, don’t be jealous. That’s nothing to be jealous about, but I just really want to express like what this is like for us so you have an understanding and you could provide proper support to these military spouses.
If you are a military spouse, here are tips to help you during deployments. Number one, mama, take care of yourself. It’s important you model self-care for your kids. You’re not always going to have it together. And that’s okay. If you have a goal, pursue it. Yes, it’s going to be hard. Do it anyway, because if you don’t, you will resent him for it and resentment is a killer for marriages. I’m going to tell you right now, I pursued my master’s while Willie was deployed. It was so hard and I cried a lot. However, I knew what I wanted and I knew I couldn’t put my life on hold anymore. So was it hard? Yes. Am I so thankful that I did it hell to the yes. Did I allow resentment to build? No, no, not at all because I was now taking over my life and I figured it out.
Did I get a lot of sleep? No, I’m not going to lie to you. I would go to bed at 11, wake up at three every single day because I wanted to make sure I was there for my kids. I wanted to make sure that I was present. I didn’t give a shit about the house, I’m just going to be honest with you, but I wanted to make sure I was present. I was working. I was in an internship. I was doing all of these things. Did I have a lot of help? Not necessarily. I had to figure it out. I did. And I know for you, mama’s out there, you’re not around family. Your probably stationed somewhere where you have zero family. This is where I’m going to encourage you to meet friends and find support because that’s very, very important.
Number two, ask yourself, am I on autopilot as a form of avoidance? It’s important to express your emotions. Stop hiding them by distracting yourself with tasks or household chores. Your kids are experiencing this pain as well. Provide yourself with the opportunity to process your feelings, fears, and ideas to celebrate his return. Like you can do all of these things with your kids. Your kids are going through it too. And don’t get me wrong. My first deployment, when my husband was in Iraq, I tried to be strong. I tried to, what I thought was strong wasn’t strong, but I tried to just constantly avoid it. I was on autopilot.
When he came back home, I didn’t know how to adjust myself to going from the single mom to now having my husband there to help. I didn’t know how to do that. And when he came back, I resented him because he wasn’t doing it the way I needed him to do it. However, after that deployment, what I learned was autopilot, yes, it’s a distraction, but it was also great amount of avoidance and it wasn’t helping me. It was actually deterring me from progressing and that’s not what I wanted. And so instead I would take pauses and I recognized, I started to identify when I was going into that autopilot mode and what I was really trying to avoid. So ladies, if you’re there, I really want you to ask yourself, what am I avoiding? Why am I avoiding this? Express those emotions and allow your kids with the opportunity to express the emotions as well.
Number three, I know you’re feeling alone, probably feeling crazy and misunderstood. Reach out to non-judgmental family and friends who are supportive and are willing to listen. If you need help or just someone to vent to, reach out and let it out. Do not hold this in. Do not brush it under the rug. Mama, it’s unfair to you if you hold that pain in and it will only do more damage. If you need a supportive group, join my girl gang. It’s a free group on Facebook and I would love, I would absolutely love for you to be a part of it. I really would. And in there you can vent. You can talk about your frustrations. You will be met with support. You have access to me there. And I will make sure that I give the link to, it’ll be in our show notes, but it’s under Empowered and Unapologetic.
Number four, take people up on their offers. If someone offers to help girl, take it. Take it, take it. If somebody says, “Oh yes, I’ll watch your kids. Go get your nails done. Bye, bye.” Grab your purse, leave. “Are you saying right now? Like, are you cool with that right now?” If they’re offering to help you take it. You need the help. If you need help, that doesn’t mean that you’re not a good enough mom. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have it together. It doesn’t mean that you suck. Take those opportunities. We all need a break. We do. If you’re starting to think about divorce, if you’re avoiding emotions, mama, those are all red flags. You need a break, take it. And if you need a day away, girl, go. Go. You’re not being unfair to your kids. You’re not being selfish.
This is self-care and you want to come back refreshed, reset, so you can enjoy your kids. It’s unfair if your husband’s gone and he’s deployed and your checked out. It’s like you’re not even there. And guess what? You’re going to be frustrated and yelling at them all the time and they don’t deserve that. They deserve a mom who has reset and refreshed so she can enjoy her time with them.
And the last one identify what’s in your control and what’s not. Remember the only thing in your control is yourself. Everything else is outside of your control. Do not take other things on. I know you’re going to want to, I know you’re going to want to put more on your plate, but recognize where you’re at. The biggest lesson I learned with recognizing what’s in my control and what’s not, is being able to realize my husband is deployed. This is completely out of my control and worrying and distracting myself with nonsense is not going to help me. So what is in my control is me and if I’m in my control, then I need to take care of myself and I need to do what’s best for me so that I can consistently show up, maybe not to a level of perfection, but at my best.
That was really important and I’m so thankful I did that because I learned so much about myself and it honestly allowed, it provided me this opportunity to truly reclaim my identity. Ladies, I’m going to tell you right now, you’re not alone. You’re not and I hope, and I pray that you take all of these lessons that I’ve just provided you, all of these steps and you really implement them into your life. It’s truly important. This has been awesome. I’m so thankful for this opportunity that I get to speak to you. And you’ve allowed me in your journey because I know it’s one hell of a one hell of a hard one. Simplify.
Many women lose their own identity in the shadow of being a mom and a wife. We are a community of women who support each other. We leave perfectionism behind to become empowered and unapologetic. I want to personally invite you to join our girl gang. It’s a free Facebook community for women just like you. Go to www.facebook.com/groups/empoweredandunapologetic. See you there.
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