Steve has a HUGE life, he always has had. He's immensely dynamic and there are always dozens of balls in the air. Between the Army and his current job as CEO of a large charity he is always travelling and that's what I chose to pick the fight about. I should seriously hang my head in shame. For a start, I LOATHE travelling. If I could gather everyone I love into a square mile, I swear I'd never leave it. Secondly I completely understand why he has to travel so much, and thirdly I am immensely proud of what he does - what made me decide to tell him that his being away amounted to neglect of me (utter tosh, he's a devoted husband and he's hardly abandoning me - I have a job, family and friends nearby) defeats me - however I did - and what emerged from the brief exchange which followed was surprising.
In an effort to justify and defend himself he said ' If I haven't given you enough attention and time, you might take into account that my whole world changed 18 months ago. I spent 33 years in the Army and all of a sudden I have had to establish myself in a big new career, buy a house, move and learn how to operate in a civvy world' to which I replied 'well I left the Army too remember!'...and there it was. It was the first time in 18 months that we had looked back and the subsequent discussion was truly revealing. He has adjusted better than I have and I had no idea that I had any adjustment to make. Here's what it transpires I miss:
- The camaraderie with other wives. Sure I have a full time career and I was never a coffee morning kinda gal but there was always someone around, of a similar age with whom I had something in common.
- The status. I am being very honest here. My husband was the big cheese. He's still the big cheese but amongst civilians whom I barely know. I am ashamed to say that I liked the status that came with being the Colonel's Lady.
- I miss the dressing up. Him in Mess Kit, me in a posh frock. Soldier's saluting...
- I miss the social life. I didn't join in much of it, I didn't even like most of it - but there was always something going on.
- I miss the formality and the etiquette. The flood of thank you notes when you hosted an event, always knowing what to wear because the invitation would always define it. The inbred politeness and good manners. Civilians are so casual. It feels.....lazy to me.
There is no road map for 'the wife' when a Soldier leaves the Army. He has about a year of 're-settlement'. Future career advice, financial seminars, dining out... and she, well she has to close the door on the world she inhabits alongside him, without so much as a goodbye - and it was easy for me! I didn't move far away from our last posting, I moved closer to a job in which I was already well established and have many friends. Steve went straight into a fantastic career, we bought a lovely house...it must be so much harder for those whose men are depressed or flailing, who don't have a career, who have lost touch with their friends. There is no established support network, no veterans wives organisations. Those who have been so closely tied drift apart. It's like being an actor. You have great friends on the film set and then when someone yells 'wrap' you all disappear off to other projects. I like the new film set, and of course this film can run and run which is lovely but it seems I missed the last one more than I thought I did - and that's the truth.