A question I have been asked time and time again as I interact with other spouses at events, gatherings, and even online is “What does your spouse do?.” Sometimes this question comes before even being asked what I do. Identity as a military spouse is a hard thing. We come into a life that follows our service members. Leaving jobs, friends, family, and sometimes even re-inventing who we are. Which is the case for me.
DISCOVERING MY IDENTITY
Before my spouse had us moved to Georgia, we were living in San Jose, California. I had a job that I loved and allowed me to grow skills I never knew I had. As we geared up for the first PCS, I went back to working for a coffee shop—leaving a job I loved and struggled with finding who I was.
After a couple of years we landed in Fayetteville, North Carolina and I found my love and passion in yoga and digital marketing. They helped me re-find myself, and my identity. Now, I’m not saying identity as an LGBTQ+ person, but as the person I introduce myself as.
I’m Joey Moehrholt, my pronouns are they/them, and I am a Digital Marketing Specialist and Yoga Teacher.
This is a big element for me to say because it has taken a long time for me to be comfortable saying this surrounded by military spouses who are generally in a heterosexual marriage. But as I gather at spouse events, I’m typically asked in the first couple of moments about what my spouse does. This causes a feeling of obligation to say what he does, just so we might have something in common. But I believe that if we as spouses stop using this as a dominating question we can learn more about each other within the first few minutes of the same interactions.
SEEK CONNECTION AS INDIVIDUALS NOT SPOUSES
Here are some alternatives to the question “What does your spouse do?”:
Use inclusive language. Instead of using the words “husband or wife” use the word “spouse” as this is a great way to start to use inclusive language. You might not receive verbal confirmation of someone’s sexual identification in the beginning. Spouse leaves room for LGBTQ+ couples to feel more accepted.
Introduce yourself with what you do. Like my example above, it’s okay to not say what your spouse does. Let your introduction be about you. Some spouses may still be in between work, or silently looking for more resources. This opens you up as a connection to help.
Ask the spouse if they have ever been to your favorite place in town. This might sound a little like a speed dating question, but it opens up a conversation. Again, talking about work or home life might be uncomfortable, so take them out of that space. Who knows, they might be your next hiking friend.
Compliments are better than introductions. I love to compliment peoples’ outfits and find out who they’re wearing. We’re all walking a metaphorical red carpet at these events and they are fun to dress up for. Uplifting spouses is deep work that stays with us for years.
I believe that spouse wellness starts with acceptance. There is so much we do for each other on a daily basis. But there might be a spouse close to you that didn’t feel accepted at a gathering because they felt that their spouse’s job or rank wasn’t like the others around them. I have felt this before, and it’s why I have moved away from asking another spouse what their spouse does.
Written By: Joey Moehrholt