Stop Saying, "This is What You Signed up For."
(Audio version down below) This is a phrase that people love throwing around. Whether it is one military family to another, or a non-military family to a military family. The few times it has been directed towards me, it was a sympathy play, "That sucks so bad but this is what you guys signed up for". I believe this phrase needs to stop, for military and non military people. It is almost like saying, "suck it up", and it is not acknowledging very real feelings. I understand that a lot of the time people don't know what to say to me and others in this life, but can we go back to the golden rule? If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. It is okay to be uneducated on a topic. Ask questions if you want to learn and listen with an open heart, but don't disregard valid feelings with a phrase that is so dismissive. My husband has even been guilty of saying, "Well we signed up for this", and every time he does I correct him and explain my reasoning. When you sign up for something, anything in life, you have a brief idea of what it is. You may have heard stories from other people, seen photos, watched documentaries, etc. but that is not first hand experience. Those things do not tell you how your experience will be and all of the ins and outs. It would be like applying for a job that you thought looked perfect for you. Your interviews were amazing and you really vibed with everyone. You end up getting the job and you are so excited. You get there and your boss sucks, the job description is not how it was explained to you and you instantly realize how bad the situation is. You message me and tell me how much you hate your new job and how you are having a horrible time and my response is, "Well, this is what you signed up for".
Another problem with this statement is even if you have a really good idea of what you are getting into, things will still happen that you could have never imagined or planned for. A non military example would be talking to a friend of yours that is a teacher right now amidst all the changes brought on by COVID. They are having to do remote teaching, many of the online platforms are malfunctioning, and it is just an overall mess. How they are having to operate as a teacher is not what they have learned and it is totally new territory. I guarantee you they were not planning on this when they "signed up" to be a teacher. As a military family, we deal with unexpected plans and hardships regularly. Everything is always unknown, unplanned, last minute and oftentimes does not have the family in mind. My husband has been active duty for seven years now and we have gone through things we could have never prepared for. Although I don't complain much about our life because I am actually extremely grateful (and positivity is just my MO), people will still ask me how I am doing. Right now we have a move in less than three weeks and still have no clue where we will be living. If I open up and share how I am feeling and you respond with, "Well this is what you signed up for", it would absolutely crush me and would close me off to sharing with non-military people again. This also goes for people whose husbands are gone a lot for work, wives of law enforcement and firefighters...each of those have their own very real struggles and difficulties, and I am not saying that one is harder than the other. They are all challenging and a sacrifice, but it is impossible to truly understand any of them unless it is something you and your family experience or have experienced. Even though my husband has 24 hour shifts weekly, I would not try to compare my husband's often safe 24 hour shift to that of a wife whose husband is in law enforcement and often in unsafe environments. It is two totally different jobs in completely different settings. What I can do is sympathize, show love and support and help in whatever way I can.
Can we please stop saying, "This is what you signed up for" to our military friends? It is so important that when people are sharing their feelings, that we do not dismiss them. It is critical that we listen with an open heart, an open mind, no judgement and a spirit of love. Let's be there to support one another even when we don't understand. We will not understand everything in life and that is okay, we are not supposed to. What we are supposed to do is love one another and uplift and encourage each other with no strings attached.