A blog from Army&You’s summer edition by Tara, @thenotwifelife

As I head towards my sixth year as an unmarried military spouse, I wanted to share my take on it. Being a military family, everyone just assumes you’re married, and that automatically makes you a ‘dependant’ (do you all hate that too?).

My not-husband and I met online in 2015 as I was working 13-hour shifts on a surgical ward, and he was doing the usual toing and froing that comes with being in a front-line squadron.

He has two girls from a previous marriage, and we now have a little boy together. I had vowed never to date someone with children, and he declared he didn’t want any more. But here we are, smashing this blended family thing! In the beginning, my not-husband was living on camp after the break-up of his marriage, and I was temporarily living with my parents after the end of a long-term relationship. So being in similar situations, neither of us had our own space, nor were we interested in anything too serious.

In 2016, we’d made the decision to start house hunting but as always with military life, that wasn’t simple, and my not-husband deployed for the second time that year. We now live off the patch which, of course, has its advantages. It’s ours to do with as we please – I feel lucky to have not lived a magnolia life – and when my not-husband is home, he feels as though he’s away from work.

But it also means not having that connection to other military families that you get when all your neighbours are serving. I attended a couple of coffee mornings and met some other spouses but being the only one without children and living away from the patch, I felt almost like an outsider. Some had children at the same school, and others attended baby groups together, it was hard to fit in without that link.

I met some great people that way, and the get-togethers are fantastic. But at the time, I’d started my own business, so I couldn’t always make it. I’d miss several weeks and feel out of the loop and this only added to the isolation.

This is where groups such as the Milspo Business Network and Military Coworking Network come in. They’re vital for spouses to connect through business, wherever they might be, even if it’s only virtually. I joined both and they’re incredible communities to be a part of.

Living in a village, I know people here and I’m also lucky enough to have the most wonderful neighbour. The kind that everyone needs, and we support each other through all sorts.

But when it comes to friendships and a wider support network, military friends often come in the form of spouses of my not-husband’s colleagues. We experience things like deployments together, so we’re able to support each other. Being slightly older, there’s actually a lot of us in our military friendship groups who own houses, so for us, it now feels like the norm to be off the patch.

Social media is also a fantastic way to connect, and I met one of my best friends this way. We had both commented on a post in a group for army spouses and after chatting, discovered we lived two villages apart. We met at the local pub that weekend and the rest is history. So, if you’re afraid of joining them, or feel nervous about posting, go for it, it might be the best thing you ever do!

Tara wins a £35 voucher to spend at Gillian Jones Designs — gillianjonesdesigns.com — for our best blog. Artist Gillian, a former Royal Navy officer and military spouse, specialises in vibrant and contemporary military art and design. If you can’t quite find what you’re looking for, she’s also happy to create bespoke commissions. Follow @gillianjonesdesigns on Instagram and Facebook, and @GillAJones on Twitter.

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