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Family Matters Blog: Male Spouses Face Unique Challenges

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4, 2011 – A former military boss of mine was married to a civilian. When she found out her next assignment was in Turkey, he walked away from a good job, his family and friends to follow her overseas.

I admired the sacrifice he made back then, and didn’t think twice about the fact that he was a male spouse. It didn’t occur to me, until now, that he might have faced a few additional challenges due not to his status as a military spouse, but his gender.

I recently learned that just 5 percent of active duty service members’ spouses are male. But while they comprise a small portion of the population, they deal with some significant challenges, said Scott Stanley, a research professor from the University of Denver and a military family expert.

“A lot of these men are sort of swimming in a whole new part of the pool, if you will, without really knowing exactly where to go or what to do or what sort of supports to seek,” he said in a Military OneSource podcast.

Most spouses’ groups are female dominated and men often don’t feel comfortable there, he explained. Additionally, many family support programs are focused on connecting with civilian wives.

Still, these men need strong support networks and social connections. Stanley suggested they develop friendships with other couples who have the same dynamic and can relate to their challenges. Chaplains and counselors also can offer emotional support.

While male spouses may feel isolated at times, Stanley stressed that they’re not alone. “They may or may not be talking about it with other guys, but there are a lot of men out there who are going through this and feeling it,” he said. “You have to kind of figure out what’s going to work for you to cope with this in the best way you can at this time, because that’s going to be the best thing for your marriage, best thing for your family and the best thing for you down the line.”

For more on the unique challenges male spouses confront and for tips on how to overcome them, read my American Forces Press Service article, “Male Military Spouses Cope With Added Challenges.”

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