Apparently, being a Royal Marine means ‘joining an elite male (at the moment) only club. It means worldwide travel, training, plenty of fun and a huge amount of pride and camaraderie that only comes with wearing a coveted ‘green beret’.
For me, the wife of a Royal Marine and mum to our two children it can mean a life of frequent change and uncertainty. At the moment it means living ‘married unaccompanied’, seeing each other only at weekends because we choose to live in our own home to give our children some stability.
In the past it has meant months for us without a husband or dad around. Its been unanswered text messages and telephone calls or snatched calls on a satellite phone with only limited time – 30 minutes a week. No calls for days or weeks on end because of operations, drunken, early hours phone calls after a run ashore or quick calls snatched in between meetings. It’s been putting a career on hold, parents evening and medical appointments on my own. Its sorting the maintenance on the car, cutting the grass, walking the dogs. Its missed birthdays, anniversaries and in my case, childbirth too. Missed and re-arranged holidays, missed nights out or the embarrassment of cancelling your plus one to a wedding at short notice because ‘plans have changed’. It means living away from your family and friends without any support. It’s tiring. It's arguments! It’s resentment. It’s compromise. It’s lonely!
I always joke that the Royal Marines is the other woman in our marriage. The draw of exciting things and the pressure to not disappoint giving her the power to control your life. She’s in the fabric of your life every moment of every day. At any moment she can make a request and your life is turned upside down in a way which you have no control over and you are supposed to say ‘OK, that’s fine, and let her do as she wishes’. You soon come to realise that she, the Royal Marines, always come first!
So often I’ve heard ‘but you knew what you were getting in to’, but the reality is no one does. No-one knows until they’re living it just how much you sacrifice as a military wife or spouse so that your husband or partner can do their job.
We are almost always silent, keeping our heads down, spinning plates and dealing with everything life throws at us as it happens. Picking up the pieces and keeping everything as normal as possible so that our families don’t break. I look at other women like me and know that their strength and resilience know no bounds.
What is becoming more and more apparent is that the sacrifices they make go unrecognised and they need more support than they receive. These wives and partners did not sign on the dotted line to serve their country yet the sacrifices they are being asked to make because their husband or partner did is too great, with too little support.
I love what you are endeavouring to do with Strength Behind the Strong and I look forward to watching it develop and seeing women like me supported not just in times of need but in their every day lives.