Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"Thank you so much, for these words of encouragement! . . ."

"This was the most helpful blog I've read so far. . ."

". . . Thank you for taking the time to explain all of the craziness to all of us!" 

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". . . your post really provided me with hope for the future . . . Thank you so much!"

 Welcome to Unhinged & Empowered!

photo credit: familymwr via photopin cc

My name is Stephanie Carroll and I am the founder of Unhinged & Empowered.

While I was a Navy Wife, on many occasions I wondered, am I going crazy? Am I coming unhinged?

Checking the oven twenty times just to be sure it is off - screaming at the top of your lungs when your only car breaks down - checking your email sixteen times in two minutes - locked out of the house with no one to call - being ALONE.

Sometimes when you are trying to make it work with a service member, you just feel like you are going insane, like you are weak and pathetic, but what I learned after ten years of surviving as a Navy Wife, is that, really it's all perfectly normal. More importantly, I realized that breaking down doesn't make us weak - the fact that we are sticking it out despite the break downs, the fact that we wipe away our tears and keep on going - is why we are some of the strongest women in the world.

But, when I first became a Navy Girlfriend and then a Navy Wife, I didn't have anyone to reassure me of my sanity, and boy does thinking you're going crazy make a girl come unhinged!

o I created this website in 2012 to share what I and others have learned, so that you may have the reassurance that you're not going crazy but are actually one of the strongest women in the world!

"God Bless you for this! I'm a Navy girlfriend and every day I wonder what I got myself into. This helps a lot. Thanks! I'll definitely be coming back!"

What We Stand For
Through this community we share the moments that make us feel unhinged and accept them as normal and even as signs of strength, thus empowering ourselves and others. This community is about focusing on the positive and supporting one another regardless of our situations, whether we are wives, girlfriends, spouses, partners, male, female, from this country or that country. We join here in acceptance and understanding. 

"I just wanted to say thank you . . . I am struggling a lot because I only know two other wives/girlfriends and they're both in different branches. I feel incredibly alone, and after Googling Navy girlfriends and reading this post I realized that I'm not. So sincerely and from the bottom of my heart, thank you."

How We Have Grown!
I started this site on my own, but certain experiences made me decide to make it something more, to take it to the next level. 

There is a strong anti-wife stigma and stereotype in the military. This has lead to an underlying pressure for military members and their wives to believe that other Navy Wives are bad people and treat them as such. In addition to seeing this stigma develop in person, I also watched as the power of the internet spread it like a brush fire. I've seen it on negative blogs, forums, and of course on social media. So many Navy Wives treat one another with judgement, cruelty, and rejection instead of recognizing that we are in this together and could support one another through understanding, encouragement, and camaraderie.

 Patrick Haney via photopin cc
This lead me to create the U&E Facebook Forum, a place where the readers of this site can come together in a place where they can give and expect understanding, encouragement, and acceptance - not just wives but girlfriends too.

That was my next realization. Navy Girlfriends were treated with even more rejection and cruelty than wives. They had no voice and no place to seek advice. That is when I started writing my Navy Girlfriend Guide series and encouraged Navy Girlfriends in addition to Navy Wives to write for the site as contributors.

Prior to this, I had also realized that I don't know everything, so I sought out others' to get involved and share their perspectives and advice. I became we and eventually we became international, welcoming writers from the US, UK, and Canada. Our experiences as Navy Wives and Girlfriends transcends borders, and we joined together forming a camaraderie across the globe.

"This is incredibly helpful info I didn't know how to ask for, but is great! 47days into a deployment as a Navy Girlfriend is making me feel like a basket-case sometimes because there's so much that I don't know. This will help with my curiosity and need for knowledge. Questions that I don't want to bother my man with right now. Thank you, thank you!"

Get Involved!
We want to be more than just a website or a blog. We want to form a community of strength and empowerment. So please, get involved, share using the site's comment feature, or visit the Facebook Forum. We also have a Facebook Page, which is used more as a notification of new posts rather than discussion - show your support and learn about new posts by liking us!  

If you are interested in writing for us, hop on over to the guest poster guidelines page and find out how you can share your experiences too.

Remember, we are some of the strongest women in the world, but together we are even stronger. We can accept that's it's okay to come unhinged because together we are empowered.

". . . Thank you for this. You have really helped me see things differently." 

When New Posts Come Out

I post in-depth posts that require a lot of research and writing time, so new posts come out from me at the beginning of the month. My contributing writers come and go as their schedules permit but when they are writing for the blog, their posts come out throughout the month. When I don't have other writers, posts only come out at the beginning of each month.

 "Thanks Stephanie. Always words of wisdom."

Learn More About Stephanie!

Become a VIP and learn all about my experiences as a novelist, how I became an author, what I'm working on next, and get free historical goodies including a newspaper article on Victorian hair styles and pictures of the bizarre Victorian furniture featured in my novel A White Room!

Or check out my website

This site adheres to the rules and regulations of Operational Security or OPSEC, and comments are monitored to do the same. In everything we write, we are always keeping the safety of our Sailors in mind and thank you for doing the same.

How to Deal with Trust Issues & Communication During Basic Training

Crying by Maren via Flickr cc.
Saba K asked: Hi Stephanie! My boyfriend and I have been together for a year and a half now. . . . He's been at bootcamp for 3 weeks now and we were living together before he left, so I feel like I'm crazy because I've been so upset and stressed out and keep crying! 
. . . he was able to call a few days ago. But the conversation wasn't so great. He was all over the place, contradicting certain things he had already told me, and kept giving me half pieces of information, so it made me feel worse. . . . 
He also mentioned that a lot of the guys flirt and mingle with the girls . . . That comment really bothered me . . . He also told me in his letter that no one was able to talk, so now I'm like what's the real story and why can't he just be honest? We've also had trust issues in the past because he's lied about things a few times, and I felt like he was going back to making things up or lying. . . . 
I really want to be honest with him about how I'm feeling and how that really hurt my feelings so our next phone conversation can be better, but I know everyone always says to only write them positive things while they're at boot camp and I don't want to say anything to hinder his progress or hurt him. . . .

Why Can't I Stop Crying?

Hi Saba,

So first off I want to say that you should really be proud of yourself for how well you are handling this entire situation. You have probably been thinking that you aren't handling it well, but the truth is that you are! You really, really are!

Everything you described is quite normal. Separation, especially for the first time, is really tough. This first separation may be the most difficult of all the separations you do simply because it's the first time. 

Don't feel bad or weird about the constant crying, loneliness, fear, sadness, etc. It's all normal and psychologically healthy. Any kind of change requires psychological processing and you are dealing with major changes! It's not just separation, it's also mentally preparing for this new Navy life, which have no way to prepare for because you don't know what to expect. It's learning how to have a relationship with minimal and often poor communication in a new form, i.e. mostly written. You are dealing with an insane amount of what-if scenarios. It's also very common to feel like no one you know understands or like you can't talk to them and so you feel isolated and alone. It's all crappy but normal.

The good news is that it's not always going to be this bad. He's in boot camp, but so are you. You are getting a crash course in separation, which is a big part of Navy life. Right now it's really hard, but it gets easier each time. Plus in the future he will also have much more communication opportunities, so that will be easier as well.

Why Did My Sailor Seem Weird When He Called? Why is He Contradicting Himself?

By Defense Images via Flickr cc.
When they go to basic training, i.e. boot camp, they aren't just getting trained in how to do something, they are seriously getting mentally and emotionally trained for how to deal with situations that are unimaginable, i.e. war situations. 

Everyone in the military doesn't experience those extreme war moments we see in movies, but they are all trained for it. 

My husband, a former Chief Petty Officer, described this experience as: 
They have to learn how to communicate in a different language, and they have to learn to respond to situations differently than they did previously. For example: it's normal, when there is a fire, for people to run away. Sailors are taught to run in and fight the fire because if there's a fire on a boat, that's bad. There's no where to run to. This is just one way in which their thinking and responses are altered. 
The changes that are required happen very rapidly, and are very stressful mentally physically, which is why it's such an ordeal. What they result in is a professional who can communicate with others and who can respond and know how others are going to respond in these situations. 
He might be all over the place because he's in an extremely stressful situation. Even phone calls are rushed, so there is an element of stress and urgency. While you might have been waiting for this phone call, your Sailor could have been in the middle of several stressful situations when he was told this was his opportunity to make a phone call. Consider how much information and how much training and how much he's being forced to process right now, and then being told you get to have your phone call.
Another reason for contradicting himself is because for some reason the military gives very ambiguous and confusing information sometimes, and or information that changes at a moment’s notice. This is even more true in basic because they are keeping them on their toes. It's also true in general. It took me years to feel like my husband was telling me the full story when  I finally realized that he didn't really know the full story himself.

How Can I Deal with Trust Issues While He's in Boot Camp?

Navy Seal Training by Rennett Stowe via Flickr cc.
When it comes to talking in there, they can't generally chit-chat during training, but that doesn't mean that they are barred from speaking to each other at all times, so there are probably opportunities for flirtation, especially when it's a bunch of young adults. 

However, do not imagine boot camp as summer camp. They do not have the time, the ability, or the energy to "hook up." They are exhausted all the time from the training. Plus, if they got caught doing that, they would get in so much trouble, which in boot camp means some kind of very unpleasant punishment even to the point of having to restart boot camp, and trust me, they do not want to do that!

The real problem is that if you have these concerns now, they are only going to get worse, so you need to definitely communicate with your Sailor about your feelings and do some research in how to heal trust issues because you are going to need that trust in a Navy relationship. You will be separated a lot in the future and even though "hooking up" is hard in boot camp, it's not so hard during A-school, detachments, and deployments, not to mention just in life in general. Here are some resources that might be helpful.

Although this wasn't Saba's problem, some people might benefit from the following articles:

Should I tell Him How I Feel Now or Wait?

By Pimthida via Flickr cc.
Whether you should talk to him now or later is something you have to make a call on, but if you are concerned that it could affect him negatively while he’s in boot camp, then it might be worth waiting. (Read Saba's response to see what she decided.)

Saba's Response.

Hi Stephanie! Thank you so much for responding to my questions and being so helpful. I keep telling myself if we get through boot camp, we'll at least be able to talk and have more contact after he graduates, so this pain and the really hard days are just temporary.
 Also, going from talking and seeing each other all day, every day and telling each other everything, to having no idea how he is or what he's up to and vice versa is a HUGE change and extremely difficult. Some days I've been doubting my strength and ability to deal with it and just give up and say this isn't for me, but him and our relationship is worth it to me. I don't want to give up on him just because I'm afraid of what will come and trying this lifestyle.
 I decided to write him a letter today finally and wrote normally, but also nicely put in my honest feelings about how our conversation made me feel and asked him to just consider my feelings next time we're able to talk. I felt like holding it in all week made me feel worse and more apprehensive, so I wanted to let him know. I would love it if you shared my post as a general post, you really helped me and it means a lot when I feel so alone in this situation. None of my friends can relate so it's nice to come on here and see so many strong women going through similar things! :)

Thank you Saba for sharing your experience with us. I hope it's helpful to anyone else in a similar situation!

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About Stephanie Carroll
U&E Founder & Author

Buy Her Book A White Room!

Photo by Randy Enriquez
I dated and married my husband in 2004 when I was 19. I felt like an outsider for the first half of our marriage. He didn't understand what I needed to know about the Navy, and I didn't know what to ask.

After ten years of learning in the Navy, I founded Unhinged & Empowered. I wanted to spread the knowledge that I needed when I was new, to reveal what took years for me to learn.   
Cover Design by Jenny Q
In addition to being a Navy Wife, I am also a novelist. I write historical women's fiction.

My first novel A White Room debuted in 2013 and is about a woman forced to sacrifice her own ambitions of becoming a nurse to marry a man who can save her destitute family. He moves her to a strange, small town where she slowly succumbs to madness until she stumbles on an opportunity to nurse to the poor despite the fact that her husband prosecutes unlicensed practitioners.

Learn more at and connect with me @CarrollBooks on Twitter, Facebook, or on Pinterest!

Join My Journey.
Subscribe Today! 
Only Four Emails a Year!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Can a Military Relationship Work? Do I have to Give Everything Up?

Mikinzi asked:
I'll Take Two of What You're Having by Lis Ferla via Flickr cc.

. . . my boyfriend and I have been dating for a little over 3 months. We've known each other since we were 16 (we're 21 now) and we're best friends and only recently decided we would try at a relationship. I haven't seen him in person since I was 19, . . . he is thinking about re-enlisting and I can't help but be a little nervous because as much as I see a future with him,a long term relationship is so unbelievably hard, and to have a "relationship" when you can't be with each other is starting to get to my confidence . . . 

I'm really struggling with how I feel inside about our relationship because we've only physically been with each other as best friends never as a couple. I'm scared that come this Christmas, when we've been with each other for 9 months, that that'll be the first time we see each other as a couple, and it'll just either go way too fast or feel off because for the last (almost) 2 years we weren't with each other. . . . 

I'm not sure if I can be the Navy wife. . . . I'm scared it's not going to work because for me spending 4 years and a million dollars (not really but man does it feel like it) on an education just to get married and become a navy wife and move around - it would've all been for nothing, . . . it's hard to constantly justify my decision to be in a long distance relationship to others with a guy who is on a boat 6 months out of the year with no wi-fi, and with a 14 hour time difference. . . . 

I think I just need some reassurance that I'm not crazy for trying to make a relationship work when getting the physical attention I want can't happen for a while. I want to see him and start a life together but it just feels so far away.

My Response:

Hi Mikinizi, thanks for commenting! You have a couple of different concerns, so I'm going to break this down. 

Is This Relationship Doomed because It's Not Normal?
Couple by Mika Hirronniemi via Flickr cc.
To start, don’t worry! Everything you are feeling is completely reasonable. It’s normal to have fears and concerns, especially when you are doing something that doesn’t follow the norm. However, that doesn’t mean it’s doomed to failure. A lot of people break away from convention and find out that what they try turns out better than the normal way ever could and many others stick with what everyone else does and end up in an unhappy situation just because it’s what people do. Good for you for following your heart instead of the crowd. 

My husband and I have spent our lives breaking away from the norm. We eloped and had a wedding a couple years later. We didn’t have children and plan to adopt. We’ve made unconventional choices regarding our careers, etc. We are going on twelve years, happy as can be, and more so sometimes. We’ve had people question us along the way too, but we knew what we wanted and we went for it.

Unfortunately, a part of doing things differently is having people question you. Dating or marrying someone in the military, you will always have people who don’t understand and who doubt it and doubt you. It's hard hearing that from people who you love and who care about you. All you can do is accept that they are coming from a place of love, but just because others have concerns doesn't mean they know what is right for you. Remember that you still get to have the final say in what you want and what you will do.

Do I Have to Give Up My Education?
Calm Reading by Rob Tolomei via Flickr cc.
It sounds like you think being with a military man means that your education will be a waste and that you won’t be able to pursue a career. This is a common misconception. it's true that a lot of military wives don't work, but that doesn't mean they couldn't. 

I am another example of this. I got married at 19, while I was in college, and I graduated, and went on to work as a reporter and then become a published author. 

I know women who didn’t marry their Sailors right away and continued dating, and I know women who married, had children, and still finished college. I know military wives who didn't go to college but still work and enjoy their jobs. I've met military wives who are nurses, teachers, stand-up comedians, and even military officers themselves. You can do whatever you want to do and don’t let anyone tell you different! You might have to work hard or deal with some challenges that other people don’t, but if go after it, then you can do it. 

Can I Have a Career if I Marry A Military Man?
Also just because you have to move around in the military doesn't mean you can't pursue a career. Lots of people move around while building a career and lots of people move around because of one person's career requires it. This is true for civilians too. 

As a couple you can make decisions about where you are going to live to make sure that you both have equal opportunities for your careers. You get to choose orders. You might only have a couple of options, but if you’re career depends on you working in a city, then you two can choose San Diego over Lemoore or whatever. Also just become you go to a small town doesn't mean you won't find a job.

Some couples pick a place where there will always be orders and just stay. Just because moving is common doesn't mean it's the only option.

Do I have No Say About Where We Live?
Gigi in the city by Paolobarzman via Flickr cc.
Sometimes, I and other military wives talk about having to move to small isolated towns, but it's not like we had no other choice. My husband and I moved to Fallon, Nevada right after I graduated college. We could have tried for somewhere else, but Fallon was the best option for his career and since I was going into journalism and it would be easier to start at a small paper, it didn't affect my career plans as much as his. Now as an author, I work from home, so if his career needed us to move somewhere, that's where we would go, but that doesn't mean that we don't have a choice.

The really important thing is to talk to your Sailor about all of these thoughts and fears in a rational way. I say rational because if you just go on a fear rant, he might get overwhelmed, but if you both communicate, and you make sure he is aware of your wants and needs for the future, there is no reason why you can’t work together to meet those goals. Both of you will have to make some compromises, but it doesn’t mean he gets everything and you get nothing.

Dusty Touchscreen by Francois Schnell via Flickr cc.

Can this Relationship Work When We Never See Each Other?
I also wanted to address your fears about the separation. If you were able to reconnect on a romantic level and start dating when you haven’t seen each other in person for years, then I think you will be fine when it comes to dealing with separation. 

Everyone starts out in a position of not knowing what’s going to happen or how they will make it, but you just keep at it. Over time you gain knowledge and a tolerance to the separation that makes it easier. 

During my first detachment experience, I had so many freak outs, and days where I just screamed and cried with frustration, but now after years of experience, my husband can go away for a month or a couple of months, and it's not really a big deal anymore.

When it comes to when you finally do get to be a couple in person, I think you will be all right. Just keep in mind that even for couples who are married for years, the homecoming comes with a "honeymoon phase," which has that thrill and uncertainty of when you first started dating. Since this is your first homecoming and the first time you seen him in person as a couple, it's probably going to be intense. It's going to feel fast, and crazy, but also awesome! The homecoming honeymoon phase is one of the best experiences, so don't get caught up in whether it's okay to be feeling the way you guys do or whether or not it's normal. Just go with it, enjoy each other, and have fun. After all these years, you've earned it!

Overall, I want you to know that you have just as much chance of having a successful relationship as anyone else. It’s okay to be afraid and unsure. It’s healthy that you are, but don’t let those thoughts or other people’s doubts prevent you from following your heart. You’ve already been doing that, so you’ve already got what it takes. You are doing good, and you can do this! Be confident and kind to yourself. You deserve it!

With the best of wishes for you and your Sailor,
Stephanie Carroll

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About Stephanie Carroll
U&E Founder & Author
Buy Her Book A White Room!
Photo by Randy Enriquez
I dated and married my husband in 2004 when I was 19. I felt like an outsider for the first half of our marriage. He didn't understand what I needed to know about the Navy, and I didn't know what to ask.

After ten years of learning in the Navy, I founded Unhinged & Empowered. I wanted to spread the knowledge that I needed when I was new, to reveal what took years for me to learn.   
Cover Design by Jenny Q
In addition to being a Navy Wife, I am also a novelist. I write historical women's fiction.

My first novel A White Room debuted in 2013 and is about a woman forced to sacrifice her own ambitions of becoming a nurse to marry a man who can save her destitute family. He moves her to a strange, small town where she slowly succumbs to madness until she stumbles on an opportunity to nurse to the poor despite the fact that her husband prosecutes unlicensed practitioners.

Learn more at and connect with me @CarrollBooks on Twitter, Facebook, or on Pinterest!

Join My Journey.
Subscribe Today! 
Only Four Emails a Year!

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