Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How Supporting Your Sailor can Help his or her Career

By Author Stephanie Carroll

New Navy Wives and Navy Girlfriends may notice that two types of Military Spouses stand out: One is caught up in the drama of close quarters and thinks of herself as entitled in general or due to her husband’s rank. The other will bite her tongue, stay out of drama and gossip, dress and act appropriately, and become the woman behind the man, in a sense, a first lady to the Navy.
Whoa! As I said these are two extremes and most people are not an extreme, but every new Navy Wife and Navy Girlfriend will find themselves somewhere between the two. As a Navy Wife, we are representatives of the Navy ourselves. The Navy cannot hold us to the same expectations as our Sailors because we are not contracted to the Military, but whether we or the Navy likes it, we are connected. Even though we are not employed by the US Navy, our actions can affect our Sailors' employment. Yes, when they consider a Sailor for promotion, boards look at the Sailors' Wives too.

You may be thinking, that’s not right, but the Navy is not bound by the same rules as civilian businesses and the connection to the Spouse is not the same as in a civilian workplace. Although I'm sure some civilian businesses consider similar stuff if it affects job performance.

If you were looking to promote someone and that person’s Spouse had been kicked out of the local pub after vomiting on the dance floor, would you want that couple at your next business dinner? Or if a Sailor’s Spouse had gotten so caught up in local drama that she showed up at the workplace to yell at someone, would you want that Sailor in a position of authority?

I compare this to a first lady because the president’s wife is not a member of the government or a paid politician, and yet she serves an important role as a representative of the United States. She does not just sit in The White House and redecorate. She does speaking engagements and charity work in addition to establishing and even running social programs. This isn’t her job description, and she is not paid, but she goes to that level to support her husband and the country. Now would you elect a president if his wife was arrested for a DUI? It's not the person running for president, but we all would wonder if those problems would find their way into a president's work performance.

So as a new Navy Wife or Navy Girlfriend, what can you do to make sure you fall on the right side of the spectrum and thus can actually help your husband land that promotion? This is in a way Navy Wife Etiquette.

1.     Avoid the drama and gossip. Just stay out of it.
If you are the type of person that likes a little drama, (hey I'm with ya) try to get that thrill from reality shows or movies, or some other outlet, just don’t make things harder for your Sailor by making drama affect your entire lives.
2.     Be Respectful.
Bite your tongue. There will be times when someone says something or does something to you that makes you want to slap ‘em, say when a friend complains about her husband going away for a weekend when she knows yours has been gone for eleven months. Stop! Don’t shoot! I know it just slices into you, but you have to remember that for her, that experience is hard, and you have to respect that.
Photo: Navy Wife by Alirjd via Flickr cc 
3.     Let Your Sailor Solve Work Problems
Never, ever try to solve your Sailor’s problems by calling his or her workplace or chain of command. Don’t try to talk to his boss or Sailors under him about work problems when you are at a social function. Leave the work to the Sailor. For some, this seems obvious but the problem is that the Navy chain of command can get involved in family issues so some think its appropriate to take family issues to the chain of command. It's not. Unless it's seriously urgent, it's just not.
4.     Be Responsible
It’s not something I ever knew until my husband became an authority figure, but when Sailors have problems at home, their chain of command will get involved. What! Why? Because, Military Members are dealing with life and death. Their jobs are dangerous, and they can’t be distracted by the fact that they can’t pay rent. If you have major problems at home, it becomes work problems. If you have a problem, something like debt or unpaid bills, your Sailor won’t look like he or she is capable of handling responsibility and won't look good for promotion.
5.     Be Appropriate and Schmooze
As a Navy Wife or Navy Girlfriend, there will be times when you meet people high up on the chain of command. Just be respectful, dress appropriately, smile and laugh when the others do. Maybe even schmooze a little. The ability to mingle as a Military couple is important for networking purposes. If a Sailor’s Spouse is clearly pouting when she is introduced to an important officer, that authority figure will not want to network with your Sailor and when the board considers him or her, the officer won't have that personal connection that could give your Sailor a leg up.
6.     Never Trash Talk, Be Positive
Yes, sometimes being a Navy Wife sucks, and it is important to vent to people who you know and trust, but you should never talk straight up trash about the Navy, aspects of Navy Life, or members of the Military. This is especially true when you are speaking to people you’ve only just met or don’t know very well. I’m not saying you have to be fake or lie. You can say things are hard, and it’s a challenge, but then end it on a positive note, like you are surviving or getting through it. Don’t act like you and your problems are more difficult or important than others because you are going to be hanging out with people who get shot at for a living.
7.     Work on Your Relationship and Never Fight in Public
Having a relationship is hard. Having one under the stress of a Military life is crazy. Don’t wait until things fall apart. Take the time to learn how to have a healthy relationship now. Read books or online articles or attend a Fleet and Family class. Remember, your home issues can become his work issues, especially if you take your fights out with you. Sometimes, a couple will take a fight out with them to a party. You all know that couple who seems to be subtly or overtly insulting one another making everyone else feel awkward. It's just another thing that won't make your Sailor look good. 
Chief Construction Electrician Leonardo Calderon
has his anchors pinned by his wife during
his meritorious promotion to chief petty
officer by Official US Navy Page via Flickr cc
8.     Be There for Your Sailor
There will be times when your Sailor is struggling with the job, and you can support him or her by emphasizing, listening, encouraging, and being understanding. Don’t use a hard day as your chance to say you think he should get out of the Military or that he has a problem with procrastination. Be there for your Sailor. Be a rock, a shoulder to lean on, a partner, someone who helps him succeed in what he wants to do. It’s a hard thing to separate your wants in this way, but even if you didn’t choose the Military, you chose to be with him while he is with the Military. You have to stand by that choice and stand by your Sailor. He should stand by you and your career goals in the same way.
9.     Volunteer
You are already doing a whole lot just by being a Military Spouse, but if you really want you and your Sailor to shine, volunteer somewhere on base, like at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, the Ombudsmen Program, or the Family Readiness Group. Your volunteer work will be noted in his record. This demonstrates that you support his career in the Navy to the point of getting involved yourself. This doesn’t just make you and your husband look good, it is also fulfilling to take all the struggle and frustration and use it to help others.
10.  Be Your Own Person
Although all of these tips are suggesting that you support your husband, you shouldn’t feel like you have to sacrifice your life to support him. Besides, a large chunk of your marriage will be on your own. You need your own goals and projects to keep you from going insane. Even the first lady has her own endeavors and you should too.

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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!

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