Get over yourself n’ get along, civvy hubby told

A male, civilian spouse finishing up his advanced degree struggles to find his place within his Soldier wife’s family.  Suggestions and a gentle well placed kick of their veteran boots comes from Ft. Leonard Wood’s fine advice columnists, Pam and Shaun Collins. What do you think of their suggestions for the civilian fella’s attitude and their advice on how to manage a longer visit well?

Tyne out of place in the family set

Tyne out of place in the family set

READER Quandry: First, let me frame up my issue. When someone says, “your wife wears combat boots,” I take it as a compliment, because she is the Soldier and I am the spouse. I was never in the military, only a Family member.  While my wife is in the military, I have taken the last year to work on my doctoral dissertation. It requires a lot of hours, fieldwork, clinical studies and writing, re-writing and re-writing again. 

My studies are a full-time occupation.  Now, that said, we are going to visit her Family, and with the exception of my wife, the highest education for any of them is high school.
They hunt, I don’t; They farm, I’ve been to a petting zoo; Their idea of a great evening is Monday Night Football, mine is reading a book — get the picture?
I just am a fish out of water there.  All of her Family goes out of their way to make me feel comfortable, but after five years, it’s still pretty awkward. I have tried to find common ground or develop a common interest, but it just doesn’t work.  Now we are looking at three  weeks there before moving to our new location and I am feeling ill about it. Any ideas  on how to manage this situation?
Shaun Collins responds call for help ahead of American Thanksgiving

Shaun M. Collins

HE SAID:  I too, am proud of my wife’s service and am happy that you are comfortable with your partner’s service; however, that’s not the issue you are seeking insights to ­ so let’s cut to the chase.

My wife and I are also the most highly educated people within our Families, but it has never created any tension within our Families. I want you to put on your big-kid pants on for a moment as I’m going to address what you’re bringing to the table, as that’s all you can actually change.

When you chose to marry your wife, you married her entire Family.  Further, I suspect that you are the one bringing most of the alleged awkwardness to the family gatherings. I very well could be wrong, but just in what you offered in your question, I suspect you feel you are somehow “above” them intellectually and in your “social evolution.”
One thing I have learned to appreciate is that no level of education makes someone automatically smarter than any other. Some of the smartest people I’ve ever known were high school dropouts or graduates with no further formal education.
Even though I have three graduate degrees, I find myself in awe of the problem solving skills and intellectual capacity of some of these people, including my grandfather, who had all of a 10th grade education.The more “sophisticated” people are, the more they seem to look down their nose at people who hunt, farm and work with their hands – if this is the case with your wife’s Family; they are not the problem, you are.If you truly want to bond with them, engage in activities with an open mind, not merely to placate them on the surface while internally condemning them for what you might judge to be their ignorant and primitive ways.  When you stop taking yourself so seriously, you will be able to appreciate what you can learn from people you had not considered your equals before.
I hope you can take this with the intent. It’s meant – to tell you what you need to hear rather than what you may want to hear. If not, I hope I have planted a seed that will some day take root. Until then, good luck and continued success.
Pam Collins

Pam Collins

SHE SAID:  Three weeks is a long time to spend with people you like and have things in common with. Wasn’t it Mark Twain who said that fish and guests start to smell after three days?

What you need is a game plan. Some form of diversion.
I’m not saying you should spend no time with your wife’s Family, but you need to find other things to do to keep yourself occupied besides sitting around, staring at each other. Find activities in the local area that you can engage in together as a Family, or something you and your wife can go off and do together for a couple of hours.
Where does your own Family live? Would it be possible to spend a portion of that time with them? If not, would it be possible to take a mini-vacation, just you and your wife, in the middle of the three weeks to break up the time together with the larger group?As for the time you will be spending with them, I would say to make the best of it. I’m sure she loves her Family, and you love her, so it’s only right that you try to get along as much as you can.
Three  weeks may seem like a very long time, but in the big scheme of things, it is not too bad. Just think how rough it would be if they lived right across the street-all the time!
Keep Calm

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