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What is an Army Wife?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A woman with a husband who is serving in the Army is often said to be an “Army wife.” Military culture can be very insular and the spouses and dependent children of people who serve in the military become a part of that culture by association. There are a number of social expectations for Army wives, especially for women married to officers, and women married to members of the army are commonly expected to be willing to make sacrifices for the careers of their husbands.

Some Army wives have careers of their own. It is possible for members of the military to be married to each other, and Army wives may engage in a variety of other careers as well. One problem for an Army wife pursuing her own career is that because her husband may be reassigned or deployed, she can be forced to relocate. Women trying to establish careers may find it difficult to relocate constantly, especially if they have professional certifications that may require recertification in a new place of residence.

Wives of officers are expected to assist with entertaining and socializing. Officers with wives who are perceived as aloof or standoffish can have difficulty progressing in the ranks. While rankings are theoretically merit-based, recommendations from superior officers count, and superior officers consider not just someone's ability as a soldier, but also someone's connection with the community, when deciding who to recommend for promotion. A married officer who is known for hosting social events, being friendly on base and in the community, and participating in local events is less likely to be passed over for promotion. Supportive spouses are also considered when evaluating whether or not someone is likely to stay in the army in the long term.

Life for an Army wife can be stressful. Service in the Army is dangerous and when partners are on deployment, maintaining constant communication can be a challenge. Returning soldiers may be stressed and sometimes have difficulty adjusting to life on base or in a civilian community. An Army wife who supports and helps her partner can be an important part of successful reintegration after a deployment.

Marriage is a partnership, and some people struggle to make marriages work with the military as a third party. Some Army wives find reassignments and other hardships associated with the military very difficult, as they are constantly forced to establish new networks of friends. This can become even more complicated when children are involved, as an Army wife may be concerned about creating a stable home and school life for her children.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments
By discographer — On Sep 17, 2012

I'm a new army wife. My husband and I got married a year and a half ago. He is currently deployed and we have spent more time apart than we have together since we married. But overall, being army wife is great.

I am really proud of my hubby and what he does. It's not easy to be away from him for so long but when he's back, it feels like we never separated. I've also started to be involved in the military community and I hang out with a few other army wives on a regular basis.

I really do feel like I am part of the military culture now. If I'm able to support my husband and make his life a little bit easier while he serves our country, I will be the happiest wife ever!

By burcinc — On Sep 16, 2012

@donasmrs-- I agree with you but I also think that army wives are really strong women and they are very proud of their husbands. In order to be there for their families, they have to be strong, they have to keep their spirits high and they have to think positively.

By donasmrs — On Sep 15, 2012

I, personally, am not an army wife but I have several close friends who are. As someone who is familiar with the life of an army wife, I think the hardest part about it is the fact that their partner's life is in danger.

Army wives usually do not go with their husbands to conflict zones and the anticipation and the waiting can take its toll on the wives psychologically.

One of my friend's husband served in Iraq and is now serving in Afghanistan. They have two small daughters and she knows that there is always a possibility that her husband might not return. It's just so sad and stressful.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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