No matter your gender, being a military spouse is tough. But what has traditionally been a woman’s role now includes a lot more men.
There are more military husbands than ever before — 189,000 by some estimates. The number has grown as more women enter the armed forces, and now with the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’
Being a military spouse involves long stretches at home while loved ones are deployed, not to mention sacrificing careers to follow a spouse to different bases. For men, it also upends traditional gender roles.
“You feel like, oh, I’m not a guy. I’m not supporting my family the way I’m supposed to,” said Chris Pape, whose wife Maj. Dana Pape has served in the Air Force for nearly two decades.
But nearly all the resources to support spouses are targeted at military wives — not husbands. So Pape created a website and support network: Macho Spouse.
“Guys don’t normally open up to their wives about their feelings, and feelings of emasculation, depression. They feel more comfortable doing that with other men instead of their wives,” Pape said.
The site includes advice, message boards and video interviews with military husbands, who open up about their experiences. The goal is to help keep military families strong.
“We know the statistics that female active duty members have a divorce rate that’s three times higher than the male counterparts,” said Pape, “so we’re trying to reverse that trend and bring it down.”
Credit: Bradley Blackburn and Joanna Suarez