So you’re going to be a pilot’s wife!
Run while you can Congratulations! Whether you’ve just tied the knot or are getting ready to, here are some tips that I think you’ll find helpful. I’ve been with my pilot for 11 years, and we’re coming up on 9 mostly awesome years of marriage. While this is nowhere near as long as some other pilot wives (my friends included), I think it’s been long enough that I can offer some advice. And while my marriage is nowhere near perfect (hahahaha, oh that made me laugh), I’ve learned a ton along the way. I want to pass this on to you, mainly so you have an idea of what to expect, but also so that you can learn from my mistakes.
Expect the Unexpected
If you haven’t learned this yet, you will fast. There is nothing steady or stable about aviation life. From moving to different states (or sometimes countries), to schedule changes (oh, you thought he would be home tonight? Yeah, that’s not happening) to upgrading, and downgrading, regionals to majors, and everything in between, stability is nowhere to be found.
So, how to deal? Roll with the punches. You have to be flexible or you will go insane. Just realize it now: You have no control. And your pilot has no control over it, either. So you can either get caught up in the unfairness, the inhumanity, the injustice of it all… Or you can recognize early on that it is what it is, so you might as well just go with it.
Trust me, the latter option makes your life SO much easier.
That girl that your husband was dating, remember her? The one who had interests and hobbies, who loved to laugh and create adventures, who shared her hopes and dreams for the future with bright eyes and a sense of humor. The one who was down for a spontaneous roll in the hay and who also loved to go do things, who was opinionated and sometimes sassy, the one who loved fiercely and wanted to travel and try new things.
Don’t ever let her leave you. Do everything in your power to keep her around, because when you’re managing finances and the household and laundry and dinner and trying to find time to clean somewhere in there and what the hell, why am I the only one doing shit around here and omg if I have to listen to him talk flying for another minute I swear to God and what do you mean what have I been doing while you’ve been gone – she can seem a long ways away, like a distant memory. Don’t lose sight of her. Keep your interests, and keep your hobbies, and keep your sense of humor, because you are going to need them. They will be your lifeline in the midst of monotony.
Just because you are married doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself. Your husband does not complete you, you complete you. Yes, you are part of a team, a new family. But being a wife doesn’t define you, it’s just another part of your awesome self. So stay awesome.
Loneliness Is a Choice
Yep, I said it. Because it’s true. There is so much world out there left for you to discover! Life doesn’t end with marriage. It ends when you have kids. (That’s a joke, I promise. Kids are awesome. Especially when they’re asleep.)
Loneliness is a choice. Why? Because you are only going to be as lonely as you want to be. I’m not going to sit at home and bemoan the fact that my husband is gone when I could be doing something fun instead. Yes, I have a job and responsibilities. No, that doesn’t mean I have to go home every night and do nothing. How boring is that?! I don’t have time for loneliness when I’m busy.
There are far too many resources available to make excuses. Remember those hobbies and interests you kept? Find friends who like to do the same thing and hang out! This is the perfect time in your life to do all the things you want to do before you start having kids.
Have a girls’ night out with friends, meet new people, meet neighbors, meet people in groups online (like pilot wife groups on Facebook – or anywhere you can find support. Having friends in the industry who “get it” is a lifesaver) and get yourself out there. Take a cooking class, go to movies (that your husband might not be into – Magic Mike 2, anyone?), go to parks, and go to museums. Read books and magazines out by the pool. Do what makes you happy!
You know what’s not lonely? Enjoying your own company. Eating powdered donuts and drinking wine on the couch while binge-watching Orange is The New Black in my pajama pants isn’t lonely either. That’s called fabulous.
The point is, of course you are going to be lonely sometimes. That is inevitable. But what are you going to do about it? Are you going to sit around and wallow in your loneliness, or are you going to go out and enjoy your life? Being a pilot wife offers a certain (and glorious) amount of freedom to do what you want that other wives don’t often experience. Take advantage!
Self-Reliance Is Your Friend
Remember what I said earlier about expecting the unexpected? Well there’s this rule among pilot wives, it’s pretty much Murphy’s law of aviation: Whatever can go wrong while your pilot is gone, will go wrong.
Whether it’s car issues, house issues, or medical issues, you should have a plan in place for when the unavoidable shit hits the fan. (Here’s a handy post I wrote about things you should know how to do yourself.) The more you know how to do on your own, the more confident you’ll be in handling things when they do go wrong.
Sure, it can be intimidating to learn to do things yourself. But I can’t even tell you how empowering it is. I am now a master of assembling IKEA furniture, changing a flat tire, and handling other emergencies. I’m also a master of knowing when to call for help if something is out of my depth. There’s only so much I can handle, and knowing my limits is something I consider to be a strength. I can do a lot, but not everything!
This is another big one. Maybe the biggest big one. It’s vital to your relationship that you stay connected. Because the little things building up into big things are what tear so many aviation families apart. It’s easy to let things slide and become bad habits. It happens. But you have to put the work into your marriage in order to get what you want out of it. And it. Takes. Work. A lot of it, sometimes.
So keep dating each other. Keep dating, and keep kissing, and keep holding hands. Keep asking each other questions, stay interested in each other, and stay interesting. Text each other, call each other, and FaceTime each other. Whatever it is that keeps you both feeling that spark, do it. Here’s another post I wrote about how to keep the sizzle going when you’re married to a pilot.
Best of luck to you as you start your journey together!
The Flight Wife