Spouses Transitioning to Civilian Life - Premier Counseling
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veteran spouses

Spouses Transitioning to Civilian Life

By: Donnabelle Hess


Spouses Going Back to Civilian Life


Spouses transitioning to civilian life will be faced with challenges not unlike those of their veteran partners. Just as your retired or discharged spouse has acclimated to a certain way of living, so have you. Many of us feel so humbled in the face of the accomplishments and sacrifices of our spouses that we don’t realize how we have shaped our lives around these shared commitments to duty and honor. 


Transitioning back to civilian life as a spouse is going to come with its own obstacles, emotional upheavals and oddities, and even moments of grief. All of this is normal, and it’s equally important that you, as a spouse, take the time to process all of what you’ve been through together. 

spouse of veteran transitioning to civilian life

Photo by Christian Erfurt

What to Expect as a Spouse


Re-entering the civilian world will be markedly more bizarre for your spouse, and there are some things to bear in mind in that regard.


Your spouse may cycle through euphoric excitement about all the possibilities that lie ahead, all the new opportunities and the special freedoms that come from being a civilian again. Then they may feel dread and anxiety about those same possibilities and opportunities, wishing they had someone to direct them where to go and what to do next, uncomfortable with the lack of authority over them or any clear path forward. Then there is the grief.


Your spouse’s grief is a key stepping stone to their acclimation to the civilian world, and while it may be confusing (to both of you!), it’s important to validate, and give space to speak about. You yourself may feel that grief too.


It is a grief and fear that comes with the unpredictability of civilian life; once there was structure, strict regimens and regulations, social and professional expectations and standards you both became used to. Now, it may feel like there’s only chaos and disorganization. 

Photo by Radu Florin

Honoring Yourself


Your spouse will have many choices ahead; where to live short or long term, whether or not to extend, start, or reroute their education, or what fields to explore for their future careers or jobs. This will weigh on them, and that will translate to you too. Make sure to keep yourself open and available as much as you can be without overextending yourself.


You are going to need time to adjust too, and you too will need room for your feelings. Keep clear lines of communication open, speak kindly and openly about what you might be missing about your old way of life while still appreciating what you both have now. Nostalgia can lie to us too, especially when times get hard, so make sure you’re there to reality-check each other through the worst of it.


The past is a lovely place to visit, but not a place to stay. Give yourself and your spouse permission to miss those feelings of security, adventure, or what have you, but be sure to bring both of you back to the present. You are here, now, and making the most of it is up to the both of you.


If you are a spouse transitioning back to the civilian world with your partner, allow us the opportunity to serve you as you have served us and our communities. Call our team to schedule an appointment whenever you’re ready, and we’ll help you both through the highs and lows of re-acclimating.

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