Army Officer Wive’s Etiquette: Tips for Success

I wasn’t going to write this post.  However, I think that if I can even help one Army Officer’s wife understand proper etiquette in the Army it will be well worth my time.  I realize I might get some slack for writing this, but I’m a big boy and I can deal with that.

Let me begin by telling you that the Army is a very unique organization with lots of honors and traditions.  Whether on Active Duty or in the Army Reserves or Army National Guard, there is a certain etiquette for Officer’s wives.  It is MUCH different than the civilian world where there is a huge separation from work and family.  In the Army, the actions or support of a wife can have a HUGE impact on her husband’s career.

While I personally disagree with some of the traditions and etiquette for Officer’s wives, I also realize that is a REALITY.

What I want to do in the rest of this post is share some etiquette tips for Army Officer Wives from a male officer’s perspective.  Being a former Field Grade Officer myself, I think I have a few tips that will help you with your etiquette challenges and concerns.

# 1 You are NOT an Army Officer Yourself! – I know, you have an ID card that you are a dependent, but please realize that you are not an Army Officer yourself.  There is a joke that goes around that the wife always outranks her husband.  That might be true on the home-front, but that’s pretty much where it ends.  If you are married a Colonel, for example, don’t drive around base acting like you are a  Colonel yourself.  Don’t think you can tell Army Officers what to do!  This makes you and your husband both look bad!

# 2 Treat Everyone with Respect – Don’t let your husband’s rank go to your head. You are not better than anyone else.  I am no better than anyone else.  Neither is your husband.  Don’t look at your husband’s subordinate’s wives and think you are better than them.  Don’t have an ego trip and try to boss them around or tell them what to do.  You are not their boss or supervisor.

# 3 Support Your Husband – Wives should support their husbands.  Husbands should support their wives.  Sounds like pretty common sense.  Whenever possible, you need to be supportive of your husband.  You must understand that the Army comes first. You don’t have to like it, but that’s the way it is, especially on Active Duty!  You should do your best to be supportive and not guilt trip him for having to deploy or go to the field.  Don’t guilt trip for having to work long hours or be gone a lot.  You knew what you were getting yourself into when you got married.

# 4 Realize that What You Do Affects Your Husband – Everything you do in the public eye (and even behind the scenes) has a direct or indirect effect on your husband.  If you get a DWI on base, your husband will get slack.  If you cause drama your husband will hear about it.  If you don’t attend the mandatory fun events with your husband, realize your husband will hear about it from his boss.  If you file for bankruptcy or commit a major offense, realize that it can affect your husband’s security clearance. Never forget that.

Once again, I’m just trying to share some tips to help.  I realize that most Officer’s wives do an EXCELLENT job in all of these areas. These tips are really designed for new spouses!

On a side note, I am not saying that all of these things are right.  They are just a reality in the Army.  You can either accept them or ignore them.

The bottom line that serving as an Army Officer’s wife is a really unique experience unlike anything you will experience in the civilian world.  Just realize that there are some things that you should do and some things that you should not do.  Follow the advice in this post and you will be well on your way.

What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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5 thoughts on “Army Officer Wive’s Etiquette: Tips for Success”

  1. Reading this is bringing back a lot of memories of Army wives and families parading around with false senses of achievement and importance, undeservedly tooting their horns…Sorry to sound bitter, but that’s really how it was. There are tons of great, respectful military families,but it’s much easier to remember the bad for whatever reason. I recall some of my classmates, children of highly ranked officers, getting out of trouble in school and in the community because of their parent(s). I also recall a number of times that Army spouses used their husband’s rank as leverage to get certain parking spots (which were actually not authorized to park in), get certain seats in a movie theater, jumping to the front of lines, and so on. Maybe it is a sort of taboo topic,but if this article can help even just a small number of dependents understand their role, it was worth writing.

  2. Whether it’s PC or not to talk about an Army Officer’s wife’s responsibilities, you’re right — it’s a fact of life in the Army. My brother was a Captain with evaluation reports always in the top five percent. Yes, he got 95% or higher on every single one. His wife, a woman from a country he had been stationed in, did not understand the politics of being a U.S. Army wife. She did not attend functions. She did not participate in volunteer work, she did not really do anything expected of her, although she didn’t do anything “wrong” either.

    When he got passed over twice for Major, his friend on the promotion board told him that the real reason he got passed over was because she did not play the game the way she was supposed to. My brother had twelve years in and had planned on being a career officer, but his wife’s lack of acceptance of her responsibilities killed that plan in its tracks. Your spouse’s behavior CAN affect your career!

    1. That story is pretty extreme, but I have seen several officers “plateau” in their career because their wife didn’t fit the “Army wife” mold. It sucks, but the Army is a unique organization.

  3. This is always a touchy subject, but I think it was handled well. The main transgression I've seen is thinking your spouse's rank gives you a standing you may not have earned.
    Also, as a side note, all of these points mentioned go for ALL DEPENDENTS as well. I've seen many children become a serious burden to parents due to extremely poor choices.

    1. I agree. If I saw a kid trying to act like they had their parent’s rank, I would put them in place. No kid will ever be a Sergeant First Class or Colonel, not as a kid anyway.

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