I found Dr. DaLomba's research paper called "The Experiences of Active Duty Military Spouses with Advanced Degrees in Maintaining and Advancing Their Careers" when I was working on my dissertation. When I read her paper, I was blown away! I felt like it HAD to be covered on the podcast. In this episode, Dr. DaLomba and I discuss some of the concerns military spouses face with their careers as well as some of the creative ways they can navigate work and military life.
IN THIS PODCAST
Introduction to Dr. Elaina DaLomba
Dr. Elaina DaLomba is a military spouse and at the time of the recording she is a Professor for the Army at Fort Sam. She's been married 26 years and her husband has been in the Air Force for 21 years. The idea for her research started when she was working on her PhD while they were stationed overseas in England. She has a history working as a social worker and then went into occupational therapy. While they were overseas she saw a lot of military spouses struggling with finding work overseas. While some people thrived, others were falling apart and she became really interested in exploring what allowed some people to thrive. After her PhD, she did a qualitative study with military spouses that is discussed in this episode.
It's taken creativity to navigate my own career in a way that still feels good and authentic to who I want to be while being a military spouse". -- Elizabeth Polinsky
How military spouse employment is related to healthy and happy military relationships
Military spouse employment is related to the retention of military service members. Many military service members are getting out of the military due to the unemployment, underemployment, and dissatisfaction for military spouses wanting to pursue their own careers.
Meaningful work experiences are tied to personal identity and self-esteem. This then ties into couple relationship as well. If we are unhappy in our work, it spills over into our marriages.
While there are military family readiness programs and other programs that the government has introduced to be helpful, they don't always apply to people with advanced degrees. Based on Dr. DaLomba's research finding, the more you are specialized you are, the more chance you will be unemployed if you marry into the military. This is in contrast to the push for higher education for military spouses; but higher education may actually make it harder for you to be employed.
One of the articles she references in her research was titled "the recipe for a good military wife" which promotes very traditional gender roles. However, this doesn't fit for all military spouses. Many military spouses don't want to feel dependent; they want to feel autonomous and independent.
The results of the qualitative study:
We grow and thrive when we are doing meaningful activities, which can make it really hard to navigate moves for military spouses. She did interviews with a bunch of military spouses to learn about their experiences. Some of the main findings and points from our discussion included:
It's a form of resiliency to find a way to promote your own identity. Military spouses who were able to find meaning did so either by finding a creative solution, finding something adjacent to what they really wanted, or by doing something totally different but that also had meaning and fulfillment.
A lot of spouses said it's not what I do, it's who I am" -- Dr. Elaina DaLomba
Ways service members can support military spouses:
Tips & Take-aways from Dr. Elaina DaLomba
Dr. DaLomba's' article referenced in this podcast: DaLomba, E., Greer, M. J., Cruz, E., Harris, A., King, C., Laurel, L., McCuaig, T., & Wilder, R. (2021). The experiences of active duty military spouses with advanced degrees in maintaining and advancing their careers. Work (Reading, Mass.), 68(2), 387–398. https://doi.org/10.3233/WOR-203380
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Thanks for Listening!
Elizabeth Polinsky is a marriage and couple therapist specializing in working with military members, veterans, and their families. Liz has offices in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Fallon, Nevada, and also provides online counseling services throughout Virginia, Nevada, South Carolina, and Arkansas.
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The Communicate & Connect Podcast
In Communicate & Connect For Military Relationships, I provide educational tips for relationships, communication, and navigating military family life.
Hey, I'm Dr. Elizabeth "Liz" Polinsky and I am a marriage counselor in Virginia Beach. I provide online counseling across the states of VA, MD, NC, SC, AR, and NV.