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Surviving a Spouse’s Transition

By Liz Brown

A letter to my husband:

I read something today about overcoming the fear of failure. This is something you're struggling with now, something you've been struggling with since separating from the military. You got a 9-5 job, you punched the clock, you did what you thought you were supposed to do on the outside, and you were miserable. I know you hated sitting at that desk. I know no part of you delighted in the fact you could fall asleep for half an hour in that back corner cubicle and no one would notice. You miss your brothers, you miss the thrill, you miss feeling like you have purpose — real purpose. I wish I knew how to help you feel that again. I wish I could stoke the dying fire in your belly and make you eager to greet the day. But it has to come from you.

It's not been easy to realize I can't fix this. In the beginning I hoped our life would be enough. Being a husband, being a daddy to our dog in practice to be a father to our children, I hoped these new occupations would inspire you. I am now learning I can't pour our life into the hole left by 12 years in the SEAL Teams. You may get plenty of positive affirmation from me and our mutt, but you're missing a certain personal and professional fulfillment that we can't give you. I have to stand back and let you find it. And it's not an easy thing, Love, to feel like you're going somewhere I can't follow. I just hope you get there.

Right now you fear you won't. You're stuck in that awful place between zero and one. You battle every single day with your very existence, desperate to understand why you're here and what comes next. The waves that crash over and threaten to swallow you now are colder and more violent than any you faced in your career. Sometimes you even wish they would pull you under for good so you can stop fighting and feel peace.

Hold on, Darling. There's a remarkable world out there that has been waiting for you for so long. Just give it a chance. Take off the body armor. You don't know who you are anymore? Well, you are not what you've done, and you are not what you do. You are as intelligent, clever, hilarious, and brave a man now as you were as an operator. You can be anything you want. There is no failing as long as you try.

I believe in you. I love you.