A Military Spouse’s Perspective: Is a Military Spouse Stealing Respect? – with Richelle Futch


Today my guest is Richelle Futch. Richelle has built and scaled multiple ventures across technology, education, nonprofit and service based industries. She is a sponsorship specialist, an author, a public speaker and a trainer.

Richelle is a former Marine, current military spouse and advocate for military employment, preventative mental health care and reform. She has worked with congress members on policy reform and has been invited to the White House on behalf of her work and advocacy efforts.

Together we explore some of the similarities between a military family and a family where a partner is a humanitarian for example. We touch on the aspect of calling, or vocation which means physical separation from spouse and children. Non-Military families can learn from what helps military families succeed.

In this Episode:

  1. Richelle explains why she wrote her post (which later went viral)
  2. She shares challenges military families experience.
  3. What Richelle thinks military families need to succeed.
  4. Richelle gives us what she has learned in her solo parenting journey.
  5. What Richelle would say to the family of a humanitarian going to a country at war for example.

Resources mentioned in the episode

  1. Berry’s acculturation model (see example here)
  2. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (see explanation here)
  3. www.herruck.com

Contact Richelle


Richelle’s LinkedIn Post: Full Text – Posted on 16 August 2022

“This past week I’ve been seeing some harsh posts in some social media groups about military spouses.

I have seen quite a few folks completely obliterate military spouses for identifying as military spouses. Saying “You don’t serve.” Or ask, “Why do you put that on your profile or resume?” Followed by hurtful bashing remarks disguised as humor.

Just some insight from my experience as both a veteran and military spouse…

When I say my spouse is active duty, I am not trying to say his accomplishments are mine. Not at all. What I am conveying is, as the spouse of someone who has been to war… multiple times, has a high optempo job, is dealing with a lot of stuff they can’t always control or discuss, and is gone… a lot, I am impacted by this and it requires me to pivot my plans last minute, solo parent for months at a time, adjust, re-adjust, be emotionally intelligent, maintain my interests/career/friends/boundaries/ all knowing that the needs of the military comes first …so, my plans while good in theory really are never completely solid. That is quite a mouthful, so it is easier to say I’m a military spouse and hope that the person receiving that understands ‘Oh there are outside factors impacting their life that are different (or the same) as mine’. There is transparency in that statement. It means my family belongs to a culture you may or may not understand.

My point is, identifying as a military spouse is not stolen valor.

That is all 🙂

Richelle Futch, LICSW• 1st Entrepreneur & Founder: Sponsorship Specialist. Veteran. Mental Health Counselor. Trainer


Rhoda Bangerter (00:04):

Welcome to Holding the Fort Abroad, the podcast for expats with travelling partners. My name is Rhoda Bangerter, I am a certified coach and the author of the book Holding the Fort Abroad. In this podcast, I interview men and women who live abroad and have travelling partners so that we can all benefit from their wisdom and experience, I also invite relationship experts to apply their expertise to this topic. Today my guest is Richelle Futch. Richelle has built and scaled multiple ventures across technology, education, non-profit and service-based industries. She is a sponsorship specialist, an author, a public speaker and a trainer.

Richelle is a former Marine, current special operations military spouse and advocate for military employment, preventative mental health care and reform. She has worked with congress members on policy reform and has been invited to the White House on behalf of her work and advocacy efforts.

Richelle, welcome to the show. I connected with you after seeing your post on LinkedIn that went viral about identifying as a military spouse and that it is, in fact, an acknowledgement of the family life that you lead.

Today I would like to explore with you some of the similarities between a military family and a family where a partner is a humanitarian, for example. With the aspect of calling, or vocation which means physical separation from spouse and children so that we can learn from what you see helps military families succeed.

Richelle Futch (01:06):

Thank you for having me.

Rhoda Bangerter (01:08):

I'm so excited to get your perspective and hear from your experience as well. I connected with you after seeing your post on LinkedIn on the 16th of August, that when viral about identifying as a military spouse, and you were saying in it that it is in fact an acknowledgement of the family life that you lead. But can you tell us a bit more about that post, why you wrote it? What's some of the things that you were seeing that prompted you to write it?

Richelle Futch (02:01):

Well, I'm pretty active in social media groups and things like that for my business, because I'm a mental health counselor and advocate. And so I like to be where the people are and see where the real struggles are. For some reason, the struggles can really come out in Facebook groups or online, in social media sites like that. And continually we're seeing this kind of barrage on military spouses as if they weren't serving in some aspect. And I think when you think of somebody who is in humanitarian effort, that is definitely serving, and for somebody to be at home, making sure that that person can go and do their mission in service, whether it's the military or something similar that's a service in itself, that's sacrifice in itself. If I'm being okay saying, ‘Hey, I might not be coming before this mission right now, that's sacrifice, that's service.

Richelle Futch (03:00):

I'm making sure that they don't have to worry about what's going on here at home while they're there because I need them to be focused on there to keep them safe, to keep them in the mission.

And to hear people dismiss military spouses or the person at home who's also clearly answering to a greater mission. It really troubled me. And so I did sort of have a rant on LinkedIn about this is the culture. We're in this community together and we're operating under these different rules, regulations, and circumstances that bind us together in this culture. And if you're outside of this culture, you may not understand what we're going through and to easily dismiss us or to say that we are stealing their valor for the service that they're providing just isn't fair. We're not saying we're doing that mission. We're saying we're making that mission possible. We're helping to make that mission possible, and it resonated with a lot of people.

Rhoda Bangerter (04:08):

Yeah. I mean, what you're saying is that it's an acknowledgement that they're a part of what's going on as well, that their contribution is important and that, and I think that's why it resonated with me. And I immediately responded saying, this is something that spouses of humanitarians or spouses of people who are contributing to a greater project or greater good need to hear. Because a lot of them don't even realize that this is their contribution or this is what they're in, and that they're in a whole other way of life, in a way.

And so that's why I responded immediately. I was like, ‘Oh, gosh, I need to speak to her’ <laugh> and get your perspective for these families.

So you talk about the impact that it has on the family at home. Also, I'm looking at what it's like for the partner who's away. But what do you see - primarily the audience of this podcast is a non-military audience - but I'd love to see what kind of challenges you see as your partner goes away for work.

Richelle Futch (05:41):

Yes. Yes. So, you know, every individual kind of goes through their own temporary grieving process of the system in which they're used to. So when my spouse is home, I have an extra driver, I have an extra set of hands, I have a partner, I have somebody that I can talk to. I have somebody to balance those things. And one of the things we often get compared to is single parents. Well, single parents, they create a system and then they're within the system. Where we are creating a system, and then our system changes. And so we gotta create a new system, and our system changes again. And then we gotta create a new system. It's hard to have consistent childcare, consistent support, consistent things when you don't have a consistent schedule yourself, because it's changing, it's dramatically changing.

And humanitarian efforts are happening all the time. And it could be very similar to ‘This just happened. Here's the need. We need to go.’ And that's very high tempo, like military ‘There's a need’ or ‘Something’s happening, we gotta go.’ And the family has to quickly adjust into that flip flop of ‘Okay, now I'm solo parenting. Now I need to make sure that my schedule's adjusted for this.’ If I have a career, now I don't have that same partner at home during these hours that I might have been working or shoveling in some work here. And we have to pivot a lot and we look around, and if the people in our circle aren't going through that, then they don't understand. If they are going through that, well, then it's hard to really express how difficult it is because we're normalizing it because that's what's normal for us.

Rhoda Bangerter (07:29):

Right. Right. And also, I suppose there's the fact that you, you are in a loving relationship, but when you need them, they're not necessarily there. And I think maybe it's something to come to terms with, I don't know if that's the right way of saying it, or something that needs to be taken into account anyway. In the fact of not necessarily relying the same way on each other as you might if they're there, or if you're together all the time in the same place.

Richelle Futch (08:05):

I think it really takes into account to be intentional when you're together so that you can almost hear your spouse's support in your head when they're gone. I know what my husband would say to me if I was going through a situation, and I also know that I've become stronger because I can handle a lot of things. And you only really become this super resilient person when you're thrust into a situation where you have to be resilient, you have to keep standing up, you have to keep moving forward with your mission at home, because that's what we have. We have our mission at home that we have to continue on too. And so I know the word resilience gets overused in the military population and to the point where we're almost sick of hearing it. And at the same time, it's true, you don't realize how strong you are until you have no other choice but to be strong and get through it.

And so when you wanna reach out and complain to your partner, or tell them… We have a lot of spouses that will say, ‘Don't tell them anything. Let them be in their mission. Their head has to be right.’ Well, my husband would not like me not telling him anything, but I'm not gonna call him from the side of the road when he's in another country because I have a flat tire. I'm gonna call, you know, my triple A or whoever that I have that I'm using to come and I'm gonna solve the problem. And then I might tell him later, ‘Oh yeah, I had a flat tire today’, but I handled it so I might be reporting to him what's going on at home. So he feels like he's part of it, but I'm not reaching out to him to solve the problem that I'm perfectly capable of solving at home.

Rhoda Bangerter (09:45):

Right, right. Right. Yeah. I remember someone was telling me a few months back, there was an incident and she was wondering whether she should tell her husband or not who was away. She's like, ‘Is it something that I need to worry him about?’ And it is the kind of questions we ask each other, we ask ourselves, you know,…

I suppose the point is to ask them ‘What do you wanna keep updated on? If there is a problem, do you wanna know straight away? Do you want me to…’ It can be helpful to be a bit upfront about that.

Richelle Futch (10:18):

What a great solution. Have a conversation ahead of time about what our expectations are. Knowing that there still might be some outliers. We never know exactly what we signed up for, however, we could have some conversations around it.

Rhoda Bangerter (10:33):

Yeah, for sure. For sure. And like I always say, illness and surprises and emergencies, they don't wait for them to come home. They’re gonna happen if they're home or if they're not. But I think also what you said, there’s resilience, but there's also not letting yourself drown. And one of my early podcasts guests was saying she spreads her net very wide, and she asks quite a lot of people for help. I have the assumption that in the military, there's a community. People understand each other. Is that right or is that not quite right?

Richelle Futch (11:22):

There is a community if the person makes an effort to be a member of that community. So you can marry somebody in the military and you can sort of stay outside of that world. When I speak to other clinicians or social workers or things like that, and I talk to them about the military culture, I kind of refer them to Berry's acculturation model in a way, which is really formed speaking about people who are moving from one country to another country. And how you can either go in and assimilate and really step into the culture, and now this culture becomes yours, and you let go of the culture in which you came from. You can come in and you can separate yourself, called separation from the new culture, and just maintain your old culture. You can be marginalized where you cannot fit into either, or you can really integrate.

And that means you hold some truths from your previous culture and who you are in your identity, and you engage fully in this new culture as well. And so integration is the place we wanna be. And marginalization, where you don't fit in to either, is really the struggle point, the huge struggle point. Separation, you can imagine, like you were speaking to, if a military spouse comes into the military community and says, ‘Well, I don't identify as a military spouse, and tries to deny that and doesn't become friends, doesn't build on that community, it's gonna be more difficult for them when the hard things come up.

Rhoda Bangerter (12:54):

Mm. I suppose that could work for any family unit who's got a partner who's away, because it is a culture, it is a way of life, whether they're in the military or humanitarian or any other profession that means that they're gone. You can either integrate into it and accept it and say, ‘Okay, I'm part of this culture now.’ And of course, with the military is specific because it's serving your country, it's defending your country. There is a specific mission there. But I think I can see the parallel with any family that has a partner who's away and saying, ‘Okay, I can either deny this <laugh> and try and retain my way of life from before, or I can see it as a culture in itself and say, ‘Okay, well this is what my life is now, and I'm gonna learn the ropes and I'm gonna learn how this works and what optimizes it and what's gonna be the most helpful so that this works for us as a family.’

Richelle Futch (14:05):

Think of the big organizations or big companies, if you work or if your spouse works for a big company, like Google, right? Something that most people would know. Well, they always talk about what is the culture inside this company? And that's smaller than the military, or that's smaller than this big huge humanitarian community. And so for us to finally say, ‘Yes, there's the culture here’, and address it as such, is so powerful.

Rhoda Bangerter (14:38):

Right? Because then you can learn the codes, you can learn what works. You can learn the vocabulary that's used and it is like moving from one country to another.

So what have you seen works best for military families? What helps them succeed? And your LinkedIn, it says you help military families succeed. So I'm curious, what helps?

Richelle Futch (15:05):

I teach very specific skills. I teach dialectical behavior therapy skills amongst others.


What is that?

Richelle Futch:

So, dialectical behavior therapy is a treatment modality that was formed out of the University of Washington and Washington State by a woman named Marsha Linehan. And it's a motive treatment that was used for highly emotionally dysregulated individuals, people who self-harm, highly suicidal. And it wasn't exactly created for that. But what Marsha did was say to a lot of therapists, ‘Who are the most difficult clients that you work with? And I'm gonna show you why this model works for these difficult clients.’ So from there creating all this evidence base that these treatment skills really are helpful, and what they are is preventative skills. So dialectical means two opposing truths that both coexist and we're searching for the synthesis to make that happen. One big example is acceptance and change.

So if you're really accepting something, it's hard to say, and I'm changing something, but that's where we get to, we wanna remove the word ‘But’, and we wanna say ‘And’. So I can accept the things for the way they are, and I also can recognize that I need to change, I need to do better. I need to embrace something. And making space for both to happen is where we see movement. It takes us out of that all or nothing, black or white thinking of these extremes. And that's where movement happens. That's where thriving happens. We're not getting stuck in the willfulness of sitting in our hands and denying the changes that are happening. We're being more willing and saying, ‘How can I lean into this?’

Rhoda Bangerter (16:47):

Okay, so how can this help in practice for like a family?

Richelle Futch (16:52):

So in practice, it gives a common language. Like you said, it teaches emotion regulation skills, it teaches interpersonal effectiveness skills. It teaches crisis survival skills and core mindfulness skills. And so I think that the more an individual has tools in their tool belt, considered skills are things that they can pull from, then the more successful they'll be. Along with the resources, because there's resources out there. And if you're denying that you need support or you need help, or that you're in this culture and you're kind of trying to remove yourself from it and pretend like it's not happening, you're not gonna be reaching out for the resources. You're not gonna be utilizing them. You're not even gonna be aware of where they are. And then when the crisis hits, you are in emotion mind, which makes it hard for you to rationalize, hit the facts, you're in crisis, and now you don't even have a plan of where to start from. Where if you've created a plan before a crisis and you have that rehearsed go-to thing that you're gonna do, that's the thing you're gonna go to when crisis hits, because it's what you know.

Rhoda Bangerter (18:03):

And I would argue that living this lifelong term without it is potentially untenable <laugh>. Because if you don't even need a crisis, there's the fact that sometimes it's untenable long term because it is highly stressful in a way with all these changes, it’s a high intensity life. And also I would argue that with this kind of life, you'd be living quite close to a stress limit, or a small crisis could sink you, which happened to me. I thought I was doing well. I was doing all this, I had emotional regulation, I was drip feeding self-care and all of that, but I realized I was too close to my limit and I was tired.

And I'd lived with this long-term stressful life, or living with stress, and I wasn't bringing my stress levels down enough. And so, one crisis after another crisis, and then just all the house folded because it wasn't tenable long term. Plus, I think long-term, there's the solo parenting, there's this effect of coming and going. Plus you're trying to maintain a relationship, plus you're trying to live your own dreams out. And I find it's a lot. And it's a lot. Right?

Richelle Futch (19:35):

It's a lot. I one of the programs that I created for the military is the program, it started as Her Ruck, that's kind of my overall brand is Her Ruck, but the workshop inside is called unpacking your Emotional Ruck. And for those of you who might not know what a Ruck is, it's essentially a backpack that the military puts their gear in when they go on long ruck marches and things like that. It's what stores all your gear.

And so I equate that to your emotional backpack. And so what you just described is your emotional backpack. I was doing well, I thought I was doing well, but things were piling in and it got a little too heavy. And so, in my workshops, I will actually put a backpack on an individual, and I have bricks and rocks of different sizes, and I have them right on the rocks.

And we talk, we start with long term vulnerabilities. Like what are you bringing in from childhood beliefs, things that you're still struggling with that makes it harder for you to handle this lifestyle? What are you still carrying? Because that's what essentially this missional backpack is, is things that we carry every day with us that are either long-term vulnerabilities or short-term vulnerabilities. And if we're not assessing the weight of our backpack constantly, then it's gonna overfill and get too heavy and boom, crisis hits, and we don't know what to do.

We also have people who have a hard time reaching out to other people, and they carry that ruck as a badge of honor in how much they can do themselves. And I will say that if you can think of an athlete or somebody who just continues to go, go, go, even on injury, then they're going to, at an earlier age, have different struggles than those who stop during that injury and rest and recover and things. And so that's kind of what I wanna really say to people is take the time to rest, recover. That's not self-care. Rest in recovery is just resting in recovery. That's not adding things to it.

Rhoda Bangerter (21:37):


Richelle Futch (21:37):

That's just recovering from what you're dealing with.

Rhoda Bangerter (21:40):

Wait, you're making the distinction here. I think that's a super important distinction. You're making a distinction between self-care, which is taking care of yourself as you are moving forward in life and rest in recuperation.

Richelle Futch (21:58):

Yes. Yes. And I think that a lot of times people think rest in recuperation is self-care, when it is necessary care, because you've exhausted yourself. And you're just at this point where this is all I have to give, I'm at capacity.

Rhoda Bangerter (22:14):

So it's not necessarily after a big event, it's just recognizing, like if you take back the analogy of running or ‘Whoa, I've been running…’, for example, silly. I did nine weeks of solo parenting over the summer, and then I went straight into the beginning of an academic year, all the new activities and everything, and I'm like ‘Why didn't I recognize that I've just done nine weeks on my own with the boys going here, right, left and center, doing different things.’ Then there was a holiday and we did some lovely things, but I was exhausted when I go back. So it’s recognizing when you've done these long stints and saying, ‘Oh, actually I need to stop here.’ Is that what you're saying?

Richelle Futch (22:58):

Yes. And that's hard when you're in those long stints, because sometimes we throw ourselves into this survival mode. ‘If I stop, I might, you know, I might be down for a couple of days and things aren't getting done, so I can't stop until I get to this point.’ Well, capacity hits, exhaustion hits, and it's gonna take that rest in recovery to even get to the capacity that you can think about self-care and actually intentionally throwing effort into self.

Rhoda Bangerter (23:27):

Oh, that's huge. So what do you suggest to someone who just feels like, ‘I can't stop, I can't stop. There's kids, I have to get up, I have to feed the boys. There is no one to help.’

Richelle Futch (23:41):

That's the hard part is when there is no one to help. And you should know if there's no one to help before you get into this situation, hopefully. And yet we don't have those conversations. We don't do this kind of hoping or coping ahead to create a plan before we're in this situation, because oftentimes we just find ourselves there. And I think if we look backwards, we go, ‘Okay, there were some signs, and I probably could have, but I didn't even think about it.’ And so if you're listening to this, there's your sign, think about it. But getting the plan in place of either structure, there's cheating the system, right? So I have like, groceries delivered if I can, I have quick prepared meals when I have capacity. I have these things in place that I feel like are cheating the system. And I make accounting for that. You know, if we're doing cereal for dinner one night, I'm not gonna judge myself because, you know what? We all ate and was it perfect? Was it inside these things? I'm not gonna judge myself for doing what I need to do to get through the moment.

But there's a lot of other things that you can do. And if you're not reaching out and understanding the community and the resources available to you, then you feel like there's nobody there. When in reality, I know that if I put into a military spouse group right now, even a group that I just joined and I didn't know anybody, and I said, ‘I'm struggling. This is what I need’. I'm gonna get somebody that will have a babysitter for their own kids to come watch my kids. I know that I'm gonna get told ‘Here's a phone call you can call right now. And they'll help.’ ‘Here's something that could help’. There's a community out there that will literally have somebody else watch their children to come watch your children to do whatever you need to do. If you invest in that community, if you show up for that community, they will show up for you.

Rhoda Bangerter (25:39):

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Richelle Futch (25:44):

And offer yourself grace. Right. Offer yourself grace.

Rhoda Bangerter (25:48):

Yes. I think it's this idea. We think we need to do it all. And I was talking to a military dad who's actually now the stay-at-home dad. And he was saying that a soldier would never be expected to be 24/7, 365 days on call, on duty. They have times of rest where they sleep and then they're on, and then they're off duty and on duty. And so having this idea that I think sometimes we expect ourselves to just be on duty all the time and never have moments of rest. And so think outside the box.

I remember, for I don't know how long, we ate off paper plates. I'm sorry, but it wasn't elegant. But that meant I didn't have any dishes. So I could sit down and just plunk it in the trash and not have to think I'm doing the dishes.

The things that don't necessarily mean childcare, but things that could be just cutting corners and making allowances and that it's okay. And I love it that we're reinforcing this now because I've heard people say to me, ‘I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm not coping, I'm not able to do it all.’ And I'm like, ‘Excuse me, it's not you.’ <laugh>.

Richelle Futch (27:10):

Nobody's supposed to do it all <laugh> at any time. I'll tell people, you know, because one of the things we hear in the military health community a lot is you need to find balance. And I'm like, balance is a myth. That's kind of the unicorn, right? Like, there's no perfect balance. There is, I'm given a lot of energy in this one area that I've neglected and, and now I've neglected over here, so I'm gonna jump over here. Or I've at least given a little effort to a lot of these different domains. But perfect balance to me. Where's that?

Rhoda Bangerter (27:40):

I love that.

Richelle Futch (27:41):

That doesn't exist.

Rhoda Bangerter (27:42):

That's so true. That's so true. So what about parenting together? I mean, <laugh>, how possible do you think it is? I've seen it both ways. I've seen families where when the partner's gone and there's not necessarily communication or very little communication. But there's still the sense that they're parenting together or that, that somehow, somewhere the partner who’s home will update the partner who's away, and the kids know that both parents are definitely on board, whatever it is. And then I've also seen it where a parent will call every day or every other day and get the run down on what's going on at home or whatever. I don't know what do you say to that?

Richelle Futch (28:36):

I am a big supporter of families doing what works for them. And so, like you said earlier, having that communication, like what are your needs? How can I help meet those needs while you're away? And the other spouse? How can I help meet those needs for you while I'm away? What do you need from me? And let's talk about what's possible and what's just not probable. It's that it's not easy for me to make this happen, but I think if everybody's assuming a positive intent with each other and they're doing the best they can with the plans they've created that works for their family, then I think that's a benefit.

But we also gotta remember what are the kids' needs. And so if it works for one spouse who's away is, ‘Hey, I'm away. I'm away. Send me an email. Keep me posted.’ And that's fine. Well, I think the kids might say, ‘That is not working for me because I need a hello, I need a good night. Or I need at least a video message every now and then so I can see your face. Or I need you to read into an audio book before you leave so I can hear that book at night before I go to bed.’ There's a lot of creative ways to stay connected. And so I think find those creative ways that works for your family to stay connected, that keeps you in in sort of that authority parenting role. Because it's hard when you come home and the kids don't respect the partner who's gone and they look at the partner who's home, like, ‘They just told me to do this. Are you telling me to do this?’ Because I see that in military families a lot too. And, you know, that role and responsibility really falls on the adults to make sure that both are equally respected or earning the respect. So the kids do follow the pattern and the culture of that family.

Rhoda Bangerter (30:32):

What kind of other creative ways have you seen like for emotional presence of the parent who's away?

Richelle Futch (30:42):

Well, we're very fortunate because we do have, you know, like USOs and things like that who've been on other bases. And so they will provide books that you can have at home and the service member can have. And so the child can be looking at a book at home and the service member can be reading a book to them. There are the little dolls, they're called like soldier dolls or whatever, that they actually put a picture of the family member on. To tell a story, my daughters are 11, nine and six now, but when my oldest was about three, my husband had gone to Afghanistan a couple of times, so she had had that separation of dad left to work, but then just didn't come home for a really long time. And so when he did return home and he would leave in the morning, our garage door would open and she could hear the garage door open, it would peak her to wake up. And she would run down the stairs just screaming and crying at the door. And it was really painful. And I had another baby. And I'm like, ‘Okay, you're waking the baby up. You're waking me up. I wanted this sleep.’ This is so important. And yet you're emotionally in turmoil. And so I'm messaging or calling my husband, ‘You need to come back and say goodbye, or at least get on the phone to say goodbye.’ And we created a plan with one of those dolls, with his picture that she would give it to him at night. And he would leave it next to her in the morning before he left. And so she heard the garage door open and she saw her pillow. She knew he said goodbye and that he was coming home that night.

Rhoda Bangerter (32:12):

Oh, that's nice.

Richelle Futch (32:13):

And so that cured it. That solved it. She would see her pillow. Now, mind you, if he ever forgot <laugh>, you know, but after a pattern of not forgetting for a time, it went away and it was a lot easier. And yeah, I was so grateful cuz I was getting my sleep and I wasn't, you know, my response was angry, like, ‘Can you just say goodbye? Can you just do the small thing? So that we're not dealing with this crisis at home.’ But in reality it was because I was exhausted. I was tired. My emotional ruck, my emotional backpack was full, and so my tolerance was shorter.

Rhoda Bangerter (32:44):

Yeah. And it's important to consider what else is going on? So what would you say to a spouse of, say, a humanitarian who's going to a dangerous place, how do you prepare the kids? Do you talk about it with the kids? Do you, how do you manage it emotionally?

Richelle Futch (33:12):

Well, I definitely always say like, what's age appropriate? Right? What's age appropriate for the children? And are you working with a professional or a community to kind of bounce ideas off. I think that's important. When we talked about, dialectical, those two opposing truths that both coexist, what I've seen is there are the people who turn off all news and want zero information. And the other extreme of people who, like, I'm all inundated with news and doom scrolling everything to see all the things, and I'm living in emotional turmoil. So total avoidance, total turmoil are on these two ends of the spectrum. And so I think, how do I have just enough information that I need that I can still maintain thriving during the situation? And understanding that if something happens, you will be notified in the time that you need to be notified. Like the information will come to you. There's a lot of things that are just, we have to radically accept that are out of our control. We have to full radically accept with all sense of our being that we are not in control of a situation. And so finding out that something happens in another country where we are not physically located, that maybe our spouse is, we have to trust that our spouse is doing everything they possibly can to stay safe. They're doing everything that they've trained, that they're educated. And we have to really lean back on the skills and education that our spouse has and trust them to do what they know to do in the best-case scenario that they can for themselves and protect ourselves at home. And so if you have a preteen or a teenager that is gonna be stumbling across things on the internet or their friends are gonna be talking, I think it helps to prepare them and have these conversations to say, ‘We have information straight from the source, from your parents. And so I want you to know that if you hear something or you see something and you have questions about that, I want you to come to me. Because the hardest thing for you to do is create stories or hear things that aren't facts and run down an emotional path of something that's not even factual. Don't do that to yourself. Come to us, come to me. Let us have that conversation. And for the young ones, I don't give them the details. I don't put unnecessary fear or scare on them that they're incapable of carrying.

Rhoda Bangerter (35:41):

Hmm. Yeah. They know that they're with you. Right. They're in a stable environment. And the thing is, I mean, my husband was in Kabul for two years and we stayed in Switzerland, and people asked me how I did it, and I was like, ‘Well, how much do we control anyway?’ You know? How much do we control anyway in our life? And I think, again, trusting that the other person is trained, that they're doing everything that they can to be safe, that there's a whole team who's trained to stay safe. And I went too much in media and then I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa. I need to back off <laugh> and just have a little bit.’ And it was interesting because my husband said, at one point he was like, ‘Wait, it sounds like you're not interested.’ And like, actually I am interested. I'm just protecting myself from too much information. I just can't handle it right now. I can't handle some of the things that's going on there. Because it's sad and it's difficult. Knowing that you are there is something that, that he felt he needed to do. And it was part of his vocation. But I'm like, ‘Whoa’, there's a point where it's a lot. It's again, coming back to the fact that it's a lot, but that it's part of who they are. It's part of what they wanna do.

Richelle Futch (37:12):

Right. Right. And it's unfair to try and compare love for your passion, for your purpose, and for those that you care about at home. It's a different pot. It's coming from a different pot in the heart. And so let's try not to compare. And I think the sort of situation that you just described, I think being a special operation spouse means that my husband is on a team of 12 people and they go do missions together. Sounds very similar to a team going in to do a mission together in a humanitarian effort. And one of the things that I think that we do pretty well is that even in our National Guard families who might not be stationed at the same place, they're spread throughout state is that they make an effort for those team members, families to know one another. And they do, even if it's a virtual activity.

And so even if you aren't, you know, having somebody living next door to you whose spouse is with your spouse in this other country serving this greater mission, you have a connection to the other spouses on that specific mission that you can bounce things, ideas off, you can vent to, you can share information with if you need to, or you can at least just validate each other, support one another and say it is hard, or distract each other. And I think that's a good thing too. And I'm not sure if you all have that or if you're sort of ‘we are a community of people whose spouses do these efforts but we don't bring it down to that level in these individual teams also.’

Rhoda Bangerter (38:59):

Well, and it's definitely what I'm raising awareness of, that the families of humanitarians, that these huge organizations that send staff to non-family duty stations where the staff maybe doesn't come back for a year, these are also communities of families. And how can these organizations support these families who are contributing to the end by…

Richelle Futch (39:36):

And they have a responsibility to do that because their mission will not succeed if the family mission at home is not succeeding. Trust me, they will lose people. Things will happen because families are important and they're making that mission possible. And so the more that those organizations can before a big mission, get the families together or even virtually or something, sending out some sort of project for everybody to do at home at the same time and share those projects or whatever they can do it's really gonna bring communities together. And that's the only way that we're gonna succeed through this life is we're not living on islands alone. We're meant to do it in communities.

Rhoda Bangerter (40:18):

No, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think there's also a lot of spouses of business-people, high level sports people. As I started looking into this, I realized there are tons of professions, there's the nuclear industry, there's just absolutely tons of professions that mean a lot of travel. And a lot of these families, like someone I spoke to recently, she said she's been living this life for 11 years and has never met another family who lives like this.

Richelle Futch (40:54):

Wow. So the need is so there. That's so important. Yeah. And because, how lonely is that?

Rhoda Bangerter (40:59):

Exactly. And more and more families are actually choosing this lifestyle, not necessarily for a greater cause potentially or whatever, but for the cause of their family. So it's for children's education or for dual career so that both can maintain a career or for being closer to elderly parents if you're from different countries. And so it means that one is in one country, the other one is in the other country, and they come back and to visit each other from time to time, a whole other ball game to maintain a family unit and parent together at a distance, and then have this coming in and coming out of the partner who's away, who's not with the children.

There's all sorts of distance scenarios. There's also, you know, one parent with one child, parent with the other child. And so there's all sorts of scenarios, but it's lonely if you don't have a community. And if you don't even realize that there are other families who choose this too, and then extended families saying you're crazy to live like this. You like, ‘Well actually it's okay.’ There are lots of families who do it. It's just

Richelle Futch (42:05):


Rhoda Bangerter (42:06):

It's important to acknowledge it.

Richelle Futch (42:07):

And you know, one of the things that military families really lean onto is this calling and this patriotism. Patriotism is really identified as love for your country. The humanitarians are like, love for the world. And that's this bigger lens of love for this world and for humans and this greater good. And I think that really recognizing that beauty inside people who are serving that mission is powerful and it's respectable. And while that might seem crazy to somebody else, there's no other way. There's just no other way for some families, it just makes so much sense.

Rhoda Bangerter (42:54):

Yeah. Yeah. Thank you so much, Richelle. Thank you so much for sharing from your own experience, from what you've been seeing from your expertise as well. I'm gonna pounce this on you. I normally ask my guests and I forgot to add it at the end of the pre questions. A life resource that has helped you, it doesn't have to be about parenting or anything, just something in general that's really impacted you.

Richelle Futch (43:24):

Oh, good question. You know, having a good mentor, having somebody that's lived through the experience before me and sitting at their feet listening, humbling myself to hear their stories and being okay with preparing myself that I may not have the same experience, but that they too have gone through it and that I'm not alone and that others have experienced what I've experienced has made all the difference. And so humbling yourself to really listen to somebody else. And it's not a sign of weakness to say, “I'm gonna learn from somebody who's different than me or who may be younger than me or maybe something else because of their experience”, I think has been really powerful to me. Just the resource can be another individual.

Rhoda Bangerter (44:20):

Wow. So you would go up to someone and say, ‘Can I learn from you? Can I hear more of your story?’ Not waiting for them to come to you, right?

Richelle Futch (44:33):

Noooo! Going and asking. And I've never seen anybody that's not complimented by that. And we build strength inside ourselves when we contribute. And so if we can contribute to another person, somebody who's come up and said, ‘Can I just listen to you? Can I just ask you some questions or hear your story?’ I mean, that's powerful.

Rhoda Bangerter (44:58):

Fantastic. Oh my word. Wow. Okay. How could people reach you? You’re not doing sessions at the moment, right?

Richelle Futch (45:09):

I have my private practice, but again, I'm licensed in Washington State, so my clients have to be present in Washington state. I am doing workshops. So my website is under construction. My, herruck.com is under construction, but come back in January and see that. But right now the best way to reach me is just on LinkedIn. Find me on LinkedIn, Richelle Futch on LinkedIn. Connect with me and shoot me a message. Let's follow each other's journey and support each other.

Rhoda Bangerter (45:39):

Fantastic. Super. It's been brilliant talking to you. Thank you so, so much.

Richelle Futch (45:44):

Thank you. I've learned a lot as well, so I appreciate this. Thank you.

Rhoda Bangerter (45:48):

Thank you.


Rhoda Bangerter

Rhoda Bangerter is a coach who has lived abroad with a travelling husband for over 16 years. She helps home based mums and dads live an intentional life and build family togetherness even when their partner is away a lot for work.

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