Who am I? A qualitative exploration of the identities of spouses/partners of UK Armed Forces Veterans

Eric Spikol, Emily McGlinchey, Nicola Fear, Cherie Armour, Rachael Gribble*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: Events such as frequent separation, relocation, and the inherent risks of military service may negatively affect partner health/well-being and sense of identity. While research has attempted to understand how the identities of personnel change after transitioning out of the military community, there is little focus on partner identities. Methods: Qualitative interviews with 37 current and former partners (31 female, 6 male) participating in the UK Veterans Family Study (UKVFS) explored the lived experiences of partners of military Veterans and their mental health/well-being. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis. Results: Three themes were created: military identity and culture, role-based identities, and loss of personal identity. Participants described ascribed and adopted identities including wife of, parent, employee, and member of the armed forces community. These identities interacted and changed but were underpinned by military life and culture both during and after service. Participants highlighted long-term impacts on self-esteem and confidence but also pride and resilience. Employment post-transition allowed restoration of personal identity but could come at the cost of belonging provided by the military community. Discussion: Findings demonstrate the challenges some military and Veteran partners experienced in maintaining personal identity and highlight both positive and negative long-term effects of military life on self-perceptions of identity. Many identities discussed were in service to others — often at the expense of partners’ well-being and autonomy. Future research should concentrate on short- and long-term effects of identity loss/change on military and Veteran partners to inform and improve current and future strategies aiming to support partners.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-36
JournalJournal of Military, Veteran and Family Health
Volume10
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2024

Keywords

  • identity
  • military families
  • military partners
  • veterans
  • wellbeing

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