There are to-do lists, grocery lists, PCS packing lists, duty station bucket lists and holiday wish lists.
But there is a single list that can turn an ordinary day into a reason to celebrate or a reason to be discouraged — The promotion list.
The hours spent in preparation for a board, the extra PT to improve to max out points, even the completion of college classes, have all been done in an effort to jump up a rung on the military rank ladder.
And when that day comes there are rounds of congratulations, celebratory dinners and toasts to the newly promotable. Social media posts proclaim the good news, but only for those selected.
What about when the promotion doesn’t come?
Dealing with the disappointment isn’t easy. In fact, with so much vested in advancement, not seeing your service member get the promotion you know they deserve can be downright depressing. But like so many other things in life, the right perspective can help take away the sting.
Go Ahead and Vent
Feelings of disappointment, frustration and anger are normal and natural. Promotions are a big deal and feeling like your service member got passed over is never a pleasant feeling.
Sometimes you just need to let it out. Disappointment internalized can become bitterness and resentment, 2 emotions that are contrary to a military team environment.
It’s OK to express those feelings, just be cognizant of where and to whom you share them with. Avoid long rants on social media or outbursts in front of those who were selected.
If you can, find something constructive to do with all that negative energy. Clean your house, go for a run, bake up a storm, do whatever will help to take your mind off things for a while. Give yourself time to process all of those feelings, but then make sure you focus on something else.
Fixating on disappointment isn’t healthy. If you feel like your service member isn’t handling it well or dwells on those negative feelings for too long, make sure you reach out for help. Chaplains are a good place to start, but all military installations have mental health services readily available for service members and their families.
Be a Support System
Enduring these moments of disappointment can strengthen your relationship.
I can’t tell you how many times my spouse or other service members were sure to get a promotion, only to find their names missing from the list. Military services promote for positions they need to fill and sometimes the needs for one MOS or specialty is higher than another.
Promotions can sometimes feel quite arbitrary, and even deserving service members don’t get selected.
A conciliatory night out or a special dinner to show them how much you appreciate them might be in order. Just try to keep it lighthearted and positive. Remind them of all of the great things they have accomplished thus far.
Congratulate Those Who Made the List
Be graceful and congratulate those who did get selected for promotion. Our community is too small to let promotions affect our friendships and relationships. And next time, it might be you receiving the congratulations while someone else is left with the disappointment.
Remember that lack of promotion is not a demotion.
With so much energy focused on getting promoted, sometimes it’s easy to forget that just because you didn’t get promoted doesn’t mean that his or her military career is over. There are still opportunities for training that could see an increase in pay and potentially make selection for promotion the next time a shoo-in.
Start Preparing for Next Time
While there’s not a ton a military spouse can do to help a service member prepare for next time, try to be considerate and encouraging.
Volunteer to help quiz them for the board.
Be understanding when they stay an extra 30 minutes at the gym or sign up for training that looks good on their official record.
And most importantly, encourage them to keep at it.