Every culture and subculture is going to have those terms that are meant in a derogatory way. Perhaps these terms are true in some cases, but in a lot of cases, they are just uncalled for.
In the military spouse life, said term is the word “dependa” or “dependapotomous”. Many spouses know of this word, and many spouses know a spouse personally whom embodies this term; but some spouses truly don’t know what it means. I am here to break it down for ya!
Disclaimer: Yes, I am a military spouse; however I provide a unique perspective here because I am also in the military.
As I said, dependa is a derogatory term for a military spouse and is used in response to a variety of situations. You know how we call the women who chase after men in uniform “tag chasers”? I’m pretty sure those women are the ones who become the stereotypical “dependa”.
It is hard to come up with one definition for a dependa. Here are some examples that demonstrate dependa-like behavior:
- Claiming your spouse’s rank as your own; say your spouse is an E-4 and an E-1 and his wife just moved in next door but you refuse to talk to her or hang out with her because of their rank. The rank does not apply to you; it only applies to the service member. Obviously you won’t be inviting their supervisor over for dinner, but it is okay to hang out with other spouses regardless of what their spouse’s rank is!
- Another example of this is saying something like, “we got promoted!” No- your spouse was promoted. Not you!
- Telling the military police, “do you know who my husband is?!” when they randomly select you to inspect your vehicle. Yes- this does happen. I’ve seen it!
- Claiming your husband’s achievements as your own.
- Claiming that you have the hardest job in the military because you’re a military spouse.
- Getting upset when a restaurant or store does not honor a military discount for you because you are not the military member.
There are a few other weird situations I have seen like spouses reporting things to the commander and such. The list above is the most common things I see where spouses are called “dependas” and roasted.
Yes, it does take a lot to be a military spouse. We deal with loneliness, separation, new places, and other various challenges. I have even struggled in the past and I have been in for seven years. However, spouses also need to be conscious of the fact that they did not sign a contract with the US military; their significant other did. If they keep that in mind, then chances are the situations above would never happen!
When It is Harmful
Of course, there are many times when use of “dependa” is not warranted, at all. One of the most common scenarios: someone is new to military life and has just joined the spouse group for the base they are stationed at. They ask a question in the group, thinking they are going to get some support, but instead everyone gives this person a bunch of backlash because it is common knowledge.
Trying to figure things out when you’re a new military spouse can be so confusing. I personally never went through it, but I was alongside many spouses at Laughlin who were dealing with adjusting to military life, trying to figure TriCare out, getting used to the lingo, and this was on top of being somewhere completely new without friends and their husband is gone for twelve hours per day.
Military life can be so confusing. TriCare still confuses me. You have acronyms to memorize as a spouse like DEERS, PCS, TDY, and a bunch more. Military life is fast paced, so you’re expected to learn fast and remember everything. If someone is new and asks a question that you already know the answer to because you are a seasoned spouse, it costs nothing to be kind and help them out, instead of criticizing them publicly (or privately, if you’re THAT type of person).
By reacting in this negative way, you shut this new spouse down and chances are, she will isolate herself and go without knowing things. Do you really want to be the cause of that?
How To Avoid Being Called a Dependa
It is fairly simple… just realize that you have a separate job from your husband’s and that his achievements and contract is his own! Be friendly with everyone, regardless of who they are married to (and who you are married to).
If you see another military spouse acting like a “dependa,” instead of roasting her publicly, you should pull her aside privately or send her a private message. She might be doing it on purpose, but she also might not realize exactly what she is doing. Approaching her in a private way will help her not feel attacked and like you are looking out for her.
Lastly, if you are called a dependa for absolutely no reason at all, just ignore it! Some people simply need something to hate and it should be no skin off your back!
I wear a lot of hats: NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Weight Loss Specialist, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. A writer with a B.A. in English and Professional Writing. A fur mom and a wife. A mental health advocate and a septic shock survivor. An Airman and an athlete. I live in South Florida and am in love with the ocean. People can typically find me either in the gym or at home, writing or reading.