“I’ve not lived in the real world now for most of my adult life, I’ve been a military wife” Exploring British Army Spouses’ Experiences of Relocation: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
This study explored Army spouses’ experiences of relocation, particularly focusing on the unique challenges and meanings of identity, community and support. Several challenges are faced by Army spouses following relocation: the stress of a new environment, loss of established support networks, and impact on spouses’ sense of identity. However, little research is available exploring these issues, particularly qualitative research. The present study aimed to address this gap in the literature by investigating lived experiences of relocation particularly to foreign postings, using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Semi structured interviews were conducted with five British Army spouses and analysed using IPA – which emphasises subjectivity and focuses on understanding a particular experience within its context. The analysis revealed that participants’ experiences could be grouped into three key themes: namely identity, the relocation process, support. The participants described encountering challenges in negotiating their individual identity with that of ‘Army wife’ and other identities such as mother or wife. This challenge was particularly enhanced during the relocation process. Participants also discussed how expectations, uncertainty and choice played a role both before and during relocation. The significant impact that the presence or lack of support had on the relocation experience and on participants’ well-being was highlighted throughout the narratives, with an important role played particularly by the Army community in offering support and aiding adaptation. The study aimed to understand the lived experience of relocation from the point of view of British Army spouses, contributing to the existing body of knowledge regarding military spouses’ experiences. Findings may inform the Army and other Forces regarding the steps needed to better support Army families.