What Rank Is Your Husband?

A post in our “The Way I See It” Series

“Is he commissioned?”  “Is he a Chief?”   “Is he a……..?”

In my opinion, when meeting a fellow military wife for the first time, you shouldn’t be able to ask these questions.

Why you ask?  Well, because once you answer it the wife who asked this question has usually categorized you, stereotyped you in a matter 10 seconds.

She might not think she is doing this, but the truth is if she wasn’t……then why ask the question?

We all have stories of this happening to us.  The wife who suddenly doesn’t talk to you anymore when she realizes what your huband is or isn’t an “LPO”,  “a nuke”, “a chief”, “an officer”, “a senior officer”…etc.  I think we all have experienced this in one way or another.

I don’t make a habit of asking what a fellow wives husbands rank is.  Nor do I make a habit of asking “what part of the boat” he works on.  They are usually very anxious to tell me ALL about their “husband”.

I know that my husband works in “xyz” so I tell people that if they ask and they usually are satisfied with that simple answer.

If they ask his rank, I give it….but it’s hard for me to not “categorize” that woman in turn. 

I wonder why do wives ask this question?  Is it out of “small talk” and not to “classify” you as a “potential friend material” based on your husbands rank?  I’d like to think the first, but in my experience the second is usually the case.  The same could be said for wives whose husbands work in “certain” divisions.  Example scenario:  “My husband’s front of the boat, what part of the boat is your husband in?”  “He’s a nuke”, and suddenly the “non-nuke” wife disappears even though both husband are similar in rank.  Marie likes to tell stories of that happening to her all the time.   I also think if a wife only wants to talk about her husband, what does that say about her?  Im more interested in her interests, beliefs, personality than in her husband’s rank or her husband.

My friend Marie and I have two different versions of the day we met on the soccer field.  Well, actually we saw each other….well I saw her at a FRG meeting and thought she looked familiar on the soccer field so I approached her in attempt to get info on the boat.  It was our first patrol on that boat. 

I don’t think Marie and I would be friends today if we both were concentrated on finding the answer to this question.  In fact, I don’t think I knew anything about her husband rank/rate until well into the patrol (meaning for months!).  I don’t think she even “knew” my last name.  I know I didn’t know hers until the guys came home.

Only until our husbands met on the soccer field that her husband said something about mine and that they wouldn’t be having dinner with us anytime soon.

True, her husband and mine will probably not hang out together.  But that doesn’t mean her and I can’t go to Savannah (which we did), or even Chicago…minus husbands and kids (we did that too.)  Keep in mind our husbands are not in the same division.

We hear all the time “wives do not wear rank”.  However, we all know the “fraternization” rules.  Where do we draw the line?  It can be a tough one.  I think close friendships take time and you aren’t going to be “the best of friends” from the moment you meet someone.  They certainly are not going to expect to come for dinner just because you chatted while waiting in the parent’s line for after school pickup or at the gym. 

First impressions are very important.  Let your own personality make a good first impression.   A simple first conversation does not need that question to be asked.  You can converse with both officer and enlisted wives, whether on the soccer field, at church, or at homecoming.  It won’t “hurt” anything and it certainly will not “harm” your husbands career.

I challenge you, the next time you are tempted to ask “what rank is your  husband”, ask instead a question that pertains specifically to the wife.  Examples:  How long have you been on the boat, do you work outside the home, how long have you lived here, ….etc.   You might be surprised by the answer.

She just might not ask your husbands rank and then you’ll know she has an identity of her own. 


16 Responses

  1. “AMEN” sista!! lol 😉

  2. I don’t get it. Like Wendy said, we didn’t even know our last names, what our husbands did, etc. . .It didn’t matter. And for what my husband said about not having dinner with them, it had nothing to do with what Wendy’s husband “did” or his rank. It had to do with his “grumbliness”! lol My husband didn’t think he was very friendly. lol But, Wendy and I becoming friends gave my husband a chance to see that wasn’t true. I can’t believe that there are women out there that are missing out on great friendships like Wendy and I have b/c of this crap. It’s just stupid!

  3. Oh ladies, must we forget to mention the wives who think they are better than you because of what their husband does on the boat? I’ve come across that and personally found myself frustrated because I know how hard my husband works and it doesn’t matter if he’s an “abc” or an “xyz.” It truly amazes me how some wives take their husbands rate/rank as their own.

  4. I’ll admit I ask a last name, but usually because I am trying to place if my hubby has said something about her husband (not in a bad way. But he talks about the guys at work having kids our children’s age and such). But that doesn’t keep me from being friends with people.
    I’ve met some great people who’s hubbys were all up and down the rank/rate scale. And untill we just got here, I kind of thought the sub force was a bit more lax on the ‘fraternization’ rules (trust me I know them well with both parents in the marines)because of the need to have the crew work so well together for so long. Our last boat (FA) was very lax, maybe it was just the command I don’t know. But I was very surprised coming here and having a seperate sub ball for enlisted and officer. Even a bit put off by it, I enjoyed almost 4 years of being able to celebrate that tradition will ALL my friends and not just half of them.
    This reminds me of that old story about how a very high ranking officer came to a wives group meeting and had them all stand up and make a line from highest ranking to lowest (of course they moved around until they were standing according to their husband’s rank) and the officer looked at them and asked them if they were in the navy, They gave him a funny look and said no. He then said ‘Why are you standing according to your husband’s rank, your not in the navy, you have no rank!’ Or something along those lines, but you all get the point. It made it very clear that the wives shouldn’t be concerned with their husband’s rank when it came to other wives, not one wife was better than the other.
    Sorry for writing so much. LOL …

  5. Alecia writes:


    Wow — this post may just get me booted as a guest blogger; but I thought I’d better respond — in case I’ve ever offended anyone. I’ll be very upfront about it and admit that on more than one occasion I have asked a fellow wife, “what part of the boat do y’all work on?” Little did I know this was a terrible faux pas!

    Under no circumstances would I ever ask “what rank” is your husband. First of all, even after a 10-year Navy career, I’m still pretty confused on the whole rank thing. I know what we are striving for, but I honestly can’t tell you if It’s better to have two stripes or one in certain situations. Maybe I should bump (learning) that up to the top of the priority list. (Besides that it’s much more interesting than my toddler’s dirty laundry!)

    In all seriousness, when I introduce myself, I do so by saying “Hey how are y’all (yes-y’all is singular and all y’all is plural) my name is Alecia.” I agree with Marie that I never mention my last name, unless someone asks me specifically. Often times, even if I tell them my last name, they just shrug and haven’t even heard of it. Usually the conversation starts out with how long we’ve been on the boat, or chitchat about our children. But hey- if I’m having difficulty getting someone to feel comfortable and talk to me, I’ll ask about their husband. We all know that we love and are so super proud of our husband and children. I thought I was just giving people a way to talk about a subject they were comfortable with. OOPS!!

    Holy Cow Y’all- good thing that you posted this. This is one Navy wife, who was absolutely in the dark. Perhaps now, after reading this perspective — I’ll think a little harder before I speak. Maybe a better question would be “Are Y’all watching ‘Army Wives’? Wonder if we’ll get our own series!”

  6. I’m new to being an navy wife and even though i was a navy Brat i’m still learning rules and ettiquette. i had no idea this was a bad thing either and i have been known on occassion to ask those questions…not so i can snub another wife, but just because i’m curious and trying to learn as much as i can from and about the other people on our boat. is it really that offensive??

  7. Kimberly,

    Thanks for your comment. My point in this post, when first meeting a spouse is to concentrate on finding something about her. You will find most spouses are more than eager to tell you ALL about their husband and not much about themselves.

    Asking her husband’s rate will tell you if her husband might work in the same division as yours…which I think is ok….but still try to ask something about her personally.

    I just think it can be easy for wives to just talk about their husband, his job, his rank, etc. I try to ask questions about the wife I’m meeting, her hobbies, her job, her activities etc. How long they have been at the command, area, how many kids they have etc.

    Through conversation about mil-life, if you are that curious you’ll be able to figure it out anyway….or she will tell you.

    I just think it’s bad taste to ask rank. The last name thing….it just didn’t come up with Marie and I. I’m not saying it is bad etiquette to ask a girls last name, I was just giving an example that not only did Marie and not ask each other husbands rank….it just wasn’t a priority to ask last names either. Yes, eventually we knew our last names.

    I also think its a generic question that people often ask to start a conversation, I’m just offering a different point of view.

    I do think being new the boat and new the Navy lifestyle it is important to find a seasoned wife and ask her all the questions you can come up….ranks, rates, divisions, etc. Listen to her wisdom, it will serve you well.

    My suggestion is just to not let the rank question be asked when you first meet a wife/spouse. 🙂

  8. I think the point trying to be made is that we as wives and as women have our own life and identity. Sure it is great when we find someone that works with our husbands . . .and we LIKE that person. But, we need to start being more interested in each other first. I think when first meeting another wife we always ask, Navy? Followed by, What boat/ship? That’s fine. It’s kind of a conversation starter, but then once you know if that woman is or isn’t part of your command, find out who she is. See what kind of friend she would be. Find the common interest.
    If the woman is on your boat, and you want to find out if your husbands work together, ask what division or rate. But, honestly, boats are a small crew and they all know each other some how (if they’ve been on a while) so it really doesn’t matter. I think asking some ones “rank” is rude. I was recently asked what my husband did, so I said, “he’s an MM”. I was then asked what kind, I said” He’s part of M-div”. Then she asked, what his RANK was??? I know I just looked at her strangely b/c what did my husbands pay grade have to do with anything!? The only thing rank answers is how much the husband makes $$ and how “senior” or “junior” he is. I haven’t EVER found a reason to ask what someone’s rank is. For what? But, with that said, we are getting away from the point. We have our own lives and we don’t need to be judged, or sterio-typed by who and what our husbands are.
    When Wendy and I met, we found that we were on the same boat and we knew our husbands were not in the same division (b/c then we would have already known each other). . .so we just never talked about “what” our husbands did. We both are the type of women that we don’t look at those things as important. We liked each other as women/friends, and every time we spoke, we talked longer and longer. We found friendship. I can honestly say that I don’t know if anything would have changed or not if we knew what our husbands did at first. I do have to say that we were always the odd couple together b/c her husband was in over 15 years at the time and senior on the boat, and my husband was brand new and “back of the boat” lol. It wasn’t “normal” for us to become such great friends. You don’t see it often. I would like to say it wouldn’t have mattered, but who knows. . .maybe we would have had some hesitations. I’m sure glad we didn’t! I can’t imagine not having Wendy as my best friend!! 😉

  9. Forgive me but our last boat (my first as a wife) unfortunately the Command Officers wives wore their husbands rank. Now that we are on a new boat I find myself very careful about what I say around the new Command wives. Is that normal, or just them?

  10. It’s not “uncommon”, But none of the wives have rank. So, if they act that way, It only makes them look foolish. And I’m curious to know what you are careful about saying in front of certain wives?? Let us know, if you don’t mind! 🙂 Thanks for your thoughts!

  11. No I don’t mind, but some people only want to hear the positive, who can blame them, but sometimes if you are familiar with a community (we have been here for 9 years) you hear talk from other wives who’s husband’s have served aboard a boat and that gives you a history and preconception of what to expect. And sometimes it is better left not saying anything.

  12. I say take the “Talk” you hear and let it be just that, “talk”. I would try and form your own opinion, b/c others could be wrong or just feel differently than you would about a person. I have heard “bad things” about people before I met them, only to find out I disagreed. They were great people and were only coming across a certain way b/c of how they were treated.
    And I hope that all woman give others “chances”. Sometimes we need a second chance at a first impression!! lol ;)there is going to be negative stuff. On this site, you can talk about your “negative experiences” as well!! We want people to see both sides. Thanks for bringing that up.

  13. And remember, a boat’s command changes often. So, things change with each new set of men. There is always hope for something to improve if you are unhappy with a command.

  14. How, true, I have seen many changes (especially in myself) when attitudes and things are looked at in a different light.

  15. Very well put…

  16. I have personally had issues with the “what does your husband do?” question…
    We started off living in Va. Bch. and I had some issues with a group of women who wanted nothing to do with me because my DH wasn’t a pilot! I ended up so frustrated that I told the women off saying that their men couldn’t be up in the air if it wasn’t my man down here on the ground figuring out their numbers a nd pushing their papers!! Yeah not a proud moment for me!

    So when we moved I got a whole new outlook on things and really tried not to prejudge woman on what their DH’s did… I had a woman and her friend who lived across the court from us. Our kids were the exact same age, we seemed to do the same type of stuff, we dressed quite similar… It seemed to me she would turn out to be a pretty good match for us as friends. The kids played at the playground a few times and we chatted a few times, msotly about the kids or housing its self. But then one day our DH’s jobs came up… I told her what my DH did and I never heard from her after that!! She promtly grabbed her kids and went home! Even until the day we moved recently if her kids wandered into my (public)front yard area she would tell them “No No don’t go over there you know you’re not supposed to play with THEM kids!!”

    And all this even after our DHs had chatted and found out that they were on the same boat at the same time and had seen eachothers names on quite a few bits of paperwork…

    Guess my non-pilot husband just wasn’t good enough for her???
    (her hubby was always quite nice to us if he seen us out and about!)

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