The guidance and encouragement Corie Weathers offers to military spouses is not abstract. It’s concrete, drawn from her daily life as an army spouse and mother of two. Corie is the author of Sacred Spaces: My Journey to the Heart of Military Marriage. She is also a licensed professional counselor, host of the Lifegiver podcast, and a frequent speaker for military family events. She and her husband, Matt, an army chaplain, individually and together, are actively engaged in supporting military couples and families. In all they do, says Corie, it’s important to them to be open about the struggles of military life.
“If we don’t show that this life is hard, that military marriage is hard, parenting is hard, we aren’t being honest,” says Corie. “Without vulnerability or honesty, we risk miscommunicating. So many people are putting out their highlight reels on social media. If we do that, people start to measure themselves by what we’re putting out. We’re always doing our best to say we don’t have all the answers, but we can humbly offer what we do know.”
The Weathers know about moves, about kids changing school, leaving friends behind, and they know about deployment. Corie’s book, Sacred Spaces, grew out of the couple’s separate experiences during deployment and Corie’s separate travels to deployment locations. The book offers wisdom for couples navigating deployment, from before departure to after homecoming. First and foremost, says Corie, her book tells the truth about the difficulties of each phase.
“You have to do that, to validate what people are experiencing before you can go on to offer them help or ways to heal,” she says. “If nobody else is going to say out loud what we’re all experiencing, I’m going to say it.”
The response, says Corie, has been overwhelmingly positive, with military spouses and couples recognizing their own emotions in Corie’s story and realizing they’re not alone. She says it’s rewarding to hear from readers that telling her story authentically has made a difference for them.
“That experience of writing Sacred Spaces—taking that risk—and the response I still get from so many people, makes it even easier to keep putting myself out there. We don’t have to be ashamed to say that deployment is as hard as it is.”
“That experience of writing Sacred Spaces—taking that risk—and the response I still get from so many people, makes it even easier to keep putting myself out there,” says Corie. “We don’t have to be ashamed to say that deployment is as hard as it is. Sometimes we reason it away. We think maybe someone else has it harder, or we look around and it looks like other people are handling it better, but it’s hard for all of us. Let’s talk about that.”
And she does. Corie and Matt stepped up to lead a series of virtual deployment workshops for the USO called “You’re Leaving … Again?” The monthly series coincides with Matt’s latest deployment, beginning before his departure. In the videos, which debut live and are made available as recordings, Corie and Matt talk through getting ready for deployment, departure, spending holidays apart, continuing throughout his absence–offering guidance and support for others going through the same experience.
Sharing the events of deployment in real time is not without pitfalls. When Matt’s departure was delayed, a workshop that was supposed to happen two weeks after his departure ended up falling on the day he left. It was an emotional day, says Corie, but indicative of the way deployment happens. Schedules get changed, and families roll with it, but they still feel the effects of all that is happening to them. Corie led the live workshop on her own, with a surprise call-in from Matt while he was traveling.
The mission of the USO series and other similar events and projects, Corie says, is to validate the experiences of other military couples. For her and Matt, offering their story helps them work through their own experiences, making them accountable to each other and to those they hope to encourage.
“It is a risk, but Matt and I know our boundaries. We talk to each other about what we are ready to share,” says Corie. “When so much of our emotion is still right under the surface, it’s not time to share that. If I’m going to be authentic, and if I’m going to take a risk, I’m only going to share what I’ve learned a lesson from and what I have perspective on that could be helpful to someone. Other things I’m still wrestling with may need to be in the queue for the future.”
Corie also has boundaries to protect her family and her time with them. With so much of her professional life connected to people and relationships, Corie’s goal is to spend weekends focusing only on her own family relationships.
Her personal self-care includes running “to clear the cobwebs” and to get alone to recharge her introvert batteries. In the big picture, she takes a yearly break during the holidays from events and speaking engagements and puts her Lifegiver podcast on hiatus. None of this time away is perfect, and there will always be interruptions, says Corie, but intentionality matters. Slowing down and stepping away offers time to evaluate, personally, spiritually, and relationally as the new year begins.
“I ask myself hard questions: Do I want to keep doing this? Am I in a healthy place?” says Corie. “I give myself permission each year to re-evaluate everything. It helps me recognize the things I actually love and enjoy. If there’s something I’m really dragging through, and don’t know why, I give myself permission to let it go if I need to.”
As it was for many families, the long months of the pandemic were tough for the Weathers family, and Corie says she recognized she was nearing burnout. In addition to the disruptions of school and schedules, the family moved, and Matt began a deployment just as the holidays were beginning.
“I really hit the ceiling as far as maxing out my own capability,” she says. “It was too much, between moving, deployment, COVID, trying to work, both my kids being in a new school, the emotional challenges, working on my marriage. I knew I had to stop and listen to myself.”
In this season, too, Corie is mining her own experiences for ways to encourage military spouses, reminding them that self-care is not indulgent or selfish but necessary. For deployment, for the pandemic, or any challenge of military life, Corie says spouses aren’t simply looking for advice, they’re looking for someone who understands their experiences.
“They need more than a few practical tips for coping,” she says. “Authentic storytelling from someone who has been there is far more powerful. I wrote Sacred Spaces with that mindset, and when people hear a story that resonates, they’re going to say, ‘Me too,’ and we’re all going to get a little bit better.”
More about Corie Weathers and her book Sacred Spaces: