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‘Both important and secondary’ Simone Gorrindo examines life as an Army wife in new memoir ‘The Wives’

“The Wives” author Simone Gorrindo.  (Courtesy)

At one time the “foundational betrayal” in Simone Gorrindo’s marriage was her husband’s career in the military. For a pacifist-raised editor in New York City, it was difficult moving to a military base in Georgia with a full-time job of being a supportive spouse to someone fighting terrorism overseas.

But soon Gorrindo found community in the insular, misunderstood world of the wives tasked with sublimating their lives into their husbands and the United States military. Her ability to find home in a world she never expected to be in is chronicled in Gorrindo’s new memoir “The Wives,” which will be spotlighted in The Spokesman-Review’s “Northwest Passages” series later this month.

“Never in a million years did I imagine that would be my life,” Gorrindo recalled of her early years with her now-husband Andrew. In her mid-20s Gorrindo had her dream job as a publishing editor in New York City and a long-term boyfriend she loved. That life was turned upside down when Andrew gave her an ultimatum.

“If I have to choose between you and the Army, it’s the Army,” he told her in couples therapy. She knew he wanted to join the army, but she had never taken it seriously. Years earlier she jokingly told him she would leave him if he signed up for military service.

But when that choice was put to her, she did not leave him. She loved him.

They went on to marry. He enlisted. She quit her dream job. They both moved to Georgia where neither knew a soul. It was a “transformative,” experience, Gorrindo recalled. Asked if that choice had changed her life for the better, she remained unsure.

“It’s a huge aspect of who we are as a family. It’s impossible to say if my life would have been better or worse. But I know I am now a human being of a much more sturdier and more generous-spirited character,” she said.

As a liberal-minded person, Gorrindo suddenly found herself in a world of hierarchy and order where her husband would be away for months at a time. It was often lonely but gave her the opportunity to bond with the other women who were often different but in the exact same situation.

“My time in Georgia showed me our shared humanity outweighs our differences. And that maybe we need each other more than ever despite the things that divide us,” she said.

In her memoir, Gorrindo hopes to dispel some misconceptions about the life of an army wife. It is a story she has not often seen told in full. There is often a lot of “lip service” that a military spouse is a “gravitational force” keeping loved ones grounded while they fight in war. That’s true, but it’s often an incomplete story.

“We are both important and secondary,” she said of military wives. “We are a fundamental kind of invisible presence in the military. But we don’t get a lot of air time because our job is to be silent.”

When the husband leaves, a wife is not supposed to tell those in their life when he’s coming come, post about their worries for him on social media and even tell people what their husband is doing.

“We can be protecting important, sensitive information. But holding that in is isolating,” she said.

Gorrindo hopes more “formal supports” cam be put in place to help supporting spouses build a support system for themselves. Much of her memoir details Gorrindo’s struggle to create that for herself. Some friendships were immediate. Others took a long time and were challenging. But through that experience Gorrindo believes she developed the tools to create her own community wherever she goes.

The pair left Georgia four years later – shortly after Gorrindo gave birth to their first child. Andrew re-enlisted and they began again in a new unit. These decisions also weigh heavily in the book as they disentangle their own desires from those of the social environment they found themselves in.

When marrying Andrew at 27, Gorrindo’s friends in New York jokingly called her a teenage bride. In Georgia, she was much older than many of the other army wives who already had several children. While the couple knew they wanted kids, Gorrindo admitted expectations in the unit may have sped up their timetable.

“Not having kids more than anything else made me feel like an outsider in the beginning. We were constantly asked when we would have them. Kids are so much part of the social fabric there,” she said.

Andrew also faced the decision whether to re-enlist and continue the life they had built in the army.

Amid these social pressures, fissures began appearing in their marriage. It was in this critical time where Gorrindo sat across her husband in a therapist office and had her own truth to tell.

“Your whole career choice is, like, a foundational betrayal of our marriage,” she told him then.

It was something said that was hurtful but did have an “emotional truth” at the time.

“There was a way in which I felt I was always being abandoned,” Gorrindo now recalled of that moment.

Writing the book brought a lot of healing to her marriage by putting words to long-held feelings, she added.

Gorrindo, her husband and their two children live in Tacoma. Andrew is looking at spending a whole career in the military. And she thinks its finally her turn to be in the spotlight.

“Marriage is long. And the one element that makes marriages works, at least for us, is finding ways to take turns,” she said.

Taking place on the roof of The Spokesman-Review Tower, Northwest Passages will host Simone Gorrindo on April 16 at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at