Military Spouse friendships are a very special kind of relationship. With only a couple of years between each move, we get to know each other very fast and often take on the responsibility of closest family member or official emergency contact for each other. A good friend can make or break the constant turning and changing nature of this life. It can make you feel totally at home or totally foreign and alone. But forming your community is not as simple as it sounds, especially if you are an introvert like me. Over the past 5 years, here are some things I have learned that might help.
Put Yourself Out There
I cannot stress this enough. You can only be a part of this community if you put yourself in it. We can be as warm and welcoming as hot chocolate to newcomers, but if they never leave the house they will feel isolated and alone. It can feel awkward and you might come across as sort of intrusive in a different context, but go ahead and invite people over for coffee from your neighborhood facebook page, or introduce yourself to other moms you see on the playground or at library story time. Make some cookies and share them with your neighbors. Invite a fellow pet mom to take the fur babies for a walk on a regular basis. Get out of your house and say hello to the people around you. I cannot tell you how many great friends I have made by my husband coming home and telling me about a new marine in his unit who has a wife, then I search for her on facebook and invite her out to my favorite coffee shop or over to my house. As a newcomer it is totally encouraging to make a friend your first week in a new place. It sort of feels like blind dating, and not everyone will be your best friend, but you have to be open to it. Which brings me to my next point.
You Will Not Always Have a Best Friend
Chances are, there will be at least somebody in each place you live that is compatible to you. But don’t feel depressed if you don’t always find your kindred spirit soul sister bestie who makes you laugh and cry and reach for the stars every time you see her. The truth is, that won’t always happen. And that is ok, it is just a different season of life. Sometimes you will have a few friends with kids who like your kids, or someone you can enjoy a cup of coffee or glass of wine with, someone who enjoys similar hobbies as you do, but doesn’t really knock your socks off. Keep that person close! Chances are, a friendly acquaintance will still bend over backward to help you out in an emergency, or bring you a meal after you have a baby. Be able to edit your cover letter for a job application, or tell you where to find the best tacos out in town. There is room for all levels of friendship in this life, and each one can teach us different things about ourselves.
When Friends Move Away, You Won’t Always Stay In Touch
If you aren’t already, it’s time to get on Facebook/Instagram. Social media gets a bad reputation for making communication less personal, but for the working mom whose husband is deployed, with friends spread out all over the world, social media becomes the most convenient way to stay up to date on everyone’s life events and drop a note or comment here and there to keep touch. Even if you were close friends, it becomes very difficult to maintain a relationship between Virginia Beach and Okinawa. But don’t write them off forever! The good news is that when your paths cross again, you will likely pick right back up where you left off. There have been several occasions where I see on Facebook that someone I know is traveling close to where I live and I reach out to plan a meet up! Another awesome thing about social media! We never would have realized we were so close in proximity otherwise.
Timing is Everything
Sometimes the compatibility is there, but the timing is just not right. Maybe her husband just got back from deployment and the only thing on her mind is family time. Or maybe you had an acquaintance at one duty station who becomes your best friend at the next. The person who used to be your favorite girl’s night out friend may not translate into your New-Mom best friend. Sometimes, I meet someone new to town just a few weeks before we pack up and move away. It can be so frustrating thinking what could have been. Circumstances often dictate how close we feel to people. So embrace the friendships you have now and let them evolve naturally.
Don’t Wear Your Husband’s Rank
Enjoy the freedom of befriending anyone and everyone without restriction. Your spouse may not be able to enjoy the same relationships, but these friends can offer you a many colored perspective on military life which is highly beneficial to a spouse. As long as you can keep your husband’s work stories out of it. Make it about you.
Being a military spouse requires hard work, dedication, as well as flexibility to change, and the spouse friendships are a big part of that. Let yourself feel sad when people move away, these emotions are a part of loving your friends. But at the same time let yourself be open to the new friendships and what they can offer your life.
by Catherine Hershey
Catherine Hershey is a military spouse, mom of three boys, musician, and runner. She loves the challenges of military life and the deep emotions experienced with each change. She loves to share her story and listen to the stories of those around her. Follow her on Instagram @the_wayfaring_homebodies or on her blog: https://thewayfaringhomebodies.wordpress.com