Hey y’all… It’s been a minute hasn’t it? I’ve been letting life take over for a while and have not taken the time lately to write my thoughts. For starters, we went HOME for two weeks, which was what I had been needing for oh so long. I breathed in that crisp Northwest air every time I walked outside, I basked in the non-humid summer, and I ate all.the.things. I came back feeling refreshed mentally, larger physically, and motivated to do more creatively, including coming back to my therapy blog sessions.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the couple of friends I’ve made here finally, and how grateful that makes me feel, and how GD difficult it is to make solid friendships when you move every three years. And how it seems like in the military lifestyle, there is this pressure to make friends with absolutely every military wife you come into contact with, or whose husband works with your husband, so you can all be apart of the same club or something. Being friends with everyone, or having 900 Facebook friends, is just not my style, and for the last eight or so years of living this life, I have let it make me feel insecure about my ability to “fit in” with these cliquish women and my lack of shared interests (read: lounging on the beach in Hawaii in my bikini all goddamn day, every goddamn day).
But not anymore. I accept that I won’t hang with the “crowd” here (or anywhere, probably), and that I only need a few good friends to get me through. Because two or three solid friendships that foster mutual empathy and love is so much better than being one in a group of twenty.
So what’s a normal girl gotta do to make friends in this way of life? Hell, I have no idea. I fumble my way through it, as evidenced in all my posts about feeling hopelessly lost in this god forsaken panhandle of Florida. All I can do is share the wisdom I have gained by my fourth duty station (which means my fourth move, third state, and fourth group of women whom I feel I have nothing in common with). So here it is:
How to make friends as a military spouse in yet another new duty station:
DON’T EXPECT TO KEEP THE “FRIENDS” YOU MEET AT THE VERY BEGINNING
When we first moved here, my husband hit it off with his base sponsor who was (and is) a really nice person with a hilarious sense of humor, and I met his wife a few weeks later and thought she was great too. We hung out with them a few times here and there and even started this “brunch club” where we met for brunch a few times and wanted to make it a regular thing. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. His wife seemed to hang out with other diver wives that I didn’t know (and wasn’t invited to join), and they lived kinda far away so nothing ever really worked out. Now, we all still enjoy each other’s company from time to time and I have nothing against them, but I’ve realized that they aren’t going to be our best buddies here, and that’s okay. I’ve moved on, too.
This is something I’ve thought about a lot, not just since having moved here. Every time we are somewhere new, and we meet our first couple who seems to jive with us, or group of people we think we could maybe get along with, and we hang out a few times, I think “ok, so these are our friends here. Cool.” And I’m usually wrong. I don’t know why, and it’s probably not always true for everyone, but for me I think I’m in such a hurry to make human contact and meet people I deem “normal” as soon as we get to our new home that I don’t really see that a) they may not be interested in having new friends or b) we don’t have as much in common as I thought.
MAKE FRIENDS ON YOUR OWN TIME, IN YOUR OWN SPACE
I have always said that I can not be besties with military wives just because both of our husbands serve. I mean, really… Think about it. Service members come from all over the country, from all different backgrounds and experiences, and in the military there are almost an endless number of jobs they do. So why would I automatically be your bff because our husbands sort of know each other?
Now, don’t get me wrong. MOST of my friends are indeed military wives, but this is not the reason we are friends. I have had co-workers, classmates, graduate school friends, and mom group friends that have become my friends because of the activities we both engage in, which foster a natural kind of friendship over a shared interest. Here in Florida, since I have not held a job it has been very difficult to make friends. One of the girls I knew in Hawaii and contacted after we got settled here has turned out to be a very sweet person and generous friend, and I am very grateful for her. And yes, our husbands used to work together. But I maintain this friendship because we are both new-ish moms, live near each other, are both Virgos, love yoga, and have a lot in common. And my other good friend is a mom I got to know by taking Claire to her weekly music lessons and has no military affiliation. Win!
Though I can not control my life as far as the military allows, I can control the ways in which I acquire friendships. I don’t have time for superficial friendships of convenience; this leaves me feeling unfulfilled and not cared about. I choose to make a few friendships that are meaningful and that I like to think I will take with me when we leave this place.
YOU MUST MAKE EFFORT TO FORGE FRIENDSHIPS WHEN YOU’RE THE NEW GIRL IN TOWN.
This has been the hardest lesson to learn. And it seems to simple! My girlfriends back home from high school still hang out with each other regularly, and that’s just wild to me. I’ve been all over this damn country and have had to start over so many times, that those easy, effortless friendships just do not exist to me, for very long anyway.
When I was a newly wed and at my first duty station with my husband, I had zero friends. I watched all the “Diver Wives” (tiny little blonde things) sit around and tell each other how pretty they were, how many times they went to the beach that week, and which mall was their favorite on the island (For. Real. I wish I was joking), while I studied my LSAT prep book and scoured the internet for professional jobs. I knew I had nothing in common with these girls, and I had been so out of practice at making new friends that I just kind of was paralyzed with fear. Once we moved on from there, I realized it was going to take effort on my part to meet people that I actually had anything in common with: I had to put myself out there, ask for phone numbers, stalk them on Facebook, and suggest get-togethers.
And so I did. And it isn’t easy, especially when you have to keep doing this every time you move. But it really is the only way to meet people you want to spend time with. And it does get better, because it gets to be routine to put yourself out there. And I have to say – maybe it’s because I’m in my 30’s and give less of a shit these days, or because I’ve gotten used to this – I feel more confident putting myself out there in some ways than ever before, and I have made some good friendships by doing so. The risk is worth the reward. Usually.
So that’s it, my friends. Some helpful tips if you are relocating somewhere new for any reason. Or if you just feel like you need some new friends. I can’t say it’s fool-proof, but it has certainly worked for this friendly introvert who very much loves her comfort zone. Sadly, we never stay there for long.