We have all heard the phrase “Be a friend to have a friend.” Have you ever stopped to think about what this phrase REALLY means? I believe that we all crave true serious friendships with at least a few people in our lives. Maybe you already have an amazing BFF or maybe you are still searching because you just arrived to a new duty station and can’t even remember your neighbor’s name yet! Whatever your position in life is right now, I am from the camp of there is always room in your heart for another true friendship. In our unique military world, we get to practice this “be a friend to have a friend” theory every three years, so it is important to keep the foundation of how to be a good friend in the back of your mind.
Having a 50/50 relationship is key to a healthy, long-lasting friendship. You have to give a little to get a little. This means not dominating conversations with only your life and your news. It also means that you help each other out. There are going to be times in your friendship where one friend is going to need more support or help from the other friend. As relationships ebb and flow, there will be a time when the friend that needed support will be able to reciprocate and give assistance back. This is especially common in military friendships because of the deployment cycle. Remember, no one likes a one-sided friendship where you never get a word in edgewise or are always stuck helping in a “crisis.” Remember to be the type of friend you want to have.
My most important advice is to build your friendships on trust and loyalty: If your friend tells you something in confidence, keep it in confidence at all costs. Imagine the hurt your friend would feel if he or she heard about a secret that you spread throughout your social circle. This also means do not talk about your friend behind his or her back. Whenever I hear someone talking about a “friend” in a negative manner, it makes me wonder what this person would say about me behind my back. Trust also comes down to being dependable. From simple things such as if you tell your friend you are going to meet at 11:30 for lunch, be there at 11:30. Or as important as helping your friend get ready for a spouse’s deployment homecoming by watching their kids or running errands, or even being there at that magical moment to take pictures. If you say you will, do it. Of course life happens, but if you find “life is happening” more often than your ability to keep your promises, it is time to re-evaluate your priorities.
You and your friends probably agree on the majority of topics. Obviously, there is some common bond that you share. That is why you are friends after all, right? However, that means you will probably not agree on everything. Maybe you don’t see eye to eye on something big like politics, religion or how to raise children, or maybe it is something smaller like which brand of laundry detergent smells better. Whatever your conflicting topics may be, remember to be respectful. If these topics come up, hear your friend out. You do not have to agree on everything, nor do you need to force your friend to follow your belief system. Agree to disagree and love your friend anyway. All of us being different is what makes the world go around. If your friend is seeking advice or an opinion, give it. However, don’t be upset if he or she does not take your advice. Remember that your friend obviously values your friendship and respects your opinions enough to want to know what you would do, but what your solution is may not ultimately be right for your friend. Don’t hold a grudge that could end up destroying your friendship.
I feel that our unique lives as military spouses give us the opportunity to make many friends as we PCS, thrive during our spouse’s deployments and go through general life events. Each person we meet is an opportunity to practice our friendship skills. Remember to nurture your friendships with loyalty, a helping hand, understanding and forgiveness. As long as you remember “Be a friend to have a friend,” you will find lasting friendships along the way!