I saw an awesome t-shirt the other day that summed up my friendship philosophy: Your vibe attracts your tribe. Isn’t that the truth? I have an amazing group of friends who I trust with my whole heart. But friendships haven’t always been easy for me, especially as a new military spouse. Making friends as an adult under any circumstances can be tough. Making friends when you are away from home can be even harder. But having a crew of friends you can count on is one of the things that has helped me most on my military journey.
When I was a young military spouse in my early 20s, living on an installation for the first time, life was lonely. My husband was working a lot and I didn’t have many friends that I kept in touch with after high school. I remember our first tour well. It was the first time I’d ever met someone from another state, much less the other side of the world. I was being exposed to people from different backgrounds and cultures with different value systems and parenting styles. It didn’t take me long to learn that the military spouse connection alone would not be enough to sustain a lasting friendship. I’d meet a spouse and we’d hit it off, but our friendship would fade, sometimes for obvious reasons and others with no explanation at all. I wish back then that someone would have told me that it was okay to let friendships go if they didn’t feel right. Now that I’m older and I have good, caring, amazing friends, I would tell myself this:
- Don’t become someone’s enabler. Every military spouse needs a helping hand from time to time. An emergency sitter, a can of cream of mushroom soup, or a ride to the clinic. But if crisis seems to follow someone around like a lost puppy, that might not be a good relationship for you. Rescue friends are emotionally exhausting and take away valuable time from healthy relationships. It’s okay to help someone out in a time of need, but don’t become a savior for someone who constantly needs rescuing.
- Find a mutual connection. People get busy. We don’t always return calls, social media messages, or texts, and not all of us are planners. But if you’re always the person reaching out and trying to make plans, the friendship might not be reciprocated by the other person. You are worth a phone call. Don’t settle for less.
- Avoid gossip. If someone is gossiping to you about someone else, they most likely are talking about you when you aren’t around. Unless you enjoy being the topic of other people’s conversation, avoid people who talk about other people’s business. If someone shares something with you, even if they don’t say, “this is a secret,” don’t talk about it with someone else.
- Embrace people who embrace this life. It’s hard living away from home and family. For many of us, life in the military is a shock to our system – we aren’t used to the long hours, protocols and customs – but it’s much easier to embrace military life when you surround yourself with other families who enjoy it. As spouses, we are a part of military culture because we chose to marry and build a life with our service member. Oftentimes their desire to serve our country can be hard on us. But their commitment runs deep, just like our love for them. Surround yourself with people who have strong marriages and who are living their best MilLife.
- Remember you are the company you keep. The qualities you look for in other military spouses will be easier to spot if you possess them yourself.
Over the past 20 years, I have met hundreds of military spouses. We share a camaraderie that can’t be matched, but being a fellow military spouse is not enough to sustain a friendship. Finding your special few takes patience – it’s okay to let people come into and fade out of your life. The best people are the ones you can be your authentic self with. Hold onto those people, treasure them, love them and nurture those relationships. Your tribe is out there – you just need to build it, one healthy relationship at a time.