We moved recently. And I did all the right things to get myself ‘into the zone’ as far as what my new life would look like. I planned out my daily schedule, my workouts and a list of have-to-visit restaurants and shops that I thought I’d love. I did a lot of encouraging self-talk about how I’d build my new community and how awesome my life would be at our new location. But I’m too much of a seasoned military spouse to expect things to go as planned.
Turns out, it is a lot different than I expected. I don’t have a community. For some people it’s so easy to make new friends and you’ve got all your local emergency contact phone numbers after the first week. I’ve never been that spouse. I usually find really good friendships after I’ve been stationed somewhere for a couple years. My new life is really lonely. As a military spouse, I’ve found that sometimes you’re at the mercy of your spouse when it comes to finding friends — particularly at the beginning at a new location. And sometimes it’s just really discouraging. More times than not, I find myself hosting a group of people I don’t know who are only connected to my spouse through work. When you’re an introvert playing an extrovert like myself, it can be difficult after an effort like hosting to new people in hopes of making some connections when in the end, they only connect with your spouse. It can be really defeating, and as I’m still struggling through it, here are some thoughts that encourage me to keep trying:
- The deeper relationships that I’ve made have been worth the struggle to make friends. I have found myself in some ridiculous situations, wondering how I got myself into them, but the answer is always that I’m trying to put myself out there to meet some friends. And I know as a fellow military spouse you will relate to that. Sometimes you have to go through several really awkward conversations, dinners or lunches before you find the person you click with!
- Don’t set your expectations too high. This one is a real struggle for me. The lonelier I get, the more expectations I have when there is actually a chance to make a friend. This doesn’t mean I’m going to the length of vacuuming my curtains for guests coming over, but it’s close. I mentioned I like hosting and that’s usually how I meet new people at the very beginning. But in my head, we are all going to have wonderful deep conversations and have a lot of laughs and it will be a night to remember. But honestly nights like that don’t really come along very often, and they hardly ever do with a house full of new people. And that’s okay. It’s never a night wasted when you meet new people, even if you don’t click. It’s one more person you know in the area, and that is worth something.
- You aren’t alone. One of the beauties of military life and being a military spouse is that we all can connect on several basic levels. Every single spouse on your street (if you’re on post) has been the new spouse before. We’ve all been through a myriad of similar experiences. And we’ve all moved to a new place without any friends starting out. So, no matter how alone you feel, we are always surrounded by people who can understand how hard the military lifestyle can be.
You have to work at finding a community in every new location, but it’s worth it. And I won’t always feel like the outsider host walking around in my own home, feeling very out of place. It’s a season, and there will be lessons learned. Even if it feels lonely, I’m not the only one. So next time you have a chance to have a new awkward conversation – have it! You never know if it will lead to your next friend.