Being married to the military is different than non-military life…obviously. We move a lot and say goodbye a lot. Our friends move a lot and we make new friends while keeping up with the old. Our spouses work odd hours all over the world and it’s normal for them to be absent for large & small events. Civilian friends look on in horror when I casually say that Mister Jupiter was away (deployed) and we missed his birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and our first anniversary. It’s normal…for us; a military family.
Regardless of whether you’re a MilSO or not, it is easy to understand that if family is far away, and you can’t regularly communicate with your spouse – you need your friends.
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When you complete your first PCS (or your 10th!), you no longer live near your family and childhood friends. Yes, it is lonely at first, but it is always a good time to make new friends. Easier said than done? Yes. But with a little planning I have found a great way to get a nice variety of new friends by focusing on having at least one new friend in three different circles.
My preferred three circles of friends are 1) Civilian 2) General Military, and 3) Default.
Civilian friends are just that. These friends are not married to the military or active duty themselves; your nomadic life is weird to them. These people are the locals, they’re your coworkers and classmates. I have always cherished my civvie friends because they can do whatever they want. Change jobs! Expatriate to Canada! Express political views in their work clothes! But honestly, it’s all about the conversation variety. When we don’t have military lives in common, we have to dig deeper for connections (assuming that you and a person click in the first place of course, I never try to force a friendship). The variety of non-military conversation is a true breath of fresh air.
Don’t dismiss a potential friendship because of rank. We’re all people first.
General Military is kind of self explanatory. These are usually friends that you make organically on base, or in another military-related venue or event. I meet my general military friends at the gym, or at promotion parties.
These people know the lifestyle, but they don’t know you. It’s fun getting to know others in different work circles, but you may need to exercise a little caution here and err on the side of sameness. What I mean is that it is best if you try to stick with Enlisted wife friends if you’re married to an E. And try to stick with Officer wife friends if you’re married to an O. Why does this matter? This matters because our Active Duty spouse’s work varies greatly if they are an E or an O. Thus the concerns of an enlisted member’s spouse will be different from an officer’s wife, and this can create friction is a budding friendship.
Remember however that SPOUSES DO NOT WEAR RANK (unless you’re active duty too of course). Don’t dismiss a potential friendship because of rank. We’re all people first. Just remember that our lives are a -little- different, and that your spouses won’t be able to hang out together (so couples’ nights and similar will not be allowed). General military friends are great for casual chats, and it’s always interesting to learn about what is normal in other careers.
Default Friends. I came up with this term ages ago to describe wives in the same squadron that I didn’t like. Please note dear friends that I am not ‘throwing shade’ here. I have been married to the military for over ten years now and I don’t click with every wife I meet.
Sometimes you don’t click, but you see them ALL OF THE TIME because they attend all of the functions and socials with you. Do exchange phone numbers, but don’t feel obligated to invite them to brunch every weekend.
These women not only know the general lifestyle, but if your AD counterparts work together, then they are also familiar with niche details like crazy work schedules, deployment issues, and past duty stations. Default friends are excellent resources, and usually good people too! Sometimes the only thing in common is that your spouses work with each other. That common ground is small, but it’s there. Always be friendly to your default friends, maybe you’ll find a spark and become genuine friends (fingers crossed!).
Care for your unicorn if you have one.
Lastly, there are unicorns. “Unicorns” isn’t a group because they are rare and magical -of course. These are the people you click with who just so happen to be in the same squadron. They are instant best friends and oceans cannot keep you from caring for each other deeply. Care for your unicorn if you have one. Send her some chocolate this week, because I know you have her address.
Clearly this works for me, but it’s only after a decade of trying, failing, and analyzing. Do you also keep different friend groups? What groups work best for you?
- You might also want to read: PCS “Spring” Cleaning