I’ve always been an independent person. In high school and college, I never felt an overwhelming need to be the center of anything, and you wouldn’t find me in large groups of people on any given day. It wasn’t a matter of fitting in, because I could find a way to get along with even the most difficult of people. It was just that I preferred having a few close friends that really cared and understood me, than a ton of friends that I only saw once in a while.
After Kyle joined the military, I found that there were very few people I could relate to. My very close friends stuck by me, and we fumbled our way through the first couple years. But meeting new friends could be quite the challenge. I would tell them that my boyfriend (at the time) had left for Basic Training, and the general response was that it must be “so romantic!” Like every military relationship is a Dear John novel. I came to realize that explaining what the military is really like to someone who hasn’t experienced it is like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree.
Finding your “tribe” as a military spouse is tough. It’s discouraging, frustrating, and disheartening at times. In the same sense that you won’t want to be friends with some people because they can’t seem to understand your viewpoint, some people won’t want to be friends with you for the same reasons. When it comes down to it, we need some people in our lives that either understand, or are really trying to.
For the friends that don’t know the military lifestyle:
It’s hard to be patient with people that don’t understand things that are so obvious to us now. They don’t understand how leave works, or why you need a Power of Attorney. They don’t understand why he just can’t “say no to the deployment” or wear his cover indoors. But they’ve never needed to understand these things; they’re not expected to understand. And that’s okay.
There’s going to come a time when you snap, break, lose it, whatever you want to call it. It might be during deployment, or maybe just a regular Tuesday. And you’re going to need them more than ever. So forgive them for their shortcomings, and all the moments that you wish they would just understand. They’re trying just like you are.
For the ones who do:
Let yourself need them.. a little
It’s not easy to step outside your comfort zone, especially when the situation is already stressful. I made my first military-spouse-friend during a pre-deployment Yellow Ribbon ceremony. I was in the middle of taking a million preparedness classes, and we ended up sitting next to each other. She waved me in, like she needed someone too. And we just clicked. It doesn’t always happen that way, but she’s been a blessing; someone I didn’t even know I needed. Her husband is deployed with mine, so together we vent about the military here and there. But we also talk about all of our dreams for what we’ll do when they come home. We keep each other looking forward.
Find positive people
Stay away from negative people, because with them comes negative situations and thoughts. If you find that every time you’re around a certain person, you’re complaining or venting about everything, then that might not be the right influence in your life. You might need to step back and make sure that this friendship isn’t affecting you negatively.
Don’t fake it
Every military spouse knows how to put up a good front, some more than others. I still struggle to be honest when I’m having hard time, but it’s a learning process. Be honest with them. Don’t fake how you’re feeling and don’t hide it when you need help. The moments when they need to step in are when you truly get to see what type of friend you have in them, military spouse or not.
How did you meet your “tribe”? Are they mostly military spouses, or not?