By Lizann Lightfoot
“Let’s see who your real friends are,” the speaker said.
I recently attended MilspouseFest in San Diego. This is a free, one-day event for military spouses where they can relax, meet new people, learn about military life, and win cool prizes. It is held at locations across the country close to major military bases.
During one session, the main speaker Judy Davis (The Direction Diva) encouraged everyone to think about their true friends. She had everyone in the room pull out their phones and write down the last 15 people they had called or texted. Co-workers, service companies, and wrong numbers didn’t count and were crossed out. Family members were circled. What remained on the list was actual friends and neighbors, either near your duty station or far away. Some people had only a handful of friends on the list. A few participants had none at all.
The exercise was eye-opening. All military spouses need friends. No one is an island, right? But finding new friends when you are new to military life is different from making friends in high school. When you move out to your first duty station as a military spouse, you’re going to need a little help to adjust. Newlywed military spouses quickly learn that they need these friends in their life.
New military spouses need these 9 friends
- The non-needy neighbor: Not all neighbors are created equal, but if you can find one that doesn’t mind sharing an occasional cup of milk when you run out and will also stop and chat with you for a pleasant hour while they are walking their dog, then you are golden.
- The same-unit sidekick: Let’s face it–going to unit events alone is no fun. You need someone to help you keep tabs of the ever-changing schedule and give each other a look with a raised eyebrow when the FRG launches into the same old speech. Having a friend in your spouse’s unit means you will also have someone to talk to when both of your spouses are away training together.
- The local: Want to get to know the area around your base? Ask someone who lives there! Whether you connect at work, at the gym, or in the grocery store, this local friend will be a real treasure. They know all the road names and can tell you the best restaurants and date night locations. They know when the tourist spots will be over-run and where to celebrate different holidays. They can definitely help you start your deployment bucket list.
- The dog lover: If you have a pet, you are going to need to set up some play dates at the dog park. Either chat up a neighbor who is also a fur parent or just ask for company on the local Facebook page. Once you get used to each other’s pets, you can help each other out by checking on them or feeding them if someone goes away for a weekend.
- The play date parent: If you are a parent, especially one who stays at home with little ones, you are going to need friends who understand the large amount of diapers and small amount of sleep in your life. This friend will laugh with you, keep you sane, comment on all your Instagram photos of your baby, and not judge you if you want a glass of wine at the end of the day. They are also the perfect person to trade babysitting with when you have a doctor’s appointment or a date night.
- The double date duo: Sometimes you find a couple that you and your spouse both enjoy seeing. If you do, consider yourselves lucky! You now have the perfect partners for a night out on the town or a weekend BBQ. You’ll probably have them over often for game nights or dinner, and they are the ones you will call to throw a surprise party.
- The one with a car: Many new military spouses can only afford to be a one-car family. Unless you get up and drop off your service member at the crack of dawn, then you may be stuck home alone all day. A friend who will give you a ride to the grocery store, unit events, or play dates is a must. It’s an added bonus if they turn into your same-unit sidekick or play date parent friend, too.
- The seasoned spouse: The best military tips and ideas will come from an older spouse who has had a few years of experience with military life. They can tell you all about the different resources on base, where to find military discounts, and what to do when you need to contact your spouse during a deployment. An added perk–they actually understand military acronyms and can translate them for you!
- The 9-1-1 call: Everyone needs one friend who would bring you ginger ale and crackers if you were sick or Pedialyte and Lysol on the day that each of your children is vomiting. This is the friend who will come to the hospital and hold your hand when you deliver a baby while your spouse is deployed. They might be grossed out but they are totally there for you.
Do you have some of these friends yet? Then share this with them and thank them for the difference they make in your life!
Lizann Lightfoot is an associate editor at Military One Click and a Marine Corps spouse. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.