One of the hurdles of being a military spouse is having to make friends as an adult. The younger you are the easier it is, but at some point you won’t be 21 and able just find friends based on who likes to go out.
When I moved away to St. Louis, MO after college, I had to make an effort to make friends in a city with people who weren’t interested in making friends because they still had theirs from high school. When I moved to Fort Bragg, I was used to the routine and used some of the same methods I had tried before. Now I would say I have plenty of friends, although close friends are a different story. Those friendships require time to cultivate. Simple friends, people to invite to lunch are easy to find. Here are some of the ways I have made connections.
This may be the most natural way to meet people because your husband’s friends will typically come around and possibly bring their spouses. Other than that, there are opportunities to meet wives are work events like Family Readiness Group functions. These friends are useful because their family has the same schedule and barriers as you and it is easy to relate.
- Workout Classes
I have made a couple good friends at Crossfit. I know, you don’t want to do crossfit, but this rule applies to exercise classes in general. The fact that you are likely to see the same people on a regular basis helps to get to know them and being there means you have a common interests and probably similar goals.
I have made good friends with people I hit it off with at these classes, but I have become friends with some ladies simply because of all the time we have spent together working out over the years.
I have made two good friends from meetup.com but several general friends and acquaintances. This service has been a great source for finding things to do. My favorite groups at Fort Bragg have been Young Black Professionals and a women’s book club.
When YBF first started and was small, I had an issue with being bullied by grown women in the group! At first there were three women giving me a hard time, then it was just one person being unnecessarily critical. She made me second guess attending events. As the group grew, the bully moved on to someone else and then eventually left the group.
- Facebook turn Face to Face
I am not a fan of this but more than any other network, military spouses commonly post their desire to make friends in military specific groups on Facebook. One of friends says she met most of her friends from Instagram. I’m too old to really understand how that works, but it did for her!
Maybe I’m just too formal, but my experience has never amounted to anything. I have added ladies and been added. A message thread may have begun and they responded with one-word answers or never asked questions. OR nothing ever happens. I know I am over analytical and expect too much of people, but what value do I get from having a Facebook friend I do not know?
If you are the person posting that you want friends, reach out to those people who respond and actually get to know them.
I’m using this option in theory, because I haven’t made any friends from church since I’m not that involved, but if I were involved it would be a great place to make friends. Since religion, Christianity in my case, is usually a big part of one’s identity, making friends at church should mean you have important things in common and possibly the same social opportunities. The best approach to meeting people at church is to join a small group or find a place to serve. Conferences or events where you may spend an extended amount of time with a group of people is a good option as well.
- Being Friendly
This is important in all these avenues for friend-making. Simply attending an event doesn’t mean you will leave with contacts. You have to speak to people around you. I usually say something silly or that I think is interesting in hopes it will give the other person something to add to. One of my best friends here I made my approaching her and another woman at a squadron potluck.
- Say Yes!
I have mastered the art of showing up. Be it a Going-Away Dinner, one-year old’s birthday party, or H20 at Home demo, I’m there. Not only is it something to do, but it’s more time with friends that could become close friends or acquaintances that could become friends.
Most women seem to be too afraid to attend an event where they don’t know anyone, but hello, if you don’t know anyone to take with you, this is how you can meet someone. You have to start somewhere! I have been to so many of the same friends’ events, I have gotten to know their friends and feel more comfortable each time.
Taking it to the Next Level
Meeting people is great but a bunch of people I met at MaryKay parties or Facebook friends aren’t going to provide entertainment from behind their screens. Bearing in mind I’m not in my early twenties, this has been a good method for making friends:
- Connect on Social Media.
This is a more lowkey way to keep contact than getting someone’s number. People feel less put on the spot if you just add them on Facebook.
What I like to do is message the person I have just met sometime within the week after meeting them just to say I enjoyed meeting them. This is also great if you do get someone’s number except then you should reach out within the first 72 hours (if you want a formal recommendation).
- Keep in Touch
Check in with people on-line or have a conversation with them if you see them in public. One of my pet peeves is Facebook friends not being interested in interacting in real life. If I wanted pen pals I would write to people in prison.
- Invite to an Event or Lunch
Piggy backing on not being a pen pal, if you want a real-life friend you should invite that person to do something…in real life. I like inviting people to do an activity because it takes the pressure off me to entertain them. This works especially well if there is an event offered by a group you both belong to. If that is not an option, asking someone to meet for lunch is always a good move.
From there if the person takes initiative to reach out to you or invite you to something, you will probably actually be friends! If not, you could continue to invite this person to things, but chances are it won’t be the friend you cry to during deployment but may still be someone to do things with when you need a companion.
PRO TIP: Be interested, not interesting. If you haven’t heard that saying before it means to focus on others instead of putting the focus on yourself. Asking for more information and actively listening so that you can comment, add information about your own experience, or ask another question makes the other person feel valued and helps cultivate good conversation.
I can’t act like everyone is comfortable putting themselves out there. It’s hard. It’s hard not to feel self-conscious about fitting in, or not to feel nervous about seeming out of place. It is hard not to fear feeling insignificant if no one talks to you. I have overcome these anxieties simply because of the amount of times I have put myself in these situations. I have sought friends on Craigslist; NOT a good strategy.
I also always dress my best because I don’t want my appearance to be something I am self-conscious about. This makes me feel more confident and gives a good first impression.
Lastly, being brave is a choice. Showing up scared is being brave. I have definitely shown up at places and felt nervous, but decided I wasn’t going to die nor let the experience make me believe I was insignificant. I know some people feel nervous meeting people one on one. The reality is, the awkward period is part of the process and if you don’t hit it off, it’s okay. Even if you don’t make a friend, practice the habit of being a friend. It gets easier each time.
Go forth and be social!