“I’m not like a regular friend, I’m a cool friend.”
Anyone else out there a Mean Girls Fan? Ok, so maybe I tweaked the wording AND I did just reveal my age a bit, but I’m not ashamed.
Mean Girls is one of Tina Fey’s breakthrough movies and I love me some Tina Fey - I mean, have you read BossyPants? I laughed out loud. Back to the topic at hand….
Do you ever wonder how you can be a better friend to someone you know in the military?
We know it can challenging to start building a relationship with the knowledge that your new found friend is probably sticking around for for 6 -18 months if you are lucky.
I was once asked, after just meeting someone, how long I would be around. The truth later come out that the woman was hesitant to be too friendly with me as she had been hurt in the past by people “leaving” her.
I appreciated her honesty and shared that I have experience the same thing both ways - sadness by military friends moving before I did and also saying goodbye to friends when we moved.
We recognize that befriending a military spouse can come with unique challenges, the main one being the fact that you know they will move one day. But this same fact can be viewed instead as a positive - you will know people who live all around the country or even the world!!
While it may be difficult (and perhaps scary to make friends with a military spouse since you know you will be heartbroken when they move) it is worth it!
Military spouses are fiercely loyal to their good friends. They are also amazing at maintaining relationships across the miles. I have made friends at each duty station and I still keep up with them (and not just by reading their Facebook posts either).
There are many ways to be a better friend in life and a military spouse will appreciate your efforts as they are so often the “new one” in town or alone while their spouse is away for weeks and months at a time. The following five ways are not just for those welcoming a new military friend to town, but can be used by military spouses with each other.
By the way, military spouses - you aren’t off the hook! We know you can move somewhere new and a “short timer’s attitude” where you don’t take time to invest where you are at with the people you meet. We've been there too. We encourage you to not isolate and don’t give up. We will have to talk more on this later in another post!
5 Ways To Be A Great Friend To A Military Spouse
I mean actually talk. Go knock on the door, give them a phone call, Skype, Facebook message, etc. A military spouse is often alone at home or alone with kids and talking to an adult will lift their spirits while keeping them grounded. Even if you don’t have time for an in person visit or a long coffee date, checking in with a quick text message to see how they’re doing could mean the world to someone having a tough day.
Invite them to coffee, cookies at your house, going for a run, a birthday party, heck, even a grocery store trip would be a welcome reprieve from isolation or loneliness. (There has been more than one occasion when walking around a Target or a PX has become a fun, friendship building activity in my life.)
Ask the hard questions.
Don’t skip around it. Ask how they are doing with a deployment, a difficult training or class, or a move. (We have learned to see through things anyway so we will know if you are skipping around the hard stuff:) ). And if we tell you things have been hard lately, you can just say something like “Man, that sucks” - you don’t have to fix it or try to help us see the positive side of things. ;)
And ask the little questions too.
On the flip side of asking hard questions, be honest if there is something you don’t understand - we won’t judge! I have been a military spouse for several years and still don’t know what 70% of the acronyms mean or understand the irregular work schedules, reasons for “hurrying up and waiting” and many other elements of this crazy, wonderful life. When you overhear: “I am planning to TDY when I PCS and I hope the BAH at the next place is better” you might be thinking “what the heck was that”? so just ask. Most likely you will get a smile and an explanation or even a shrug to say, “I really don’t know either, but that’s ok”.
Send them mail.
Okay so maybe this is a shameless plug, but really it is one of the main reasons we invented The Six Box. Most people love snail mail - it takes thought, time and effort to write, pack and send mail. The letter, package, comic strip, etc. will be truly appreciated and bring a smile to their face. So often the effort to send letters and care packages is spent only on the spouse who is gone (which is well deserved of course), but to have the spouse at home’s sacrifice recognized is a huge deal.
I hope this helped simplify and encourage you to reach out to your military spouse friends (whether you are in the military or not)! When in doubt just stop by with (or send) cookies and a smile and you have become the new best friend!
If you are trying to crack the lingo, check out these two awesome lists of phrases that are unique to the military: