Maintaining Civilian Friendships

Taking a cue from a fellow blogger, I wanted to share my thoughts on maintaining civilian friendships.

From what I have observed, it seems that most military spouse’s main objection to civilians is that they don’t understand what military spouses go through and are therefore not supportive.

I’ve heard the common situation of a woman getting upset that a friend is complaining that her boyfriend has to go out of town for a week and is therefore not understanding of how difficult it is to go through a deployment. (My response to that is always to point out that friendship is a two-way street, there is no reason that a military spouse can’t put aside her issues to support a friend going through a hard time)

Then there are the women who feel that once they move to another state/country to be with their spouse, their friends from back home don’t keep in touch and therefore don’t understand their lifestyle and were never “real friends” like the military wives they meet at their new duty station. (I find this baffling, from my experience most of the time friendships are based on sharing time together and therefore naturally tend to fizzle out when that contact is taken away. It’s not a reflection of that person not being a “real friend” or not understanding the other persons lifestyle, it’s just a result of distance).

In most of these situations, I think that it is important for military spouses to understand that most civilians are completely ignorant of military life.

That means that they will say the wrong thing when they try to talk about military life (“aren’t you afraid he is going to die?”, “can you visit him?”, etc.). They don’t mean to offend you, they just don’t know.

Or they won’t say anything at all because they don’t know what to say and therefore may come across as uninterested and unsupportive.

I think that there are two options when it comes to overcoming these barriers with your civilian friends.

#1: Educate them. As explained nicely by the aforementioned blogger, there is a nice way to educate your friends and family. You can tell them why their comments may be rude and educate them about what they can do to support you when you are having a hard time with deployment.

#2: (the options I take) Separate your military life from your civilian friendships. I don’t mean to hide the fact that your spouse is in the military or never talk about it, but I think I can safely say that us military spouses are a lot more than “just” military spouses. We have other interests that we can connect and bond to people around.

Personally, I have a variety of friends in my life. I tend to categorize them: my military spouse friends, school/work friends and my hometown friends, etc.

I have a variety of friends because I have a variety of interests.

I am interested in the military community. I volunteer with my husband’s command and I like the spend time with women who can emphasize and relate to my military life. I like knowing that my military wife friends and I can get together when our husbands are gone. I like that they know how much it means to have a friend ask you to hang out when your spouse deploys or leaves for training.

I am also interested in Social Work. For the last 2 years I was in graduate school and I like having friends who could share my stress and misery over a difficult paper or test. I now work at a social service agency and I like having friends who I can talk to about difficult clients with and who know what I am talking about when we discuss DSM diagnosis.

I like line-dacing. I like shopping. I like chick-flicks. I like action movies. I like football. I like cats.

I have a variety of interests and therefore a variety of friendships

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Saying Good-Bye

Yesterday I had my first experience of saying good-bye to a close friend due to a PCS. 

Jeremy and I have been stationed in Southern California for the last 6 years. In that time we have had friends leave for other duty stations or moving back home when they got out of the military. But only one of them has been my close friends, and they moved to WI, so we see them when we go home to visit. Most have been Jeremy’s work buddies, who I was friends with too, but they were more his close friends. 

But in this case, it is now my close friend, Brittany, who is the one leaving. 

We have been friends for the last 3 years. Her husband and Jeremy worked together, but they didn’t become friends until Brittany and I became good friends. She supported me through 2 deployments and actually videotaped our first homecoming. I was there for her through the birth of her second child and supported her when she and her husband temporarily separated and she moved back home for a few months. We both volunteered for the command, and even when Jeremy and I moved down to San Diego and got re-stationed at Miramar, we could make an effort to hang out and see each other, even though it was a 45 minute drive. Jeremy and her husband would go dirt biking together and we would hang out at the beach with her kids. 

Yesterday we had one last get together, and it finally hit me that she is really leaving. That I can’t call her to hang out or stop by her house when I am in the neighborhood anymore.

I guess that’s the double edged sword of military life. You get to meet people you never would have had the chance to, you quickly become friends and bond over your shared lifestyle and rely on each other when you are alone in new city/state. But your time together is always limited, and you go into the friendship knowing that. 

I hope that never limits me in making friends. I hope that I never hesitate to get to know someone just because of the inevitability of our friendship. Because to have friends all over the country/world is a wonderful thing and I have had the chance to meet some great people. 

28At my first homecoming, waiting for Jeremy to arrive. I was texting him…not sure who she was texting lol

DSC00359We share a love of all things country. This was at a Monster Trucks derby. She is also my go-to person for line dancing, rodeos and concerts.

IMG_3817Yep, she is “that friend” lol. This was at a command volunteer event haha

 

Civilian vs. Military Friends

I was somewhat of a social butterfly this weekend, which is unusual for me. If I go out more than one night during the weekend then it’s a busy weekend for me.

It made me stop and think about my friends, my military and civilian friends, and just friendship in general.

I’ve never been one of those girls to have tons of friends, I like to have one or two really good friends, and that’s it. I don’t need to win a popularity contest.

When I moved down to San Diego for college I made friends, they were girls that lived in my dorm and went to college with me. We would go out on the weekends and party or just hang out.

But then I went and got married at 20, and started to realize that I wasn’t connecting as much with my college friends. I was a married woman living with my husband, I didn’t want to party anymore.

So I started looking for married friends, which turned out to be military wives. Now, I could have a whole post about military wives, they are a crazy bunch of people, but let’s just say that I did eventually find some that I clicked with, and I ended up having more military friends then I did civilian friends.

When I started graduate school I wasn’t really looking to make tons of friends, I had a pretty set group that I was hanging out with, and Jeremy and I were always doing things on the weekend. But I did make some friends, and when Jeremy deployed this summer we got a lot closer. Now I have a group of girls that I hang out with at least once a weekend.

So, getting back to this current weekend. I went out with a fellow military wife for lunch on Friday, then out with my civilian friends that night. On Saturday I went to a Halloween party hosted by my military friends, then on Sunday watched football with another military wife.

I noticed that when I’m with fellow military wives, we talk about our husbands and the military a lot. It’s what we have in common. And I love being able to talk about deployment and duty stations and all the trial and tribulations that come with being married to the military, without having to explain everything. They get it.

But when I’m with my civilian friends, I love that fact that I only talk about me. I’m not Alison, military wife. I’m Alison, student, social worker, country music fanatic, etc. Jeremy almost never comes up in conversation. I talk about school and my work and my clients. Its awesome.

So I guess my conclusion is that I like having both civilian and military friends. I like the balance.

Having friends outside the military has also made me realize that it’s important to have friends for myself. When Jeremy is home we typically hang out with people in groups, he knows the guys from work, and I know the wives.

But with my civilian friends, I go out with them alone, Jeremy stays home. And I like that separation, having something that is just mine. Him being gone has really opened my eyes to the fact that I LIKE girls nights. I LIKE going out without him sometimes. I think it’s healthy in a relationship, and I plan on keeping it up after he comes home.

And to close on a completely different topic. Here is a picture of my Halloween costume. I just had to share because I am super proud of how it came out 🙂 Breakfast at Tiffany’s!

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