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