When you move every few years, friendships can make or break an assignment. As spouses, these friendships are essential and yet they are more difficult for us to build than they are for our service members. Most of the time, we aren’t walking into a ready-made group of friends at work. We’re stuck figuring out community dynamics and searching for the people we really connect with.
But if our entire community agreed to strive for authentic friendships, things could move a lot faster. We could cut through the small talk sooner. We could find the support we need from each other more easily. We’d have more time for the stuff that matters. And maybe, just maybe, this life would be a little easier.
We’re all so worried that people are going to judge us, but isn’t it the best feeling in the world when you finally open up and find out you’re not alone? Military spouses and women everywhere need relationships that are more authentic. We’re all broken and damaged and we all screw things up, but hiding those things doesn’t change them. It just means we suffer alone and stunt our growth.
So for all of us, let’s agree to some ground rules, lean in, and dig deep.
Rule #1: Stop judging.
You know how you’re all worried other people will judge you? Yeah. We all feel that. And we could all be judged pretty harshly, so all it does is create a vicious cycle that is more unhealthy for you than anyone you judge. Don’t make yourself feel better by putting others down. It doesn’t work in the long run anyways. On the same dime, don’t engage when someone else is judging. You don’t have to call them on it, but you definitely shouldn’t participate. Try to infuse the conversation with positivity, instead.
Rule #2: Be you — from the very beginning.
Don’t worry about being liked. You will be. The longer you go on pretending you’re not you, the harder it is to be honest later. The sooner you are yourself, the sooner the people around you will sense your authenticity and be themselves too. It only takes one friend being vulnerable to start an authentic relationship. We’re all longing for real connections.
Rule #3: Mean it when you ask someone how they are.
Don’t just make it a passing nicety. Sometimes all someone else needs to be authentic is for you to ask them to be.
Rule #4: Stick with conversations.
With kids running around and the chaos that is generally our lives, don’t drop a conversation when you get distracted. If someone was talking to you and you were interrupted, be sure to remind that person to finish what they were saying. Interruptions are inevitable, but they don’t have to make the other person feel two inches tall.
Rule #5: When you’re struggling, say something.
Don’t just suffer silently. Do you have any friends you’d rather have crying their eyes out every night than letting you in to give them some relief? Your friends don’t feel that way about you either. In reality, most strangers don’t even feel that way about you! Along the same lines, if someone confesses a struggle to you that you can relate to, be honest about your experience.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to go on a coffee date with you, but I want to know more about you than where you’re from. Sure, let’s take our kids for a play date, but let’s not waste time chatting about nothing but preschools. Can we talk about how we really feel as mothers? About how hard it was to PCS with kids? And then laugh together about the times we lost our marbles? Let’s be real with each other.