MilitaryByOwner Staff Writer
When the movers drive away, a box is always left sitting in the house comprised of things they couldn’t, or wouldn’t take away. Cleaning products, candles, salad dressings, ketchup…. just a few of the things that need to be replaced on the other end of the move. Most seasoned military spouses walk the box down their street and pass off what they can to friends. Less easily left behind are the people, the friends and neighbors that became family. Keeping those friends close may be easier than ever with social media and cell phones, but moving to your new home will definitely mean making new friends.
We called it dating… dating for friends. You have a short time to meet, connect and invite people into your lives. It’s essential to military that live far separated from their families. Holidays will be celebrated, sickness or sorrow endured, accomplishments and birthdays commemorated! In military life you gather your friends around you to mark these occasions or carry each other through dark days. So how do you make these connections and grow them into the deeply connected relationships that rival your own family. Here are a few simple rules and ideas:
1. The 60 Day Rule: Whoever you meet, wherever you go, allow 60 days to assess if someone is a trustworthy and compatible friend. In their first 60 days, or yours, at a new location, some might be more stressed, spazzed or sad than they will be soon. Conversely, for 60 days, some might be able to hide behind friendliness and charm, when a back-stabber or gossiper is lurking just beneath the surface. Wait! Wait before you go too deep, or invite someone into your deeply personal thoughts until you know they are a safe place to air them.
2. Don’t Be Surprised if Your Friends Don’t Look Like You: Maybe you grew up in a small town, or went to a regional school where everyone looked, talked and thought the same. Being a military dependant is like a Saturday at Sam’s Club, you can tryout and sample! You have common ground, your dependant status. And now maybe things that made you different, like race, age, religion, economic or social class, fashion or style might be a little less visible. Being open to new perspectives from someone a little older or younger, a different ethnicity or status truly enriches. One of the women that most formed me as a military spouse was someone I would never have seen as a peer when we met. She was 15 years my senior, dressed conservatively to the extreme and didn’t even own a TV. Yet our friendship and bond as neighbors and military spouses opened my eyes to so much more than I thought I knew.
3. JOIN not LIKE! Bowling league, wine tasting club, PTO, Spouse’s Club, shooting club, bible study, fantasy football league… a few of the many organizations that you have to physically attend. "Liking" on Facebook just won’t do when you want to have true "Friends". Look for groups that have regular and scheduled events. Consistent and frequent contact makes it much easier to get to know others. Don’t hide behind a Smartphone; TALK… not text, to someone live! I had never bowled, and have not bowled since, but spent two years of the most enjoyable Monday mornings in my life at a spouse’s bowling club. Men and women alike passed around my infant twins, so I could have just a few hours of laughter and fun. I knew one person the first day I signed up, but moved away with a photo crammed full of friends, bowling balls and smiles.
4. Don’t Wait, Invite! In a sea of new faces and new friends, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. Initiate by asking "Do you know a good place in town to have lunch/buy (insert here), workout, get your nails done?" "Gosh, would you want to go with me and show me where it is?" Asking for opinions and channeling the conversation into going somewhere is a great way to get to know someone.
5. If It’s Warm – Go Out Front! I HATE yard work and gardening. But I did my fair share of planting and raking in my front yard just to be able to see who lived around me. Casual conversation grows quickly with someone walking their dog, their kid or pulling into the driveway across the street. Although I enjoyed the privacy of my backyard, while living on base, my front yard was always my favorite place to read or watch my kids. More often than not, a circle of camp chairs out front would grow on a Friday afternoon. Virtually everyone had something to share, whether it food, drink or fellowship, that circle rescued a lot of Friday afternoons.
Your new house won’t be a home until friends are coming through the door. It’s worth the trial time and maybe a few that just don’t work out. With each move, your Christmas card list will get longer, your phone contact list will take up more memory, and most importantly your experience will be richer.