By Jaimi Erickson
Although I didn’t know it when we first met years ago, a new neighbor would become my dear friend. When she first welcomed us into the neighborhood, she had her sixth baby in her arms while I was a new mom learning to wrangle my first toddler. We were separated by about seven years in age. Her personality was humble and relaxed. I needed to learn to become those things.
She was the first to encourage me to start up a neighborhood playgroup. Our on-base community did not have a solid social network at the time. People waved as they walked or ran by your house, but there was not a strong connection between neighbors. I craved that connection. Our playgroup was the catalyst for growing a great friend group.
My new neighbor lived a couple doors down. She already had school-aged kids, so we were in slightly different seasons of life, but there was still something about her that kept us connected.
I wanted to learn all she knew as a mom with a lot of kids. She had so much wisdom from experience. We shared family values and faith values. Those were easy connection points. Her candid, honest, straightforward nature was always rooted in a desire to be helpful.
After a year of living on the same base, we got orders to PCS. She and her family PCS’d to the same area one year later. This time, we were both off base. Although we could not see each other daily, we stayed connected.
Creating a True Friendship
As much as we like to critique social media, it has helped us communicate more regularly. It was our lifeline in the midst of busy seasons of motherhood.
When I found out I was pregnant with twins, she showed up to help big time. I knew she always wanted to help even more than she did. She was the first to check in and offer to come fold my laundry or do my dishes after the babies were born. Friends like that are gifts.
It is easy to get wrapped up in our day-to-day life demands. There are seasons when we need to lean in at home and keep things in balance. Military life shifts without fair warning.
The pace does shift eventually. During the times when we have things rolling smoothly, looking out for fellow military spouses and neighbors we can help is so valuable, which is exactly what my amazing friend did. Even at the second duty station where we did not hang out a lot, we still got together every few months because she just wanted to help me!
With the time we spent together, we started to go deeper with our conversations. It allowed us to really connect and understand each of our life stories. This is when our friendship got really good.
Many military spouses resist going deep with friendships. It can feel hard or worthless when you PCS every few years. The constant cycle of trying to find friends is exhausting. But, when you really get to know another MilSpouse, that context of life builds a relationship that can only grow in a positive direction.
I know I have gotten just to that point in many friendships. Right when we have an opportunity to really understand each other, it gets uncomfortable. Then, a disagreement or misunderstanding works like a magnet pushing us apart. Moving so frequently can limit the time and patience to work through disagreements and form deeper bonds.
It does take two to make any friendship survive. It takes that depth of knowledge for a great friendship to grow and thrive.
When we PCS’d again, my dear friend and I ended up on opposite coasts. I do not know who kept in touch first. Our communications just seemed natural.
When she needed encouragement, she would reach out. When I was struggling, I messaged her and asked for prayers and positive thoughts.
This friendship grew into one of the good ones. This friend is one that I grew to cherish. Although it is hard to pinpoint what kept our relationship connected and growing through the years, there are a few clear things that just worked for us.
Maturity is needed to learn about someone’s whole story before making judgments. This is a form of honest listening and honest sharing. Weathering disagreements and being transparent are key actions. If you only present the best of yourself or feel like you have to hide who you are, a deep friendship will not thrive.
We all need some connection point beyond the title of military spouse for a friendship to bloom. Being in the military community together is a commonality, but people who share your similar views on life and family are going to provide a safer place to be you. That helps you grow a mutually beneficial friendship.
Maybe social media makes us more apt to stay in touch over long distances than we did before it existed. Using social media for this purpose is a bridge to keep friendships alive. It helps us stay aware of what is going on in the lives of our friends.
Cherish the Friendships That Last
There is a natural magnetism that happens with the great friends we make along this military journey. A lot of these steps happen without you even realizing it. It takes time to cultivate relationships like this. They all start as acquaintances. Meeting new friends at each duty station, there is no way to know which will last over the long-term.
But, even short-term friendships have value. For a period of time, you helped one another. Not every friend we make will last over the years and miles. But, they all are special in their own way. Great MilSpouse friends make the constant friend-finding process worth it.