There are so many wonderful reasons to love being a military spouse, not least of which are the exotic duty stations your military service member can get orders to, bringing your family along for the adventure. However, many spouses get sucked into the cavernous black hole that is base, never venturing outside the main gate (some days, I can’t blame them—the PX deals alone are enough to render Target useless to me). By living in the “base bubble,” spouses miss one of the best parts of military life—civilian friends. Yes, you heard me right. Civilians. As friends. Read on for 10 of the reasons I heart my civilian friends and why I wouldn’t trade them for all the deals at the PX.
1. My civilian friends know where all the local spots to shop/hike/play are.
When you move to a new duty station, you leave behind familiar restaurants, favorite hikes and runs, and stores that carried extras in just your shoe size since, let’s face it, you were their only regular. Now you get the opportunity though to find all new (and possibly better!) stores/restaurants/trails, and who better to steer you in the right direction than a neighbor who’s lived in town for longer than anyone on base has?
2. Civilian friends won’t ever leave you.
Civilians aren’t on the same PCS schedule as everyone else you know on base. When you get to know a civilian in your area, chances are pretty high you’ll be leaving town before she does. Because civilian friends don’t have to move every three or four years, they get to plant what are called “roots” (haha), meaning you won’t have to worry about a tearful goodbye just months after meeting her.
3. Civilian friends make great shoulders to cry on when everyone else you know also has a husband deployed and therefore has no time for your drama.
Let’s face it—when a fellow spouse comes over, crying about the TAD her husband is on for two weeks, and yours just left for a seven month deployment—you want to run screaming for the hills. You can’t be everyone’s counselor! Who is supposed to be there for you if everyone you know is going through the same thing? You’ve got it—that amazing new woman you met at the park yesterday who made you laugh with her hilarious Jimmy Kimmel impressions. She did invite you over for a drink, after all…
4. Civilian friends put your life and problems in perspective.
In the same vein, my civilian friends serve to remind me that the problems I have are unique. I get to welcome my husband home every few months with open arms and a renewed passion for our relationship. When I see what my civilian friends have to cope with—an unsure economy and job market, a relationship that takes constant, daily attention to not get stale, no opportunity to travel outside the area they’ve called home for a quarter of a century—suddenly I am thankful for all the military offers my family.
5. Civilian friends remind you that there is a vast big world out there beyond the military.
Still, it’s nice to be reminded that there is a world that exists beyond the walls of base and the confines of the military life, where we are privy to information we can’t share, are forced to battle for priority time with our spouses, and have more drama within a seven-square mile radius than Syria. There are women out there—civilian women—who I befriended because we had everything in common, not because our husbands did the same job. It leads to talk that enriches, defines, expands my life, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the reminder that I am part of other worlds as well—worlds where I have a voice of my own.
6. My civilian friends are my biggest champions for me following my goals, independent of my husbands’.
Speaking of which, I am often reminded as I watch my civilian friends raise children, go to work, support their husbands’ careers, and take night classes for their masters’ degrees that I can have it all if I want. Often times in the military, spouses put off their goals for the sake of their husbands’ very kinetic careers, and in reality they don’t have to. As military spouses we have the ability to do anything we want, even if the challenges facing us are different. And those cheering us on will be the women already making it happen for themselves—our civilian friends.
7. My civilian friends have spouses who are most often home, and can therefore fix my leaky faucet, sink, toilet, etc.
A friend with a spouse who has working knowledge of plumbing, car tire repair, and muscles to move couches at a moment’s notice. Need I say more?
8. On that note, with two sets of hands at home, I don’t feel bad asking my civilian friends to babysit every now and then.
Even better, many of them offer to watch my daughter when they can tell I haven’t showered, my nails look like Freddy Krueger’s, and my wardrobe is from the nineties. They’re more than willing to take Izzy for an afternoon while I head to the mall and recoup what sanity I’ve lost. I’m always more than willing to let them too, knowing a day off for them is only a request from a spouse away. Which also means if you want a friend beside you in the salon, chances are they’re able to break free for a few hours while the handyman who just unclogged your sink watches the kiddos. It’s a charmed life, isn’t it?
9. When you need a break from deployment/work-up/PCS/TAD/IED talk, there is no one better than someone who doesn’t even know what those acronyms stand for.
Instead, catch up for a glass of wine and talk about the latest episode of The Voice (and how cute Adam’s rolled up pants really are, despite what Blake says about it). You won’t have to worry about the conversation veering off topic to the world of the military acronyms if your friend isn’t versed in that language. You’re safe to just be a woman talking to a friend about first world problems none of your other friends remember in the middle of deployments and separations. Enjoy the break and try to relax.
10. There is no one more loyal than a friend who knows you are leaving her someday and decides to let you in anyway.
A civilian friend is one who will be there for you no matter how far away the world takes you. She’ll be there to remind you what you’re missing as the fall leaves descend on your favorite trail, what new margarita is being served up at your favorite Mexican happy hour haunt, and how “home” is there waiting when you get time to go visit. So cherish her, remind her you’re still there for her too, and never let go of such an amazing friendship.