How Military Friendships vs. Civilian Friendships Are Very Unique

Hands down, I have won the friend jackpot for my life. Through the different walks and seasons of my life, I have acquired and maintained some amazing and strong female friendships. Biological sisters and cousins that double as friends, incredible and hilarious sorority sisters that keep me on my toes (yep, the best friends I ever bought!), military sisters who support me through thick and thin, and more.

While all friendships are special in their own way, there is something especially unique about those military friendships.

What makes military friendships SO special?

Women are often depicted as self-serving, catty and malevolent, but I’ve experienced the exact opposite with military wives. When we had a difficult time finding nice, reasonable housing out “in town” at Naval Base Ventura County, I was so hesitant to live on base. Aren’t the women who live on base so gossipy and nosey?

However, my on-base neighbors turned into close friends very quickly and definitely became my village during deployment and beyond. Whether it was letting out my dog when I had to stay late at work, going for long walks that doubled as therapy sessions or just eating dinner and watching TV together, my military sisters were always there.

Military friendships are different for many reasons, and I struggle to put into words how these friendships have changed my life. When I reflect, though, there are a few key characteristics common across all my military friendships.

1. You forge strong bonds – FAST

Each new duty station presents the challenge of making friends, and knowing that you will only live there for a short timeline prompts many of us get to the task of friend-making right away. Once you find a new milspouse friend, I’ve found that those true friendships go from zero to 60 and within a few weeks you act like you’ve known each other for years!

I remember meeting my military BFF, Emily, for the first time over dinner with our husbands. In 29 Palms, making friends was no easy feat. So when I met Emily – whose kindness and beauty was evident within minutes, and with whom I shared so many interests – I realized this was my chance. At the end of dinner I smiled and said, “OK. So we’re going to be best friends now. Alright?

Emily laughed, probably because she thought I was a bit of a loon, and probably because she thought I was joking – but I wasn’t. From that day forward, we did everything together, starting with a hike the very next day. A year and half later, when both of our husbands received orders to PCS to the same battalion at the same time, I was so overjoyed that I would have my best friend and confidante, Emily, by my side!

2. They “get” your life

Life as a military spouse is anything but normal, and looks downright crazy to our civilian friends whose lives differ in so many ways. Military friendships are built on a different type of mutual understanding.

Military friends can commiserate without judgement about your detailing process, the stress of PCSing, the apprehension of deployment, and vice versa. You don’t have to explain why you can’t just pick where you want to live, or that you don’t know where you’ll be in six months, because they understand it and have lived it themselves.  Military friends “get” that you can absolutely love and hate life in the military at the same time, and understand your fears and joys more deeply.

3. They step up when your spouse isn’t there

Physical separation is a reality in all military marriages, and military friends truly step-up during those times. I know we’ve all witnessed or experienced military friends that help a new mother whose husband is away, rush to the hospital to support a sick friend when all their family is hundreds of miles away, cover childcare duty when plans go awry – and the list goes on and on.

When Emily was pregnant with Emma, my goddaughter, our husbands were deployed. When Emily asked me to step in for her husband for the childbirth classes at the hospital, I didn’t bat an eye. While the other “couples” in the class were surprised by the arrangement, I know stepping in for something like that is totally normal in military friendships. We had so much fun and the experience only made our friendship stronger – and for the record, I learned way more about childbirth than I ever wanted to know.

We are so lucky

While my experiences in military friendship are so special to me, I know that they are not that unique. I know I am not alone in my experiences because there are countless articles on highlighting wonderful military friendships.

I am confident that you, too, have observed these same qualities in your military friendships, and that they hold a special place in your heart. As we move around the world we get to build lasting friendships along the way. While it is so hard to say “goodbye” to these amazing friends when the military inevitably moves us apart, we can take pride in knowing we are members of a unique sisterhood that continues to grow and spread, and will be a positive force in this crazy journey. And in knowing we are only one phone call or FaceTime apart!

How lucky are we?

Connect with us on Facebook!