Every new station has a mix of activities to be done, paperwork to turn in, and rooms to unpack. There are also everyday items on the “New Base To-Do List,” like making friends and finding a good Thai food place. Occasionally though, making friends feels challenging and exhausting. Let’s explore why it’s hard and what you can do about it.
You might be an introvert and fear rejection.
April, an Air Force spouse shares,
“I am terrified of rejection and am extremely awkward around new people. I love too hard, and it’s tough knowing people I may really like just don’t like me back.”
It can be tricky to join in when people have cemented their groups. Cliques form as people settle down, but remember, people’s comfort builds over time, and everyone was once new too.
April suggests a way to join in slowly:
“Being reclusive can hurt as much as the rejection sometimes. Volunteer somewhere and stick a toe in the water where you don’t necessarily have to be close friends, but you still get adult interaction.”
By doing this, you might eventually find a few acquaintances to build into friendships.
You don’t know where to find people.
Maybe you were deeply involved at your last base, yet, the new station with minimal outreach feels alienating. Army spouse Samantha expressed,
“We aim to embed ourselves as much as possible into the local community, neighborhoods, environmental groups, food scenes, and volunteer opportunities. We want to feel connected to each place, make an impact, and truly feel like we lived a big life there.”
You may find friends in unexpected places by exploring the local community and not just the military base.
You feel different and out of place.
Do you feel like no one is like you? It can feel lonely to feel like a puzzle piece that doesn’t fit. Elissa, an Air Force wife shares,
“Honestly, most people I know have stopped trying. Especially if they are non-religious, have older kids or no kids. It is incredibly challenging and isolating when the main areas most bases target for community growth include churches, under 5’s playdates, and the like.”
When you don’t tick the boxes for the current meet-up groups, see if there are other ‘lesser known groups’ that might fit the bill. Maybe a hiking group in a subset of the spouses club helps you reach new heights, a historical reenactment group becomes the perfect fit for your Rennasaince Faire loving soul, or an indie-gaming shop has one-shot D&D events for you to meet fellow adventurers. Sometimes if what you want isn’t available, you might need to choose to build it, which is a whole journey on its own but can be worthwhile.
Putting in the effort feels like too much work.
Finding your village at one base sets the bar for what to expect at the next, and it can be a letdown when you can’t seem to find it. Frustration accumulates when you look forward to gatherings, but plans fall through. After the pandemic, many people are resocializing and figuring out their new capacity for interaction and friendships. Spouse Cyerrah confided,
“A hurdle I see is, so many people say they are looking to make friends, but when you talk to them and try to make any plans, they disappear. Vanishing is draining and discouraging, but you have to accept it as part of the process and know when to take a break.”
Sometimes you find friends in your first two weeks after posting on the spouse’s page, whereas other times, it takes longer, which can weigh on your heart.
Wherever you are in the friendship-building process, know you aren’t alone. As close as friendships can be, building them can be a long process. May you find others you enjoy walking alongside on your military spouse’s journey. If you are up for it, try one of the suggestions above and see if you can’t find another who maybe has been waiting for a friend like you to arrive.