Article by Ashley Jacobs, Marine Spouse.
It’s PCS season…and let’s face it: it’s hard. Saying goodbye to close friends is never easy. Navigating a new base is rough. And making friends? Well, it’s not exactly as easy as pulling out your Barbie collection and inviting the other gals over to play. But as military spouses, there is always a common denominator. You just have to find it and take advantage of it. Whether you spot someone with kids the same age as yours, a woman who shares the same love for exercising as you do, or can sense a fellow career-oriented spouse on the block…he or she is there, and probably looking to build relationships, too. There is scientific proof that strong relationships contribute to longer, healthier, even happier lives. And believe it or not…the old adage, money doesn’t buy happiness holds true. Building relationships makes you feel richer; The National Bureau of Economic Research surveyed 5,000 people and found that doubling your group of friends has the same wellbeing as a 50% increase in income. But who needs accountants, scientists and counselors to say personal relationships are important…why not just turn to the women in your shoes? Military spouses.
Lauren Lewis is married to a Captain in the United States Marine Corps and said her philosophy is simple; she puts her eggs in one basket— make that pours everything into a glass and serves up. “I walk around the neighborhood with margaritas I’ve made from my margarita maker and hand them out to fellow spouses. I host wine night and have park play dates with neighbors.” She knows the worst case scenario really isn’t that bad. If she doesn’t, or you don’t, fit in…not to worry, “You’ll PCS soon enough!” Not fitting in with others seems to be a common fear after talking with several military spouses. Alice Crouch is married to an E-8 soldier and admitted she’s worried about being the odd woman out. She’s worried she won’t fit “to the social and cultural norms to where I have moved from. I also sometimes worry….what’s the point in making friends if I will be moving in two years or so?” But the fear passes and friendships form. “We spend a lot of time outside, so we’ve met our neighbors that way. I also make a lot of friends at work,” Crouch said. She and her family most recently moved from Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, and she refused to let fear of not fitting in hold her back. “I know it’s on me and if I don’t try to make friends, it will be pretty lonely.”
Courtney Eaton shares that same mentality. She’s married to a United States Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer and recently moved from St. Mary’s, Georgia, to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Her family may reside in a small fishing town south of base, but she’s set a big goal for herself. “My goal, when we move, is to talk to one stranger every week for at least the first month,” she explained. “It might be at the grocery store or a restaurant, but you have to step out of your shell. When you think about it, that’s really only FOUR people. Sounds silly, but I’ve met some great friends that way!”
Another military spouse, Jamie Allen-Grijalva turns to volunteering on base to meet new faces. She’s married to a Captain in the Marine Corps who was prior enlisted. With more than 13 years in the Corps, he and she have seen a lot and made friends along the way. “Before I learned of base functions and volunteering, to meet other spouses I first went to my husband,” she said. “I asked him to nonchalantly ask around to see who was married and who had kids. Then I broke them into groups. The couples without kids were invited to an adult dinner outing and the couples with kids were invited to out house for a family backyard barbeque.” Though her system worked well, she still found other ways to branch out and meet people on her own. “By involving myself in spouse and base events, I was able to build relationships with positive, encouraging strong women that I will forever respect and cherish.” Branching out and finding new friends was a move Allen-Grijalva called empowering. And it is words like that every spouse should hold onto: empowering, strong, resilient and fierce.
Every military family makes sacrifices; spouses make many. As if the goodbyes among family members thanks to deployments aren’t hard enough, spouses also say “so long” to jobs, “adios” to friends and “see ya!” to comfort zones. But have no fear…there is always an opportunity to keep that career going, a “nice to meet you,” on the new block and a “howdy,” “aloha,” or “hey!” at the other end of any move. Eaton summarized it all in a quick breath, “I always look at this lifestyle as an amazing adventure. I keep in mind that because I’m a military spouse…I have friends all over the world!” That is the lesson. “No matter where we move, I can connect with someone I already know or someone who knows a friend of mind,” she said. “If you keep that in mind, overcoming the anxiety of stepping out of your shell and making new friends doesn’t seem so bad.”
Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyJacobsTV