There is a perception that military spouses are automatically placed in a supportive circle as soon as their ID card is laminated. In some cases, especially for those living on an installation, this could be a reality. Military spouses have a way of finding each other, often through command functions and social events. What starts out as small talk, can lead to commiserating, and, ultimately, connecting. But what about finding your tribe when it’s not handed to you? What then?
I became a Navy wife (ahem, submariner’s wife) back when there was a guaranteed all-male crew. The tight-knit group of spouses gathered together frequently for barbeques, bake sales, and we supported each other’s Pampered Chef and Mary Kay businesses. There was a phone tree in place to pass down information, ensuring that we always had someone to call in an emergency or to recommend a hair salon. A natural community is what it was. Finding your tribe? Check.
But he didn’t stay on submarines. In his late twenties, he did a 180 and attended nursing school alongside hundreds of 19-year-old girls and maybe three other dudes. You’re studying with who tonight? A complete change of scenery, to say the least.
And while he’s been serving in the Navy Nurse Corps for almost a decade, I’ve been cobbling together a support network as a military spouse. Because when his co-workers are mainly female, it doesn’t make sense to become friends with the other military spouses at the command, now does it? And coming from the submariner world, where community was handed to me in a phone tree binder and Solo cup, I had to learn to adjust my expectations — and let’s face it, get creative.
Let me be clear: My service member doesn’t work with all females. There are actually more than a few Gaylord Fockers in the military. To find and connect with other military spouses at the command, I’ve had to be intentional. Planning double dates with one of my service member’s male co-workers and his spouse has been key to finding a glimmer of community. Honestly, it feels like a win to find just one person in the same boat. She gets what it’s like to be married to a male nurse without either of us having to explain. And I’ll take a one-on-one with a milspouse at the local brewery over working a room at a command function any day.
Widen the Circle
I knew I needed more of a support network than one or two military spouses, which is the grand total of what I’ve found through intentional double dating. Getting involved in our local community means having friends from several areas of my life. Here’s where I have been successful in finding true community, and I mean, come over and sit on the couch while we drink wine until 10 p.m. friends:
- Other parents at my kids’ school
- Fellow parents cheering on the sidelines of our kids’ sports teams
- Community moms groups
- Fitness studio
- Book club
After jumping in and initiating conversation with many new friends, you can tell when you start to click with a few — which is the dream, as every military spouse knows. Soon, your calendar fills with sushi lunches, hiking dates, shopping excursions and movie nights. Hang on tight to those friends. They will see you through seasons of deployment, periods of long hours, weekends, and, everyone’s favorite, TDY. These friends might not necessarily be connected to the military, but they can help with carpool, dinner, and venting sessions just the same.
Because my service member has co-workers who are mainly female, I don’t have a sense of connection to the other spouses at the command, and with that comes a ton of freedom. Of course, I could track down whoever is in charge of social events and insert myself as a volunteer. But nobody is asking, so there’s no pressure whatsoever. I absolutely believe in giving back to the military community and volunteer my time with organizations and networks of my choosing. This works better for me than obligatory coffee dates and bake sales.
Finding your tribe on this milspouse journey can feel downright isolating at times. Sometimes finding community means proactively seeking community. When your tribe doesn’t look like the traditional military tribe, it’s normal to feel like you’re missing out on spouse clubs and crafting table centerpieces for the ball. If that’s the case, remind yourself that you’ve been busy building a strong, supportive community in a non-traditional way, at least for military life. Then, look around, see a richly diverse friend circle. You can’t get that in a phone tree binder.
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