As our spouses traipse around the woods playing — let’s face it — a glorified version of hide-and-seek with painted faces, we are left to fend for ourselves during training exercises, deployments, and other military events that take them away from home. And often, we are rewarded or punished (depending on the event idea) with a spouse social to pass the time.
OK, punish is a harsh word, but you know the struggle: Your spouse is gone, the kids are stir crazy, and the toilet won’t flush. The Evite pings into your inbox and now you have to decide if the flamingo-clad invite exclaiming “Girls Night Out!” is worth the effort instead of playing your own game of hide-and-seek with the kids, hiding in the attic with a glass of wine, and blissfully checking out for however long it takes your kids to find you.
We have compiled a list of some tried-and-true spouse social ideas that are sure to win an enthusiastic “let’s do that again,” as well as some tried-and-failed event ideas that didn’t fare as well.
Spouse Social 1: Paint and Sip Night
Beer, wine, jokes, pretty colors — what else could a successful night need than what a Painting With A Twist experience can offer? Whether the event is held at the actual studio, or a painting expert comes to you, this idea is sure to cause some laughs and wine-induced giggles as spouses create the next Van Gogh masterpiece.
Spouse Social 2: Game Night
Bond over a game of Bunco. Game nights can be a great way to unite a group of strangers and push the shy ones out of their comfort zones in a fun and entertaining environment. Bunco is the type of game that requires people to switch tables often, team up with new people nearly every round, and is one of the easiest games to learn since tic-tac-toe. Bonus tip: Add a potluck buffet of appetizers before the game starts for maximum post-event compliments.
Spouse Social 3: Escape Room
In recent years, a new level of entertainment has offered itself for group events: escape rooms. There’s no better way to bond a group of people together than by forcing them to work together through fear and suspense to accomplish a set goal, like saving the commander’s spouse who is locked in a closet.
Spouse Social 4: Outdoor Adventure
Why do the service members always get to have all the fun outside? Get outside and explore your neck of the woods! Go for a hike, organize a geocaching adventure, or ride bikes downtown. Natural settings tend to provide the most organic conversation.
Spouse Social 5: Pampering
Any of the aforementioned events could all include male spouses; however, this idea caters to female spouses: Book a nail salon for an afternoon. Manis, pedis, and wine equal one great way to include some new spouses as well as those who already know each other. Hosting this event right before a ball also lets spouses new to the unit introduce themselves before everyone is pushed together in a giant, elegant gathering while everyone checks something off their pre-ball to-do list.
Not every event can be a win, but we are here to keep you from hosting one of those. We talked to a few different spouses and gathered their input on what kinds of events failed to impress.
Worst Social 1: Overloading Kid-Centered Events
Be wary of only putting on socials that cater to kids. This is not to say that you should avoid hosting events that are not kid-friendly, but when all of the events include children running around, it excludes spouses who don’t have kids. It can be very hard for a childless spouse — desperate to build connections in a new unit — to engage in conversation at a playground. Not to mention, it can be a little awkward showing up to a playground without a kid.
But, when a spouse is longing to build connections and a community, desperate times call for desperate measures. “Honestly it makes me want to pop out a kid just so I can go to events,” said one wife with a sarcastic laugh.
Worst Social 2: Quick Crafts
Another idea that can be well-intentioned but can cause anxiety among new spouses is a quick, five-minute craft at someone’s house. As soon as the activity is finished, everyone is huddled over their project wondering “now what?” The goal at a spouse social is to spark conversation and relationships, not stifle it with awkward silence or small talk.
Worst Social 3: Restaurant Settings
A common thread among social complaints was the restaurant setting. Again, spouse socials at a restaurant can be successful, but these locations can limit conversation, lock each person to one area of seating, and inhibit the flow of conversation every time the waiter comes around.
Worth the Work
Spouse socials can be a wonderful way to bring spouses together. And we all know, it can be an effort — for everyone.
Instead of stressing over the potential success and failure of each event, pass out a sign-up sheet and put one or two spouses in charge for each month’s event. This allows for some creativity among each event and eases stress on the leader by absolving them from having to organize each and every spouse social. You can also try a panel discussion in place of signup sheet. Bring in a few spouses to take questions and offer insight on what to expect throughout a military spouse’s nomadic career. You can also host a panel discussion centralized on a theme such as employment opportunities for spouses or deployment expectations.
Above all, ensure that your effort as an organizer is worth the cause, and worth RSVPing yes to, by putting on an event that spouses will talk about for years to come. After all, you might be saving a tired mom from having to hide from her kids in the attic for an evening.
Photo Credits: Renee Dolan Photography