Congratulations — you did it! You successfully moved your family to a new duty station, unpacked and organized all of your belongings in your new home, enrolled your children or furbabies in the best schools or daycares, and managed to find a new favorite local hangout. Exhausted yet? The most exhausting part hasn’t even started. You know what we’re talking about — friend dating.
You think you can just avoid this phase of your move, but sooner or later, you are going to want someone to share a few sips of your favorite beverage with and complain to about your spouse, your children, life, etc. We need to get you back in the friend-dating scene.
Check out the Friend Scene Before you PCS
It’s OK to put the word out there that you are moving to a new area and you would like a familiar face once you land! Let your friends and family know where you are moving. It’s a small military world, and chances are, they can connect you with someone where you’re headed. If a friend does make an introduction, put effort into connecting with your new potential friend. You only get one chance to make a great first impression, and who wants to be known as the person that doesn’t respond to a text or instant message?
Another step you can take is to check out some of the spouse Facebook groups for your new duty station. You might be familiar with these pages. Just be sure to proceed with caution. The moderators of these pages are usually fellow spouses, who have their own lives, and won’t be able to catch everything that gets posted on their page. Don’t get caught up in anything that might come back to haunt you later. You could pose a question that involves your interests in one of these pages to see if anyone responds and strikes up an interesting conversation. For example, “Hi, we are moving to the area soon, and I was wondering where the closest Target is?” You may find others who share your love for the bullseye and walking down the aisles with a white chocolate mocha in hand. When someone mentions their passion for the dollar spot, you’ve become instant friends for-ev-a.
Put Yourself Out There
This next step may require you to get out of the house. It may seem a little scary, but sometimes you got to raise the stakes in the name of friendship. If you plan to work, sometimes this step is a little more natural. Usually, you will be thrust into an environment with many new people. A workplace tip: Don’t skip out on lunch in the break room every day, and don’t skip out on all the after-work funtivities. Sure, you may need time to yourself, but if you want to get to know your co-workers, find a time to get to know them outside the work zone. Some people are really against finding friends at work because there’s unforeseen drama potential. Rely on your gut, and if you feel like it could be the start of something really great, then go for it.
Don’t plan on working? No problem, think about where you enjoy going and what you enjoy doing, and start joining groups and organizations. Enjoy working out? Find a gym and take a class where you can mingle with people. Enjoy volunteering? Look up your installation’s family support services and connect with the volunteer coordinator.
You can also attend an event for your unit’s spouses! Oh wait, is that too much to ask? Some units have new-spouse meetings, and there is high potential to meet a friend. Why? Because everyone is new and starting over just like you. Another person in that room may be new to this crazy lifestyle and may be looking for a kindred spirit who is also completely lost. Those mandatory fun events are brimming with friend potential.
If you have kids, join a playgroup. These groups promise friends for you and your little ones too! On that note, don’t be afraid to meet new friends through your children and furbabies. When it comes to friend dating with little ones, “Ask not what you can do for your children, but what your children can do for you!” If your child is into a specific activity, sign her up, and interact with the other parents during practice. You already have a common interest with the other people in that room — parenthood! Children are a great conversation foundation, but be sure to grow your conversation from there.
Go on a Few Dates
After a few great conversations, it’s time for a tough step — a one-on-one with a great friend candidate. Exchange numbers and don’t be afraid to pop the question if you’re getting a really great friend vibe with someone. Try to pick a place where you can really have a conversation and get to know one another. Have a few options in case something unexpected arises (the place is crowded, closed, or your friend is vegetarian and there are no alternative food options, etc.). If children will be present, sometimes it’s nice to host a playdate at your home or a park. Hopefully, the children can occupy one another while you sip on beverages and talk with another adult.
Try to date a few people, or don’t. It’s all up to you and how many people you feel like opening yourself up to. This is your dating journey and you are in control.
Remember, Choose your Own Adventure
Last note: Don’t let previous bad “dating” experiences determine your friendship journey in your new home. This could be a fresh new start and you don’t want it clouded over by something toxic that has happened in the past. Reflect on what can be learned from those situations to ensure you’re not caught in a bad spot again. Dwelling on the past can deter a great relationship from blossoming.
Peptalk, over. Now, go on and get out there. Start building that tribe.
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