About four years ago, I was emerged into the military lifestyle. Initially, I was not expecting to make very many long-lasting friendships. The military is constantly changing, and its members and loved ones are moving along with it. I thought I wouldn’t be able to make any lasting relationships, knowing that a new friend could be moved at any time.
As a person not comfortable with change, this was really scary for me. I have many friends who I‘ve known since elementary school. That’s the kind of stability that I like! Some may say that it’s boring, but I love having that history with my friends. It’s familiar to me and in my opinion, makes our relationship richer. However, since I was now working on a military base, and I do like to make friends, relationships just naturally progressed.
I ran into a few obstacles while I was trying to build a new social network within the military. I noticed that some of the women I met were not interested in forming relationships. I wasn’t sure why, but there did seem to be a separation between us, even when I extended a friendly hand.
Another obstacle is that the active duty military population is primarily comprised of men. Some of those men have turned into great friends, but there is only so much you can do with a guy. Chick Flicks at the movies were a definite no.
Another thing I noticed was that military members tend to get married a lot sooner than my other friends. Some of the guys I worked with introduced me to their wives, and that was great! I found myself making some great friends in the spouses of my coworkers.
Ultimately though, the biggest obstacle that I’ve had making new friends in the military is the rank structure. The military has very strict rules against fraternization between enlisted members and officers. Being a civilian, this does not affect me because there are no restrictions regarding who I can have a social relationship with. However, this means I cannot ‘cross pollinate’ my friends. The enlisted and officers must stick to their own corners, and I cannot hang out with everyone all at once. This truly has been the hardest thing for me to accept. It’s difficult to have to compartmentalize my relationships.
All said, I’ve met many people affiliated with the military who I now consider to be some of my best friends. I enjoy that almost everyone has a different background at work—if nothing else you get to eat a great variety of food! I also love the sense of family that the military has. I’ve spent a few holidays away from my family, and each time I’ve been invited into someone’s home to spend time with their family. It has meant a lot to me that I didn’t have to sit at home alone. I’ve also grown to like the ebb and flow of the military summers, when the military families exit and enter the base. It allowed me to meet some really great people and be exposed to some fresh new faces!
Ultimately, I am really happy that I have made some fantastic relationships with active-duty military women and military spouses. It’s been a blessing to have these women in my life, and they have all contributed to me in immeasurable ways. I’m glad I’ve formed these relationships and hope to continue them, as well as create more in the future!