*This guest post is written by Grace of Spousehood.com, a Christian lifestyle site for military spouses. Welcome, Grace!
I am one of those people who doesn’t need a large group of friends and can only handle a few social gatherings per week. Yes, I realize how ironic it is that I’m writing an article about finding friends when I am extremely introverted. I’m chuckling just thinking about it. But, surprisingly, it is my introversion that makes me the perfect person to talk about making friends because it hasn’t always been easy for me.
I grew up and went to college in the same city, so making new friends was never an essential part of my life–I had my old ones. Sure, I made a new friend here or there, but I wasn’t actively seeking new friendships.
However, after I became a military spouse and moved thousands of miles away, it was suddenly a skill I needed to learn ASAP. Even though my husband is my best friend and I could spend most of my time alone, I was lonely. I was scared of this crazy, new lifestyle, and I didn’t know anyone who could give me advice “woman to woman.” I had no idea how TRICARE worked, no idea how the military worked, and no idea what it was like to settle in after I had moved so far from my support system.
I was lost and for the first time, I really needed to make friends.
Now, years and several PCSs down the road, I’ve learned not just how to make friends, but how incredibly meaningful friendships can be in this lifestyle. I am forever grateful to the women at our first assignments who took the time to reach out to me — to literally throw me a lifeline — and show me what it means to be a part of this military family.
Whether you struggle to make new friends or you’re just nervous about your first PCS in a long time, here are some steps to help you find and build friendships faster after a big move!
1) Start before you arrive.
I honestly can’t imagine how scary a PCS must have been before Facebook. Seriously, what did you do if you couldn’t ask people in a Facebook group questions about your new home before you arrived?! All of those groups for spouses at different bases are good for more than information, though. Yes, sometimes they are cesspools for drama, but they are such great resources, it’s worth using them (and ignoring the negative stuff) when you PCS.
One of the best things you can do before arriving is to introduce yourself in one of these groups. It may feel awkward, but hear me out:
A quick post with some details about who you are and what activities you enjoy may help you connect with other interest-specific groups. You would be surprised at how many groups there are to organize workouts, playdates, bunco, and more. The thing is, those specific groups tend to be harder to find — I didn’t know my current base had a playdate group for the playground on base until yesterday (literally!) … and we’ve been here three years! By putting yourself out there, you can find people who are similar to you, which will help friendships form much more quickly.
By putting yourself out there, you can find people who are similar to you, which will help friendships form much quicker.
2) Do the base/post introduction tour or class.
Being the socially awkward soul that I am, I dread and avoid new situations with strangers. That’s exactly why I didn’t do the tour offered through the Family Readiness Center at our first assignment when I found out my husband wouldn’t be doing it with me.
Some people don’t do them because they don’t see the point. But these tours and classes are a great way to meet nice people who know a lot about your new home. They can give you tips that will make settling in much easier and help you connect with organized activities that suit your interests (aka, activities where you can find friends). You may also meet fellow spouses who are new to the area and would make great exploring buddies.
3) Attend activities/groups you’re interested in.
Essentially, the goal here is to figure out where “your people” are. We may all share the military lifestyle, but military spouses are incredibly diverse. Common ground like a shared interest in an activity is an excellent way to find people you could actually be close friends with.
I always start by trying to find a Bible Study at a new base. PWOC, Bible Study Fellowship, and MOPS are some great options depending on your location and where you are in life.
No matter what your interests are, from volunteering to Crossfit, joining a group focused on them gives you access to people you automatically have something in common with. Especially for me, that common ground makes those first few “getting to know you” conversations much easier.
4) Be yourself.
People say this phrase so much that it becomes almost meaningless. But when you move as often as military families do, you’re only hurting yourself when you aren’t true to yourself.
One of the best things about our community is how different military spouses are from one another. It’s amazing that so many totally different people live such a unique lifestyle together. But it takes every single one of us to build this amazing community, with every weird and quirky thing we bring to the table. So when you start making new friends, be you. Be authentic. I have found that the more I’m myself with others, the freer they feel to be themselves with me. It is always scary, but this tip has never backfired on me.
No matter who you are, the challenge of building a community every time you move is one of the most difficult and rewarding parts of military life. Hopefully, with a few tips from someone who had to work hard to learn how to do this, your next move will be a little bit less scary and a lot more full of friends and fun!
Are you preparing for a PCS soon? If so, sign up here to receive access all of my PCS related printables! Here’s what you’ll get:
1. To-Do List– your master list for keeping track of all your PCS related tasks
2. Donate/Sell/Trash Sheet– an easy system for getting rid of the stuff that’s not coming with you
3. PCS Survival Kit– a super helpful checklist with the essential items to keep with you during the move
4. Box Inventory– record the contents of each box here so you know exactly where to find everything (print as many as you need!)
CLICK HERE to get your PCS printables now!
Grace is the founder and editorial director of Spousehood.com, a Christian lifestyle site for military spouses. After years of experience working for websites and magazines, she wanted to use her skills to serve her military family. Now, in collaboration with a small team, she helps develop free weekly and deployment devotionals for military spouses, as well as articles for the site.