“Will you be my friend?” is an earnest and candid question asked by children on the playground all the time. However, somewhere between the playground and grown-up life, we transform from fearless kids to apprehensive adults. Making friends as an adult can be a daunting task – and nobody knows this fact better than military spouses.
Every new duty station represents the challenge of making new friends in your community, and I’ve had seasons where I just felt too lazy or tired to put myself out there. However, that season usually ends quickly when the isolation blues creep in, and I realize that my husband can’t be my spouse AND my gal pal. There will be duty stations where you show up and have built-in friends from your spouse’s command, and there will be other duty stations where friends are much harder to find.
When we were stationed in New Jersey, the base was very small and all the military folks we met were in different life phases as us. Thus, I had to look outward to make friends, which proved additionally difficult since I worked from home. Then one day a friend of mine was visiting and we went to meet up with some folks she knew. While there was this guy, Mark, who lived locally and kept talking about his girlfriend, and that’s where my pursuit of girlfriends became shameless:
“You keep talking about your girlfriend. You seem nice – is she nice too?” – Crazy, shameless girl (me)
“Ya, she is pretty awesome and fun.” – Mark
“Do you think she would want to be my friend?” – Crazy, shameless girl
“Um…ya, I think she totally would!” – Mark
At that point, he gave me his girlfriend’s number, and after some texting back and forth, we met up for lunch. Lo and behold, she became my best gal pal in New Jersey, and we remain in touch today!
Now I’ll admit that story is pretty shameless, even for me – the perpetual extrovert. But there are ways to put yourself out there and ask someone to be your friend without sounding as creepy. Other iterations sound like, “We are new to the area and I don’t know a lot of people, would you want to grab coffee sometime?” or “It looks like our kids/dogs/turtles play well together, would you want to meet up for a playdate?”
I wish I could say New Jersey was the only place where I had to let my shameless flag fly, but if I did, I’d be lying. In our current home of South Florida, I’ve had to ask people to be my friend all the time, but telling them we have a boat seems to help. 😉
While putting yourself out there can seem scary and embarrassing, there are three main reasons why you should try it…
1. You probably won’t see them again anyway
Chances are you won’t see this person again, especially if it’s someone you just crossed paths with in a public place. Even if you do see them again, you won’t be living there longer a couple years anyway – so who cares!
2. You need friends whether you think so or not
You may think that you don’t need friends at this duty station. You have lots of friends and family that you talk to from afar all the time, and they can fill that void, right? I personally think that will work for a while, but every woman needs at least one other person within their physical community to turn to that isn’t their spouse. Someone to go get a pedicure with, or go see that girly movie with, or to help you when you’re in a bind and your husband is traveling for work. These folks may not become your forever friends, and I’m not saying you need to have a “tribe,” but having at least one pal to turn to can change a seemingly crummy duty station into a great one.
3. The worst they can say is no
If you ask someone to be your friend, what is the worst that will happen? They’re not going to laugh in your face, or throw food at you, or publicly humiliate you in some other way. The worst that will happen is that they will say “no.” While getting a “no” can be hard, it’s good for us to hear from time to time. Rejection is a part of life, and as hard or scary as that might be, it’s something we all must learn to face.
So, next time you find yourself in a new duty station, consider putting yourself out there. I promise – a life with a handful of friends is so much better than a hermit’s life!