There is a perception that military spouses are automatically placed in a supportive circles as soon as their ID cards are laminated. In some cases, especially for those living on an installation, this could be a reality. Military spouses have a way of finding each other, often through command functions and social events. What starts out as small talk can lead to commiserating, and ultimately, connecting.
Some military spouses may be new to this life and facing their first deployment, others have multiple kids they are wrangling throughout the day, and many do not live near family or a solid support system. One of the best things you can do in your military life is to find friends to walk through this journey with you, especially during deployments. Here are four ways having a strong friend group will save you during deployment.
1. IT PROVIDES A FEELING OF INCLUSION
Living through a deployment can get very lonely. Loneliness and a feeling of disconnect can creep in quickly when you are without your significant other and having to manage the daily tasks and grind alone. However, military spouses often fear becoming a third wheel and will rarely invite themselves along on outings. This is where a strong friend group will save you!
During my first two deployments, I was living alone in a non-military community with no family and no kids. I worked full time, but otherwise I was desperate for interaction. My friend group, even with young kids in tow, would include me like I was part of the family. We celebrated holidays together, birthdays, and shared Sunday dinners. I still consider them to be a part of my family even after we moved thousands of miles apart.
2. IT ENCOURAGES GOALS AND CELEBRATES VICTORIES
A good friend group will support any of the deployment goals you choose to make, no matter how small. Creating goals is an excellent way to give you something to work toward and look forward to while also helping to pass the time. I set goals like finishing sewing projects, completing a fitness challenge, learning a new piece on the piano, etc. I used to celebrate and be proud of myself when I accomplished something, but it is even better with your friends. Plus, making goals to complete together can give you the extra boost you need to complete your goal.
3. FRIENDS WILL LITERALLY BE THERE FOR YOU
Deployments have this thing called Murphy’s Law. Basically, this means that the moment your loved one leaves, all heck breaks loose. When this happens, and it will happen, your friend group is who you need to call. From my first deployment, I began to learn the art of asking for help. First it was for little things like someone to help rake my leaves when I was pregnant. But then I began to ask for help with much bigger things, like Ashley, who helped me pack up my garage prior to the movers coming, and Erica who helped watch my oldest while I was having a baby. There was also my friend Laurie’s husband who came over to kill some wasps that found their way into my house late at night. Do not be afraid to ask for help!
4. FRIENDS DON’T JUDGE WHEN YOU BREAK DOWN
I always thought showing emotions made me weak. But truthfully, deployment can often bring out some of the hardest emotions any military spouse will go through. Having a strong friend group means that when you are feeling all those feelings, you can feel all those feelings freely. This is a group that understands why you can never just turn off your phone, even during a meeting. A group that gets how hard it can be to tell your child their dad or mom is not coming home at night. A group that knows what saying goodbye to the love of your life is like, and not just for a weekend business trip. A group that feels the pain of being two thousand miles from your closest relative.
Over the many years and past seven deployments, my friend group has come through for me and they know I will do/have done the same for them. I am thankful that I have swallowed my pride and asked for help. My village was glad that I let them help. I am grateful for those shoulders to cry on, those Marco Polos to talk me down, and the regular check-ins.
Find your people, love them hard, let them help. Deployments are hard enough already, so go out and find your group now. You will be glad you did!
Noralee Jones is a military spouse of twelve years, mom of four, and strong advocate for self-care. Having experiences with seven deployments, four solo PCS moves, authoring the Self-Care Guide for MILSOs, she is an expert on the importance of taking time to focus on filling your body, mind, and soul with your individual needs in order to make the most out of your life. Because, as we all know, you can’t pour from an empty cup.