One of the most common social themes among military significant others is that of the difficulties associated with relating to and maintaining friendships with civilian friends. I follow 73ish military spouse blogs, and almost all of them (to my memory) have addressed this topic at some point in the last 18 months.
We talk about maintaining civilian friendships because it IS difficult sometimes, especially when there are other issues in the friendship – perhaps onesided-ness, selfishness, or an inability for a friend to be empathetic or sympathetic. I’ve found that the longer I’m in this military relationship, the harder it is to maintain troubled civilian friendships.
Personally, I think that as a military spouse, it’s difficult to maintain troubled friendships REGARDLESS of whether they’re with civilian friends or fellow military significant others.
By and large, I’ve maintained close friendships with my civilian friends whom I’ve WANTED to stay close with, despite being on the other side of the planet and married to a military man. I think that most military spouses have a similar experience – it’s all about prioritizing your communication with those people. Some friends are your friends regardless of differing life circumstances, and they will stand by you regardless of their personal understanding of your situation. Those are the best friends to have, whether they’re civilian or military.
On the other hand, I’ve struggled with friendships that were already flawed, and I think that flawed friendships are the first ones to cause a problem when differences arise, such as a military relationship. Recently I’ve decided to let go of those troubled friendships in order to maintain my own happiness. I’ve found that there is just no use in having a bad friend; after a year of being in a military relationship, I expect that my friends’ learning and adjustment period is over, and it’s time for them to be supportive and to understand that this relationship is going to last, regardless of their opinions.
I’ve found that deployments bring out the worst in friendships (probably much like long-term medical issues and other life-altering situations). Sometimes well meaning friends say the wrong thing, which we need to cut them some slack for because they mean well. To those friends, I’ve told them that what they’re saying isn’t helping, and I give them ideas for what they could say or do in the future (namely, listening!). Those friends are usually grateful for that guidance and follow through in the future. On my end, I think that I’m a better friend to them after I talk to them about “dealing with me”. I’m sure that being a good friend to a military spouse can be a lot to handle, and I am so grateful that my friends help shoulder my load.
On the other hand, I’ve found deployments to be the great separation between my good friends and the friends whom I need to let go. I’ve found that many of my friends who are cold, unfeeling individuals towards me during sad moments (such as deployment) are cold and unfeeling individuals in general. I’ve slowly discovered that I can no longer handle mean or cold “friends” in my life. I have enough on my plate, and I don’t want to voluntarily add to it! Perhaps that makes me a bad friend or a fair weather friend, but I know my limits, and those kinds of people are outside my limits!
Tl;dr: It’s possible to maintain civilian friendships, but as a military spouse, it’s important to prioritize your communications with them. Sometimes they say the wrong thing while trying to be supportive, and you must let them know what you actually need from them. Good friends will embrace your suggestions. On the other hand, I don’t think that mean or cold “friends” are worth our time or energy – whether they’re civilian friends or military spouses. Save yourself a lot of tears and cut ties with people who drag you down.