Finding Supportive Community as a Military Spouse
I love seeing military spouses come up with unique and new ways to support each other. So I'm excited to introduce you to the The Six Box, a monthly care package for military spouses. As they explain, "It's a reverse care package: a monthly gift box sent home to the one holding it all together while their service member is away. Because a military spouse’s main job is so often to take care of everyone else; and now we want to take care of military spouses." I'm happy to feature the following guest post from Alana Le, one of the co-founders of this amazing company. She also offers some great advice for military spouses searching for community. I think we've all been there--I know I have! Thanks, ladies, for sharing with us!
We military spouses walk a tightrope every day, finding our sweet spot in the tension between sacrifice and self-care, duty and love, resignation and hope.
We make huge sacrifices in our personal lives for the sake of our spouse’s military service, but we know that we ourselves can’t be defined by that service. But how can we hold onto ourselves, when the constant trips, deployments, moves, and stress make that seem physically and emotionally impossible to do?
There is no hack or strategy that will make this military life (and the accompanying sacrifices) easy to navigate.
But with supportive, encouraging friends who believe in you, it gets a whole lot better.
Military spouses have no shortage of acquaintances. But if we’re honest, what we really need isn’t just another casual friendship; we need support.
We need friends who encourage us to become the person we’ve always wanted to be or to do the things we feel called to do, even when it’s going to be a lot of work, and even when it seems impossible in light of the sacrifices required by military life. And we need to make those friends quickly, again and again, as each new duty station brings us away from those who know us best.
In this post, I’m going to share some of the things I’ve learned in the past few years about finding supportive community as a military spouse. But first, a quick intro: My name is Alana, and I’m one-half of the team at The Six Box, a “reverse” care package for military spouses holding down the fort during a deployment or other challenging season. You can read more about our story here. My co-founder, Megan, is also my neighbor, and we first met at a goodbye party for a family from our church who was PSC-ing (of course).
We live in a small, tight-knit community near a military base and have many close friends nearby, most just a short stroller walk away. Sometimes it feels like we have more than our fair share of supportive community as military spouses. But that doesn’t mean things have always been easy.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned in the past few years and want to pass on to you as you seek supportive community wherever the military calls you. As you get to know people through venues like the FRG, church, neighbors, MOPS, the gym/Crossfit, and other places, continually ask yourself these three questions:
Do they see you, or just your spouse’s job?
I once went to a spouses' get-together where the only topic of conversation - the whole evening - was our spouse’s military career paths. It was painfully boring for me, as a new spouse who didn’t understand more than 10% of the conversation, but it also left me wondering if my own ideas and dreams mattered to anyone.
As you meet people, do they ask questions about you, or just where you fit into the military big picture? Do they remember your interests, or just your spouse’s rank? I get that, as military spouses, what happens in the servicemember’s career has a massive impact on us; but friends who are willing to go deeper with you are crucial to thriving as a military spouse.
Are they excited for your dreams?
When you mention something you’d like to try or a goal you’re working on, they’ll say one of two things: either something along the lines of “That’s awesome! Good for you!” or the opposite: “Sounds hard...can you really do that?”
You’re looking for people who say the former, even if they don’t share the same passion or interest. That doesn’t mean they’re the kinds of friends who would tell you you’re right when actually you’re dead wrong, or encourage you to make a terrible decision. I think we can all agree that is not true support! But if their first response is excitement and encouragement, rather than criticism or doubt, they’ll be better able to support you when things inevitably get harder down the road.
Do they show up?
Many military spouses feel isolated, like no matter how hard they try, they aren’t able to make the close connections they need to thrive. But some military spouses feel isolated because they simply don’t want to try anymore.
You’re looking for people who come to events or are at least willing to hang out when you ask, even if it’s just for a walk to Starbucks, a few minutes at the park, or chatting while the kids watch Daniel Tiger. Not everyone can come to evening or weekend events, while others may not be able to make it to things during traditional working hours. But if you can find people who are willing to get together when schedules do align, that’s a good sign - it means they’re still willing to try.
If you can find someone who sees you as a person and not just a “spouse,” seems genuinely excited for you, even if they don’t share your same dream or passion, and consistently shows up to whatever events or get-togethers you invite them to...you’ve struck military spouse gold! Go take that amazing spouse to coffee.