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MailBag: Enlisted to Officer = Lonely MilSpouse

An interesting question from the Mailbag archives that was sent to us some time ago:

My DH has been in the Army for 11+ years.  10 as an Enlisted Soldier and the next 10+ will be as an Officer.  He made this decision early on in his career  and I have supported him.

Ok, now to my topic...why do I feel as though I don't fit in?  The friends, I made/had as a enlisted spouse were wonderful but only as enlisted.  Now that DH is an Officer, they stopped calling, emailing, sending Christmas cards, etc.  I've tried to reach out but am tired of no response.  As a new Officer's wife, I haven't made any friends with any officer's wives.  Haven't been invited to any socials, coffees, FRGs, nothing?  I was thinking of joining the Officer's Spouse Club but have fear of rejection because I haven't always been an officer's wife.

Any suggestions or advice from any BTDT (been there, done that) spouses?

This is a great question and a situation which many spouses may have found themselves in as their partners opt to move from the enlisted ranks to the officer ranks. Let's please avoid an enlisted vs. officer battle here and not perpetuate the harmful and false stereotypes that make all of us look bad. Let's focus on creative and realistic solutions and how best to handle a situation such as this.

Some of us are perfectly happy to not be socially involved with other spouses in our military circles, but it seems pretty clear that this spouse is interested in social interaction. It would be easy to say that if her prior friends abandoned her just because her husband went from enlisted to officer that they wern't very good friends to begin with, but we've all had relationships that have floundered or ended over petty matters. No matter the cause of a friendivorce, it can still sting. And if one party is not willing to walk away, than kudos to them for continuing to try even if they're met with a stone wall. In this situation, it could be that her old friends, rightly or wrongly, just need more reassurance that this isn't as awkward as they may think it is.

With respect to not wanting to join the Officer's Wives Club, I would encourage this spouse to do so. She says she's held back because she's afraid of rejection but by succumbing to that fear, she will never know if she's missing out on making some great friendships or at least some solid acquaintances.

Early in my husband's career, I found myself in a similar situation. It wasn't a green-to-gold situation, but I found myself in a unit where I didn't know anyone yet most of the other spouses (enlisted and officer) had been together for a while and already knew one another. When I walked into the first meeting, it was clear that friendships and clicks had already been formed and I wondered how to poke through the bubble and squeeze in, so I came up with a plan.

I hosted a party and invited the spouses in our battery. I always feel more comfortable entertaining at my house than going to someone else's home when I'm newish. I'm on my own turf and relaxed in a familiar environment. After we ate some snacks and had some social time, I brought out a game and we split into several teams. I choose Guesstures because it's a game that involves everyone being a little goofy and animated. Humor is a great way to break the ice in any situation. We had a fantastic time and after everyone had left, I felt that I had made some friends and I would certainly be more at ease the next time I saw those ladies.

If I found myself in the situation as our reader, I would host a party and invite my old friends and those I hoped to become new friends with. It would be a good way to show the old friends that you have no intention of walking away from the friendship, to get to know new friends and to show them both that there's room for everyone and you value all of them. Your husband's position may have changed, but hopefully you're still the same person inside as you always were. Yes, it's true that some may opt not to come and there's nothing you can do about that. But we all know how word gets out, and when word gets out that everyone had an enjoyable time, that can only help the situation.

This situation isn't specific to enlisted becoming officer types. If you really think about it, taking out the E & O aspect, we're confronted with situations along these lines throughout our military journey. While we may not have to deal with friends turning their backs on us, we are always having to make new friends and most of us have felt insecure about being the new kid on the block. Whether you're a brand new milspouse who doesn't know anyone, a milspouse who recently moved to a new unit or community or a Guard or Reserve spouse who has been geographically separated from other spouses and had to come together due to a mobilization, you have to find ways to meet people and become comfortable with them.

If you find newbies in your unit, try to remember how you felt when you were the newbie. Take someone under your wing and put them at ease. For the ones who've done that for me, I'll be eternally grateful and I'll never forget their kindness. Our collective community benefits from everyone paying it forward.

What would you do in this specific situation, and what have you done in past situations when you were the newbie trying to make friends?

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