My spouse is leaving me. My surrogate spouse, that is.
That's what I call my best friend. She is my partner in crime, my gal pal, my confidant, my battle buddy, my stand-in spouse when my real spouse is gone. And in a few short days, she will be leaving me behind as she embarks on her next PCS adventure.
Saying "good-bye" to friends is not a unique concept in our military world. We’re always on the move. We don’t have the luxury of settling down in one location for the rest of our lives, of watching our children grow up with the same circle of friends they’ve had since birth, of knowing we’ll never have to update our address books. No, we military families are in a constant state of motion. And with all that moving around comes a steady stream of good-byes.
So how do we handle all these good-byes? How do we maintain and nurture the friendships we form throughout our military travels?
It’s not easy, but remember, we’re MilSpouses. So we use the skills we’ve learned from being married to servicemembers and apply them to our friends. We adapt. We make the effort to communicate. We alter our expectations. We rely on technology. We send care packages. We find ways to overcome time and distance. We get creative. And at the end of the day, we remind ourselves of the secret formula that makes military spouse friendships as long-lasting and special as they are:
Our bonds don’t break. There’s something about sharing the ups and downs of military life with other spouses that strengthens our bond with each other. I have friends who have no connection to the military, and as close as we may be in every other aspect of our lives, we will never have the bond I share with my MilSpouse friends.
We’re only a phone call apart. We may be geographically challenged, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to our friendships. Thanks to cell phones, Facebook, email, texting, and Skype, our friends are never as far away as we think they are. Sure, they may not be around to meet up for a playdate or a girls’ night out, but they’re still there when we need to share exciting news or shed a few tears. (Plus, we’ll never complain about phone calls in the middle of the night. Our husbands call at all hours of the day. We’re used to it.)
We will meet again. My friend and I met in Japan six years ago. A year after I moved back to the states, she moved into a house 10 minutes down the road from me. In fact, I now live near so many friends from Japan that we organize annual reunions. The military is a small world. I know that someday my friend and I will be stationed together again. It’s never good-bye. It’s see you later.
We pick up where we left off. It doesn’t matter if we’ve lived on opposite ends of the world for years, when we do finally meet again, we manage to fall right back into step with each other as if we had simply been on vacation. Children may get bigger and hair styles may change, but our friendships remain the same.
In a few days, my best MilSpouse friend will be crossing state lines and opening the front door to a house that is no longer 10 minutes down the road from mine. She will no longer be the emergency contact listed in my children’s school files. We will no longer share a baby-sitter to spend hours shopping at the mall. And we will no longer compare our husbands' travel schedules so we can plan to spend our lonely evenings together. I’m heartbroken that she’s leaving, but I know eventually that revolving door will bring her back to me, and we’ll pick up where we left off. See you later, my friend.
What else would you add to the formula of military spouse friendships?