There’s something special about MilSpouse friendships. I don’t know if it’s because we share a common ground that allows us to empathize with each other or if it’s because those common experiences mold us with particular personality traits that attract us to each other. Whatever the reason, we’ve got something unique going on, something our non-military related friends just don’t get.
I have always cherished my MilSpouse friends. But it seems that whenever I write about the awesomeness that is the MilSpouse friendship, there’s always someone wondering where all those friends are hiding, someone lonely for that perfect companion, someone who puts herself out there but has yet to find that Mrs. Right.
In a way, making friends is kind of like dating. I realized that when my best MilSpouse friend sent me this blog post the other day, called "dating for Moms." We laughed about the fact that, according to the author, we’ve gone all the way to fourth base together, which I guess is to be expected considering the fact that we’ve been dating each other for about seven years now.
That post made me think about how I first started dating some of my MilSpouse friends. Just as we all have stories about the beginning dating stages with our spouses, we also have stories of our first dates with friends. So here is my version of dating for MilSpouses:
First base is a military-related function, either through your servicemember or a service offered through your local installation. This could an FRG meeting before a deployment. Or a Fourth of July picnic for your spouse’s new command. Or a resume writing class at the family support center. I got to first base with several of my current friends at the two-week indoctrination class we were required to take upon arriving in Japan. There’s nothing like bonding over jet lag and culture shock.
First base is always the toughest part of the courting process for me because I’m an introvert. I'm not usually inclined to attend these events voluntarily, and then, if and when I actually show up, I’m not the type of person to approach people I don’t know, especially if I sense I’m an outsider looking in on an already established inner circle. But I have to remind myself that first base usually ends with the butterflies-in-your-tummy feeling of excitement that accompanies a new relationship and the giddy teenager thoughts that, “She could be THE ONE.”
A MilSpouse friendship hits second base when you schedule an outting that involves either your significant others for a double date or the kids for buffers in case you discover that first base is the best it’s ever gonna get.
I got to second with my best friend when I invited her to my house after chatting her up a few times at our kids’ playgroup on base. I realized we were pretty good at first base, but I sensed she wanted more. So I asked her out. That is, I invited her over for a playdate with the kids.
Second base is the point where you start getting personal, but not too personal. You scratch at the surface of topics like PCS moves and deployments and delivering babies alone and the evils of the commissary on payday. But you still clean the house when she comes over. You still put on makeup and wear something fancier than yoga pants and a shirt you pulled out of the hamper when you go over to her house. You’re starting to get real, but you still put your best face forward.
Ahhh, third base. When the layers start coming off. This is the stage in the dating game where you can take off the proverbial Spanx and let it all hang out. You still talk about PCSing, but now you admit how much you resent having to move again. You still talk about deployments, but now you confide about your struggles with depression. And instead of the fear of judgment you had at second base, you know you’ll get nothing in return but support and encouragement.
I got to third base with another MilSpouse in the bathroom of a restaurant. It was a liberating experience.
By the time you get to fourth base, you can consider yourself surrogate spouses. You’ve gone all the way. She’s willing to compromise her health by entering your germ-infested house while you’re puking because your husband is gone and you need ginger ale and Saltines. You’re willing to watch her kids for three days because she has a business trip and her husband is gone. You have late-night gab sessions and sleepovers because both of your husbands are gone. You’ve killed pain and bottles of wine together. You’ve swapped kids at the commissary because you know that’s the only way you’ll make it to the checkout line with your sanity. You’ve been stationed at multiple duty stations together. Her phone number is listed most frequently in your iPhone’s “recents” list because she’s the first person you call to share exciting news and day-to-day snafus. And your car automatically drives itself to her house even though she PCSed months earlier.
At this point, you’ve seriously discussed the merits of moving in together because, although it’s too depressing to do the actual math, a rough estimate confirms that you’ve likely spent more time with each other than with your real spouses. And even though this courtship won’t end with a big white dress and a ring on your finger, you do end up with something pretty darn special: a true MilSpouse friend.
How did you meet some of your MilSpouse friends?