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No, Not All Spouse Groups Are the Same

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Not all Spouse Groups are the Same
Spouses participate in a Spouses Warrior Day at Okinawa, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps/Nicholas Filca)

How many times have you heard 'I would get involved with the [insert spouse group] but I had a bad experience in the one we just came from?' I've heard that feedback countless times. But honestly, I just don't buy it. I don't believe that one bad experience is enough to ruin the effectiveness of an entire organization. I mean, Starbucks messes up your drinks and you still go back. So why judge a brand new group on what happened in your last one?

Give the FRG (Another) Try

Army spouse Sara Jane Arnett says that with every move, one of her main goals is to seek out and get involved with our new FRG (Family Readiness Group).

"I guess this is because my very first experience with an FRG was positive. Our first duty station took us an ocean away from family and friends in Kaiserslautern, Germany. My husband's Battalion Commander encouraged the importance of the FRG. In his experience, FRGs had bridged gaps in communication and strengthened relationships among families," Arnett wrote.

She found sympathy and compassion, she gained a friend to accompany her to her first ultrasound and she felt like she had a family. Arnett and her husband both saw the value in having a solid, self-sustaining and drama-free FRG.

For eight years, Arnett volunteered as newsletter editor for the group, and she's filled other positions in various FRGs before leading one herself.

Arnett wrote, "I urge the unwilling not to focus on a negative experience in the past, but to take a chance. Please get involved and give back. I believe that our military families carry the brunt of the hard work on their backs, but let the FRGs carry out their mission and lighten the load."

Military Spouse Groups

If you're wondering why you find such great friends in random groups of military spouses and not in official groups like your FRG, you're not alone. Spouse Kimberly Kapacziewski asked those kinds of questions too, "Why can't I find the same kind of camaraderie in my military Family Readiness Group that I found in the exercise group I joined a few years ago?"

When it comes to groups of military spouses, it's hard to determine what makes them function so differently. The people involved in the group share a lifestyle commonality and shared common interest -- the unit. So why does one work so much better than the other for some?

Kapacziewski's theory is that the fitness group works better because it's both voluntary and has the foundation of a clear, common interest. She found her group based on her interests and joined for her -- not for her spouse's career or out of obligation.

Groups that center around a shared interest, like fitness in this example, can offer a supportive and fun atmosphere for military spouses. They're a lot of fun because they aren't about the military.

Is there a way to recreate the camaraderie we feel in these groups to FRGs? For some people, maybe. But no one thing is going to work for everyone, which is why having a variety of options works so well. Find something for your season, but keep your mind open for the next thing so you don't miss out on a great opportunity.

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