Can I tell you guys something? I've been lonely. Really, really lonely. Can you relate?
You're probably thinking "stop complaining and get out there and make friends." That's not the problem. I DO have friends. I have lots, and lots of friends. I have in-person people at my CrossFit gym, at my church, in my community. I have a long term, long distance best friend who I adore. And I'm surrounded by even more truly wonderful people in my online community, men and women who hold me up and push me forward and even send me flowers in the mail just because. They wow me.
And yet here I am, devastatingly lonely.
Here's the thing: while I know many, many people I don't have any in-person friends with whom I am close. Why? Because I'm afraid.
What about you?
I am afraid to share my big, emotional burdens with anyone. I fear that once they hear them they won't want to be my friend anymore or, worse, they will be the most wonderful person ever, and then immediately move away. And I honestly don't know much more friendship loss I can handle. Right now purposefully pursuing deep friendships just feels like too much of a big, scary risk.
About a year ago I had that one local version of that one person who knows all the dirt and all the baggage of the ongoing saga that is my personal life right now. When I needed someone to hang out with or run with, she was there. I never thought she'd be my local best friend, my person -- but she was. Friendships are surprising like that, I guess.
And then she moved, because that's how the military works.
You can't just replace someone like that. And so here I am, one year later with one year to go at this duty station and I am lonely.
Making friends in the military is really hard. I asked our SpouseBuzz Facebook friends to tell me their biggest military spouse friendship fears, and so many of them said they are afraid of the gossip and backstabbing. Several people said they are afraid that if they make a friend and share who they really are, that person will trade them in later, using their burdens as collateral.
That really struck me. Are these struggles exclusive to the military world? Probably not.
But even if they are not exclusive, they are magnified by a uniquely military problem: frequent moves of both you and the people you know to very far away places that puts a premium on making friendships in a hurry.
We have taught ourselves over time that if you want to be settled in somewhere and survive, you're going to need to make some friends, and I mean today. So instead of letting a friendship grow over time as we watch to make sure this person is someone we can actually trust, we latch on to them as quickly as possible without really figuring out whether or not that person is safe. In a friendship outside the military, in a place where there is no hurry, you might know someone for months before you are thrown together enough to know whether or not you should tell her your problems.
But inside the military we don't have that luxury. So we share our burdens on the first date, only to then learn the hard way whether or not that was a good idea.
Others said they shared my fear of loss -- that with each PCS season they get a little sadder, and a little more hurt and a little less able to invest again.
That's not what I want for my life. I don't want to be so jaded by cycle of grief over lost friendships that I can't really reach out anymore. And I also don't want to live my life in this lonely emotional isolation, where I am seen and heard but never go deep.
How do you deal with military friendship fears? How do you get past them to break the cycle of lonely and find someone with whom you can share life?