A popular sentiment is the need to ‘find your tribe.' You know, the people who just completely get you and are there for you. You share common interests and goals, you practically complete each other sentences and have a similar sense of humor. You need to know how to make friends.
Chances are for a military spouse, if we’re not moving, then our tribe is. Ideally, finding your tribe is the holy grail of adulthood when you’re married with a family; realistically we’re either on a constant search for that tribe, losing some of our tribe or leaving our tribe.
So, yeah. Not very fun.
In some of the military base groups that I’m a member of, I've noticed a recent trend sparking. On any given Friday night, or weekday during nap time, a woman will post an ‘ad’ looking for a friend.
She’ll list her many attributes with the hopes of finding her soul mate in friend form. What follows is an onslaught of comments of people who claim to be JUST. LIKE. HER! They all want to be friends and meet up to have play dates, coffee dates or bunco night.
And just like that she’s found her tribe. But actually, probably not.
My gut tells me that this is probably more common with the 20-30 year old wives, which is fine. What I’ve seen is that not much actually ever comes of it, other than maybe new Facebook friends. Rarely does this sort of online-friend-hookup evolve to real life tribe status, for various reasons.
Studies show that women in their 30's prefer to spend time cultivating established relationships, than creating new ones. While that is true, our lifestyle doesn’t afford us the ability to cultivate friendship in person very often, due to distance.
So how do we change this and actually seek out friends? How do you make real friends when you don’t know anyone in town? Here are 3 tips to find your tribe.
1. How to make friends: Gather some moxie and take a risk by SPEAKING.One of the reasons the online ‘ad’ is so popular is because there’s no risk to it. You didn’t have to leave your comfort zone of your cozy home, or actually start a conversation with anyone. When my daughter was in 3rd grade she complained that at lunch, no one would invite her into their conversations and she was very sad about being left out. I asked her who she invited into conversations and she responded with a blank stare. It never dawned on her that she could actually engage people, instead of waiting to be engaged. We spent the rest of that afternoon coming up with ice breaker topics. Basically, she had a set of questions that she could ask to start a conversation with someone as needed.
Questions like, what’s your favorite book or tv show? What sports do you play?
Obviously for adults it’s a little more complicated, but the point is don’t wait for someone to engage you. Start with a compliment, then ask if they’re from the area or have lived there for a while. If they are, they could be a great resource for any questions you might have about your new city.
2. How to make friends: Host a party!I know, the military spouse community is saturated with direct sales consultants and everyone asking you to host or attend a party. That’s not the kind of party I’m talking about; I mean a real social event where you don’t have to buy anything. Consider your new neighbors and invite them over for a relaxed ‘Welcome to the Neighborhood’ party that you throw for yourself. Take a walk around the neighborhood and as you meet people, invite them over and ask them to bring a tip about their favorite “must go” place in town. You’ll end the evening knowing your neighbors better and with a healthy list of hair salons, restaurants, family activities and locally-owned businesses to visit.
If the thought of introducing yourself to your new neighbors terrifies you, or you frankly just aren’t all that interested in a close relationship with them, consider asking your spouse to invite his/her new co-workers and their families over with the same theme.
3. How to make friends: Lead with what interests you.MWR typically has a calendar of events with several activities each month. Choose something that you genuinely have an interest in. This way, you can go into an activity knowing that you already have at least two things in common with everyone there -- the military and the hobby or interest itself. Refer back to #1, so that you’re leaving having met like-minded people.
If none of those activities interest you and you have children, consider child-centric activities at the local park, Barnes & Noble story time and the library. If you don’t have children, consider meetup.com to find a group of local people with common interests. Of course, you can take that route if you have children as well. I personally have had great experiences with meet up groups, just be safety conscious! No matter which route you take, start finding your tribe today.
What has worked for you when making new friends after a PCS?