Once upon a time, every military spouse was new. We’ve heard all the love stories, horror stories, and everything in between. For me, starting this life many moons ago, social media wasn’t really a part of our everyday life. If I wanted to know anything about military life, I had to get out of my home and interact with other people. Today, life is different. Many military spouses turn to digital, mainly Facebook, for answers on navigating this crazy, unpredictable way of life. I am here to tell you, sometimes, disconnecting from virtual reality and plugging into some real-life experience, will make you more knowledgeable and resilient as military spouse.
Get some training
When military members in-process into the service, there is training they must undergo prior to entering their new unit. You should do the same! In the Army, there is an Army Family Team Building course, free and open to all military members and spouses. These classes teach you all about Army life, from military acronyms to proper military etiquette. While these things can be learned online, getting up-to-date, relevant-to-your-post-information is more effective live and in person.
Meet other military spouses
Get out of the house, get some fresh air, and meet new people. We unintentionally get grouped socially by rank, unit, or age. Do something different, go to a new group, join a new club, or workout at a different gym. If you are on a military post, there is an immense amount of leisure activities at your disposal. Find something to get involved in. Maybe a sewing class, couponing, or even yoga. The options are plentiful.
Everything may not be your thing, but it could be! Step outside of your comfort zone and talk to someone you’ve never met. Once, during pre-deployment counseling, I was given homework. My counselor said to go to our unit’s FRG meeting, talk to someone new, and exchange phone numbers. Would you believe, I still talk to that random person 10 years later? She became my best friend, and no matter where in the world we’ve been, we haven’t gone longer than a week without speaking to each other.
Get everyone together
Food brings people together. Have a small get-together at your home, a local park, or a community center. If you live on post, your community center may be available at a very minimal cost or even free (if no damage occurs). Next, create a Facebook invite for people who live in your neighborhood, parents of children who attend school with your child, or spouses from your service member’s unit. It doesn’t have to be a full-on banquet, rather just a few appetizers and drinks.
Tip: Make some ice breaker games to get everyone talking. Try using index cards and be ready to mingle! Pinterest is a great place for inspiration.
There is a great need for helping hands within the military community. Volunteers contribute millions of hours every year. Plus, they are needed at almost every level of a military post and within nonprofit organizations, on and off post. Some examples include the veterinarian clinic, the USO, or within your unit’s FRG.
There are so many opportunities to give back, and prospects to gain experience in a field that may professionally interest you. Check out the volunteer office on your installation and find out how you can get involved. I’ve personally served in many volunteer positions, and my favorite was as an Administrative Assistant for Army Community Service on Fort Carson. That was the closest I came to being gainfully employed since becoming a military spouse.
Start a special interest group online
Don’t want to get out and physically interact with others? Start an online group for people who share your interests. Whether it’s swapping recipes with other military spouses at your post, a Pokémon group for military kids, or a book club. No matter your interests, there is likely at least one other person near your military post who can relate. Over time, your group will gain members and you can eventually make further connections through some sort of physical get together, maybe a Starbucks meet up.
Adapting to the military lifestyle can be hard. As a spouse, you will find yourself in this situation over and over—including but not limited to: when you’re a newlywed, after a PCS, starting a new job, and introducing your kids to a new school, will all offer the opportunity to recreate and reinvent yourself. How proactive you are in that mission completely falls on you, and luckily there are plenty of ways to get acquainted with this way of life, on and offline. Take a shot at creating your own experiences.