Editor’s Note: I need to congratulate Staff Sergeant on becoming a Technical Sergeant. We are so proud of you. From now on, I will call him Tech Sergeant, and his wife, my daughter, will be known as Mrs. Tech Sergeant. Congratulations to both of you on your promotion!
Today’s topic deals with isolation. As a new military spouse, I’m sure you are feeling isolated. Even seasoned spouses think that from time to time. It is a normal feeling. First, you know no one. You’ve just moved to a new town (base, post, station,) and you haven’t had time to get your feet wet. You are too busy finding your way around, unpacking boxes and setting up housekeeping to find your niche. So, you find yourself sitting at home by yourself with no one to talk to.
If you are newly married to the military, you are also beginning a new life as a spouse, in a new way of life. Things are different here. The people you have met speak a foreign language with talk of TDYs and deployments, the FRG or the A&FRC. Your base may have an OSC and an ESC. Soon your eyes glaze over, and you stop engaging.
You want to go back to your hometown where people speak plain English, and you can live in your old bedroom with your parents around and go out at night with friends from high school or college, and life will be NORMAL again.
Don’t worry. Your new routine will develop quickly enough. When we first moved to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, we only had one car. We lived nine miles from base, so often, I was home by myself. After about two months of this lifestyle, Mrs. Tech Sergeant called and said she was worried about me.
“Mom,” she said. “You’ve been there for two months. You don’t talk about things you’ve done with your friends or any friends at all. Are you okay?”
“Well, honey, I don’t get out of the house very often because we only have one car. But don’t worry. I’m going out to lunch tomorrow with some new people,” I said.
I was isolated, and it was starting to wear on me. I am an extreme extrovert, so for me, not making friends by that time was unusual.
When you are alone, it is way too easy to get into the trap of relying on social media to be your friend. It is a great tool, but for beating isolation I see two problems, for all spouses, not just new ones,
- You stay too connected to the past. You use it to talk to all your old buddies. Which is fine, but can they understand what you are going through? Can they advise you on how to get out and make new friends? Which leads me to my second point.
- You are less likely to go out into your new world when you can rely on your old pals for socialization.
- It also makes you feel more isolated when you see pictures of your old gang at a party or a bar or a ballgame without you.
It is okay to use social media to stay connected to friends. I love it for seeing what high school, college, and military friends at different bases are doing. Just don’t use it instead of making new friends.
And making new friends will be easier once you know the rules. There are some rules because of the rank structure. While spouses don’t have any rules about fraternizing with people from other ranks, military members do. So, you may find making friends is more comfortable within your new social stratum, i.e., junior enlisted spouses tend to have more in common with other junior enlisted spouses. The senior officer corps are more likely to hang out with other senior officer corps spouses, etc. Again, let me stress this is NOT a rule for spouses. I have friends at all ranks that I hung out with during the Good Chaplain’s career. But age groups and similar experiences tend to be drawn to each other.
Don’t be intimidated when you join a social circle with the commander’s spouse or spouses of those higher ranking than your spouse. I promise they don’t bite. They were once in your shoes, and, if nothing else, they are an excellent source to turn to when you have questions.
Please don’t stay isolated. Get out and find your group. Use social media to post interests and that you are even looking for friends. And enjoy the military life. It’s not a bad way to go.
Until next time,