Making Friends as an Adult: The Sucky Part of Military Life

Before I start, I should say this post is just a rant, word vomit, whatever you want to call it. It’s not meant to be a “woe is me” pity post.

I have two tickets to see “Casablanca” on the big screen tonight. And I’ll be going alone, which, isn’t totally awful because it means I don’t have to share my popcorn and no one will judge me when I go back out for more butter when I reach that dry spot halfway through the bag, but it’s also another reminder of how isolating military life can be.

It’s not that I don’t have friends. I have lots of them. Lots of amazing, funny friends. The problem is, they live everywhere but here. In almost ten years I’ve lived in four towns in three states. At first, making friends was easy. When we lived in South Florida, we were attached to a larger station. We were all young and childless and spent every weekend at house parties or bars or at the beach. A friend was always a phone call and a beer away.

Fast forward a few years and Bunny was born. A month later, I packed up and lived at my brother’s house while the husband went away for six months. I was battling with (what I didn’t realize at the time) post-partum anxiety and depression and I was trying to figure out how to keep a tiny human alive, but I always had my sister-in-law to hang out with at night.

Then we moved to Virginia. I was determined to have a life outside of pumping and nursing so I joined a local mom’s group. I went to every playdate and Mom’s Night Out possible. I ended up becoming friends with J. We bonded instantly over our love of wandering Target at 9:30pm and Starbucks. She was the kind of friend I could call and spend an hour on the phone with, even if we just saw each other the day before. We hung out just to spend time together (and our kids, and husbands, got along) and we forced each other out of the house on days where we were beyond stressed and done (she usually did the coaxing and I did the resisting.) We threw each other baby showers and she was the first person to visit and hold Bubba.  As always, the military separated us a couple of years later. This time, J went first to Florida and we moved to WNY a few months later.

I made it through the first year here without feeling totally alone. We were busy settling into the house (and later buying it from our landlord) and I was traveling a lot. I keep busy with work and keeping not one, but two, humans alive.

But still, on days like today? Today, I wish my friends didn’t all live hundreds of miles away. I miss having someone I can just call up and meet at Target for no reason other than I need to get out. I would love to have a girlfriend to drag to Casablanca (and then have “thanks for sitting through an old movie with me” cocktail after.)

It’s not easy making friends as an adult. We all know this. I can’t show up at school drop-off with a Rainbow Loom and ask Sally if she wants to be friends. I find it harder to make friends now that my kids are getting older, too. Joining a mom’s group just doesn’t seem like a logical step for me anymore. I don’t want to have playdates and go on group trips to the zoo. I never really liked playdates to begin with, but it was a way to be near my people…new moms who haven’t showered in days and just needed human interaction before they exploded.

I’ve passed out my number at both kid’s schools and there’s always the nice “we should totally get together for coffee” comment, but then it’s “sorry I didn’t call you back [insert excuse here]”. I feel like I’m dating all over again, wondering if there’s a three-day-rule for calling a parent for coffee. It’s like trying to find “the one”, but instead of a life partner, I’m looking for a two-year coffee partner because I know I’ll move again someday and have to start the process all over again.

It’s tiring and it’s draining and it’s lonely. It doesn’t mean I’m unhappy or that I regret marrying into this life, because I’m neither. I know I’m surrounded by friends who love me, even if they love me from 800 miles away.

Maybe, my whole point in this lovely 1,000 word vomit is, if there’s a new mom in your neighborhood or at your kid’s school and she asks you out for coffee, consider saying yes, even if you already have enough friends in your life. You never know how much of a difference you may make in hers.

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  • Reply Jodi March 4, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    I’ve lived in my town for 14 years and have the same issue here. I was working crazy hours outside the house for my first nine years here and never met anyone locally.

  • Reply wendi March 4, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    I love you faraway friend.

  • Reply Jenn March 4, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    I wish we lived closer. I would totally go to the movie with you, and I would go with you for more butter. Viva la butter.

    Love you.

  • Reply Meranda@fairytalesandfitness March 5, 2014 at 1:40 am

    I am loving this post! It is so hard to make friends as an adult! Wish we lived closer, I love strolling Target! Your “word vomit” is so nicely written, you should consider sending this to Reader’s Digest!

  • Reply Ashley March 5, 2014 at 3:15 am

    As a new military spouse I understand this. I moved away from home, out of state, first job out of college, 3 years ago to my now Husband in Missouri. Now that I finally have a few “good ones” we are supposed to be moving this or next year. Who knows. I am fine with solitude, but it does make you miss the friends you are separated from. I feel like it was SO hard to find true friends, and now that I have them its time to move. Do not get me started about the “wives club” as I call them..

  • Reply Rob March 5, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    I know exactly what you mean. I think it might even be harder for me as a SAHD Navy husband. How many moms are going to say to me, the 6’3″ guy with a 3-day beard, “dude, let’s go hang out at Target”?

    It really hit home when my wife deployed and I realized I had no friends, at least locally. That was a long deployment.

    At our last duty station I told a mom that waiting at the school bus stop for 10 minutes with other parents (all moms) was the social highlight of my day. She thought I was joking and said, ‘that’s sad.’ ‘But it’s true’ I said.

  • Reply Jackie @ MomJovi March 5, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    Making friends as an adult is SO hard. Know what finally did it for me? Blogging. Some of my best IRL friends now are ones I met through this crazy blogging world. And frankly, it was nice to have friends, too, that were independent from my kids and husband. They’re all MINE! Granted, sometimes we get the families together but for the most part, it’s just us blogging ladies. We’re very, very lucky in Central Florida to have such a vibrant blogging community, but maybe you’ll be the leader in WNY? Perhaps a Tweet-up lite to get started?

    It’s SO hard, though. So hard. We’re at a new school this year and I don’t know a single other mom there yet … and it’s March. I just keep going back to my old school friends, which I’m so lucky to have. But I’m sure there are moms and dads at the new school that don’t have that, esp since I know some in E’s Kinder class never went to preschool first, and I need to make more of an effort to connect with them.

    Hang in there and thanks for the reminder that we all need to be better about incorporating the new kids.

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