After a few military moves you get the hang of moving, and the tactics involved. Shipping a car? It’s a hassle, but a breeze. Movers coming? Crushing it. Too bad about your grandma’s table also getting crushed, but the rest mostly arrived. Trying to stay positive, right? But what is the one thing that always feels hard? Making new friends can easily be described as the most difficult part of military moves. It can feel nerve-wracking and frustrating.
I get equal parts of being thrilled, and simultaneously terrified about meeting new people. Moving four times over the course of seven years has taught me how to cast a wide net to find friendships.
Here are my top four tips for making friendships and growing roots fast in a new place.
Share a Friendship Ad.
I can not stress enough how this one thing has helped everything else fall into place. You have things you love, things that light you up when you talk about them. Make a list of about five of them. Then, on your local installation spouse’s page, write a post asking for friends. Here’s a tip: Include a picture of you doing something odd or fun, that will catch people’s attention. Mine often look like this:
“Hi lovelies! My name is Aj and I like Jesus, Mermaids, Harry Potter- Hufflepuff for the win- and popcorn with m&m’s. I love line dancing and board games. I have Jer my adventure partner and two pups. If you love any of the above, and are taking applications for a new friend, let me know! I’d love to bribe my way into your friend group with homemade fudge or sangria!”
After you post, people will usually respond and comment. They will share a church they go to, or the fact that they love mermaids. These comments are fantastic, but the real power is in the follow up. This is where you have to zip up the nerves, comment, and send a private message. Every. Single. Person. Ask if they’d be interested in going on a friend date or if you could join them in an activity. You put the ball into their court, while their comment is still fresh in their mind. Have some options! You could go for a walk, attend an art show, or even a festival. Your options are endless. Yes. This feels scary. Yes, sometimes they don’t respond. You’ll be messaging at least a few people, it’s okay if people don’t write back right away. Cast a wide net so you get a few fish.
Go on Friend Dates: You sip your coffee, she sips hers.You might barely have anything in common, but coffee is the life blood for many mil spouses. If that feels too intimidating, I highly recommend doing an activity together. Going to a painting class, a board game night, or a spoken word jam could be other opportunities to connect. Look in your local City Calendar of Events, as they always have free concerts in the park, or accessible walk about festivals happening.
You can look up ideas before you post your friendship ad so you immediately can follow up with, ‘‘You like Harry Potter? Did you know this bar is having a HP trivia night? Would you like to go with me?’’
This allows you both to have a good experience trying something new at, say the Apple Fall Festival, even if you don’t go together like PB&J.
Adult Education Classes and Gatherings: Sadly, friends don’t just pop up on your front door anymore like in elementary school. (Although, you could knock on your neighbor’s door with some cookies and ask them over for dinner.) Sometimes we have to go to things by ourselves. Look for classes you are interested in. You could try an aerial fitness class,a library’s art workshop, or a book club.
Your base may have a spouses club that has many mini gatherings throughout the month. Remembering that everyone is human, and is trying to do the best they can, allows us to have the grace to show up as ourselves to try new things too. Before going to these events, you could try to prepare 2-3 questions to ask someone near you. My “go-tos” are “What is bringing you joy lately? What are you reading or watching lately? What are you curious about lately?” Each of these is an open ended question that you can start a conversation!
Bring Joy: My first event as a military wife, I was scared out of my mind. We had just moved to Mississippi, and I knew for sure they were all going to hate me with my purple hair and too much-ness. My husband reminded me that “I was not for everyone.”
I just knew that those I would connect deeply with would be those that liked me for me, not who I was trying to be or who they wanted me to be. Looking in the mirror, I asked myself, ‘What would bring me joy to wear tonight?’ That evening it looked like a fun jumpsuit, an orange kimono, a sparkly orange flower crown, topped off with 5 bracelets and approximately every necklace I owned. I felt fantastic.
For you it might look like jeans and a cute top, and bold red lipstick, or maybe doing your hair up in that 1950’s style you saw on Pinterest. Sometimes this question of “What would bring me joy” feels out of reach. Instead, you could change the question to “What is one thing I can do that would make me feel more like me tonight?” Then, do that thing.
We can’t control everyone else, but listening in, and doing a little leg work allows us to show up more fully in who we were created to be and make friends from a more centered place. When someone tells you they love your red lipstick, you can respond with, ‘Thank you, I found this cool women’s lecture series downtown next week, want to go?’ It’s risky business, being vulnerable. But being brave is good business.
You are in a new place for a reason. Put yourself out there, follow up, go on some friend dates, and bring joy to the world! Let me know in the comments what works for you and your favorite friend making tips!
JOIN THE MOVEMENT!
We invite you to join us in creating a paradigm shift within the military spouse culture. We want to be at the forefront of creating a movement within our community that trades comparison for compassion. We want to replace the negativity that surrounds the MilSpouse culture with a positive image of personal fulfillment and success. We can be a group that raises each other up, building strong leaders and supporting new ideals. Join us by “liking” our Facebook page, subscribing to the blog, and linking us to your local “spouse’s” Facebook page!
AJ sparks imagination and joy through art, entertainment, and events with her business In Joy Productions. As a military spouse, she creates sacred spaces for women to flourish through Red Tents, retreats, and soul art workshops. Facilitating conversations in engaging ways, she helps women move, totally embodied, through to world- allowing them to show up for themselves and others. Her heart is to change the traditions and stories we pass down to the next generation by creating brave spaces to share about womanhood, in all its phases. She lives in San Antonio, TX, with her husband Jeremy, two pups, a peace lily, and a bucket full of glitter for emergencies. She writes for SheLoves Magazine, GEMS Girls Club, and MilSpo Co. Connect with AJ at www.ajsmit.com or @mermaidHarmony on Facebook and Instagram!