I got to thinking today, pre-deployment, and what some things my army wife friends are going through, and what we are going through. A close friend of mine, back home, has been an Army Wife for longer than I have, and I remember when she would talk to me about what she was going through. I tried to be there for her the best I could, the best I knew how, but as a civilian friend, as someone who had never been really close to the military lifestyle, I knew that I couldn’t understand completely everything she was going though. I could sympathize, but not empathize. So, now that I’m in her shoes, I am finding that while my friends are there for me, they can’t empathize with me, like I couldn’t do before.
And even then, other Army Wives can’t always empathize with other Army Wives all of the time. But because they have or are going through something similar, they are more likely to understand on a deeper level.
I am by no means trying to undermine my own, or anyone’s civilian friends. I love my friends who are not subjected to the military lifestyle, and I love that even though they may not always know what I am going through, what it feels like, they do their best to understand what I’m dealing with, and are there for me. Either with words, a shoulder, an ear, or with drinks, or something to distract me. My friends are there, and I thank them, and welcome their company.
But, I think that Army Wives are sometimes suspicious of civilian friends. Or, it’s just they are too stressed about their military life, that the questions and curiosity of their civilian friends is sometimes too much, when all they want is someone to listen, distract them, and be there. Sometimes we, as Army Wives, do not want to discuss our Army life. While it always drums in the back of our minds, we don’t always want to discuss it, or be reminded of it. Sometimes we just want to escape for a moment, forget our husbands are about to deploy or have deployed, and pretend we’re still 100% civilian, just for a day.
Our Civilian friends shouldn’t feel inferior to Army spouse friends, or vice verse. A friend is a friend is a friend. And not all Army wife friends are better friends. Some wives are above it, some are lucky enough to not endure it, but in most establishments, there’s a tendency for cliques and hierarchies among the military spouse community. I have had the pleasure of my first FRG group of being non-cliquey as far as I experienced it, and it being a wonderful group of wives. Unfortunately, I have heard the opposite from other wives. And even experienced cliques among wives outside of the FRG. In life, you will find the same habits that were practiced in high school among large groups, to be the same, or very similar, in other large communities, groups, or establishments. Army life is not excluded. So, in general, be weary of who you trust, army or civilian friend. Not everyone in your life is good for you; we meet toxic people. But your true friends will always be there for you, whether they have been your friend for years and years since grade school, or it’s a wife or few wives you’ve clicked with on Post or Base.
If your friends don’t or can’t understand your situation, it’s most likely because they are not in your situation, and cannot imagine life outside of the box they call their experiences. If they ask questions, chances are they are benignly curious, and want to understand your situation more. However, not all questions or cases of curiosity are benign, chances are you will have “friends” who pry, who are malicious. Your life isn’t an open book, nor should it be for anyone, military or civilian.
So, rely on your friends when they are there for you. Although they may not be able to relate to your situation, your experiences, your true or better friends will be there for you whenever you need them. If they aren’t there in how you need them to be there, just tell them what you need. If you need someone to listen, ask for an ear…or set of eyes if you’re sending an email or discussing something through instant messaging. Plan to go out and do something, and have it be a rule that there will be no questions or topics brought up that have to do with the military. While you may not always have people who can understand what you are going through, take what you can of what you are being offered from your friends; they are trying their best.
And as for those who have malicious intent, or are just prying into your personal life, don’t give them anything to savor.