When I first made the "big move" from Kentucky to Germany, I didn't know anyone here. It took me months to connect with the three "Army friends" I have now. This is partially because I don't go leaping out of my box willingly, and partially because Army wives have a tendency to separate into very defined cliques, and they don't welcome just anybody into their circle. But eventually I found a few women with similar interests and personalities, and because we face the same Army-related challenges, we bonded instantly in a way that is completely foreign to people outside the military. The three of us can talk about the frustrations of our husbands' jobs, the way it feels to be so far from our families, and the difficulties of living in a foreign country, and know without a doubt that the person listening understands, because she is in the same position. Try as they might, civilian friends cannot know how it feels when your husband tells you he might be deploying, or understand why he can't just "take off a couple days" at work so that you can be home for Christmas. How can they, when they've never experienced anything even remotely similar? Plus, there is the added struggle with military lingo to deal with. It's hard to have a decent conversation when you have to pause every thirty seconds to break down an acronym, or explain what a PX is. The sudden change from leading a "normal" life to filling the gigantic shoes of an Army wife is overwhelming, and sometimes it feels like your civilian friends just can't keep up.
However, after the initial relief of finding a person with whom you can rant about the many stresses of military life wears off, you start to realize the major differences between the relationships with these new friends and your old ones. While you bond instantly with a fellow military wife, the bond doesn't run nearly as deep as the one you share with your civilian friends. The civilian friends you keep are your best friends. Whether you grew up together, or you met in college, they're people who know you inside and out. They remember your birthday, know your favorite color, can order for you at your favorite restaraunts, and can sense from a thousand miles away when you need to be told "everything will be okay." Even when they don't "get it," they get you, and that's important, because in the military life, things change often and fast, and it's nice to be reminded that underneath the acronyms and heaps of camoflage, you're still you, a person with thoughts, dreams, and feelings that are completely independent of your husband's job. And most of the time, your military friends can't do that, because the part of you they bonded with is the part that's drowning in Army gear.
So whenever Kyle's work schedule is changed for the third time in two weeks, killing our weekend plans again, I send a message to a fellow MP-wife, and we plan a trip to the mall and talk things out over smoothies. And when I remember that I'm two years behind in my college degree and have a mental meltdown, I call up one of my besties back home, who patiently remind me that in the end, a diploma is a diploma, and if I'd stayed in Kentucky I'd have been miserable without my awesome husband. More and more I'm seeing comparisons between military and civilian friends online, and I can't help but think they're unfair. One set can never hope to replace the other. Between my two sets of friends, I have enough support to get me through just about anything. There's room for both sets of friends in my life. In fact, I'd say that they're both necessary.
(I'd love to hear what my mili-spouse readers have to say on this topic!)