I read an article recently on Military Spouse Magazine regarding women’s friendships, it stated that there were five reasons military spouses often struggle with friendship. Most of the reasons stated fell back to shortcomings that the person, who struggles with friendship may have: 1. Self-Centeredness, or being close minded; 2. High Expectations of People; 3. Holding Grudges and Inability To Forgive; 4. Control Freak; or 5. Inability to communicate. I have struggled for YEARS with making and keeping female friends, and I have self-awareness enough to know that I have some of these attributes, but these attributes don’t explain why people may, or may not have friends. Honestly, most people hold these attributes. After reading the article and digesting it a little bit, I have come up with “Five Real Reasons Military Spouses Struggle With Friendship”:
- It can be lonely at the top, or at the bottom. The military discourages relationships between personnel of different ranks. Whether we want to admit it, or not, this can be a definite barrier in developing close personal friendships. Besides the disparity in rank and pay, there’s also a large age gap between people who have been in the military for a long time, and those newly enlisted or commissioned. Personally, I find it every hard to relate to a young woman, who is in her twenties, and does not bear the same responsibilities I bear. It’s not that I am purposefully unfriendly, or snobbish towards them, rather I am old enough to be their mother, and I don’t know that I would have much in common with them.
- Military families move too often. For the first several years in the military we had over 10 separate addresses. Living in a home even two to three years makes lasting friendships difficult. Living somewhere less than that makes friendships impossible. You cannot get to know someone in such little time. I have close friends that I knew when I was active duty some 15 years ago, I haven’t seen since. I have other active duty friends, that I have seen sparingly. And there have been a few of my dearest friends, who have died from cancer, or war.
- Some families are too busy. I am a stay at home mom to a child with autism. The therapy schedule alone is brutal, add in school, another child, extra-curricular activities, hobbies, trying to start a business, and writing—I just do not have time to dedicate to finding close personal friends. It’s hard to develop close, deep, and personal friendships with my schedule. Additionally, many of my hobbies and interests are not really something you do with other people. Sure, I could go running, but most people are afraid to run with me, because of my speed or distances I run.
- Some people don’t want friends, and prefer to be alone. I happen to enjoy being alone. I don’t need a large group of people, and some days I don’t even want to be around my husband and kids. I have a few friends that I spend time with, but I rarely spend more than a few hours a week with those friends. I don’t feel unfulfilled not having a best female friend, and I’m not comfortable in a large group of women. There is actually nothing wrong with wanting to be alone. I have Aspergers, and many times large social gatherings leave me with a social hangover– often I find myself exhausted, depressed, and needing time away from human contact to recharge.
- Some people are shy, anxious, or socially awkward. Children with certain social dysfunctions and issues, grow up to be adults with those same issues. Some people are just painfully shy, and have difficulty talking to people. Other people have communication disorders, ADD, ADHD, or Aspergers. Still others are just socially awkward, and feel they don’t fit in with other people. This can be particularly hard for women, because often these conditions are attributed to men, and there are a lot of women, who go through life with undiagnosed issues.
I understand the intent of the original article, the author probably really wants to help female military spouses in making friends, and surely there are some people, who are overly self-centered, stubborn, hold people to impossible standards, hold grudges, are control freaks, or any number of other personalities that may make friendships difficult, but I counter that just about every single person has moments where they are all those things, and it does not mean that they are unworthy of friendship, or that they should completely change, who they are in order to make friends. It’s presumptuous to write an article under the guise of advice, when the author is passively-aggressively demeaning the reader. Military spouses are in sensitive circumstances. The primary problem I have with the original article is the implication that there is something “wrong” with spouses, who for whatever variety of reasons elect not to build friendships, or prefer to be alone. And what’s more, not only is there something “wrong” inherently with keeping an arm’s length, that it is the person is somehow to blame for being miserable, when no one is really complaining of misery. Blaming people for not wanting to be best-good friends is not an appropriate tone for an article about friendship…