I've been thinking about friendships a lot lately. Things have really been up and down in that department for me for the past few months, and I've been wondering why. I have some amazing friends here where we're stationed, as well as one or two great friends from back "home." That being said, maintaining close friendships with other women has grown increasingly difficult ever since I went into the military.
I recently realized that someone I considered to be a great friend was just not who I thought she was. It was very difficult, but I had to end the friendship after months of being shocked by insensitive, manipulative, and destructive behavior. After making that decision, I started to look at myself, my friendships, indeed all of my relationships because I really wanted to figure out why this kind of thing keeps happening. Is it me? Am I the one who is hard to get along with? Do I have unreasonable expectations for what I think a friend should be and do? I look at Facebook, and all the people who still live at home are still friends with mostly the same people. Okay, there have been a few additions, some subtractions, and some people are married or engaged to people I never would have foreseen. By and large, however, most of the same friendships I witnessed as an outsider in high school are still going strong today.
One thing that makes friendships for those of us that are tangentially related to the military so difficult is that there is simply no time to build up that base friendship. I know most our spouses have made incredible friendships through their time in the military, and as a veteran, I have first hand experience of how close shared service can make two people. But as a spouse, we not only don't have that brotherhood mentality, many times there is actually some form of competition between us and the other spouses. I don't think I'm wrong when I say that women are competitive on a level men just have no concept of. It is one of the things that separates the sexes, and is in no way meant as a judgement of either men or women, it simply, is. How many times have you looked at another military couple, and judged not only the way they deal with each other, but their children, and even their friends. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "I can't believe she does that while he is away, I would never do that to my husband," or, "did you see the way he just talked to her? I would never accept that." I'm guilty of it, most of my friends are guilty of it, and I've heard it said about me. Yes, women are competitive, and it takes time to get past that initial sizing up, judgmental stage of acquaintance. We have to see that the other person isn't all good or all bad through his or her actions, and as we get older, people become more and more complicated, and it gets harder to see all the different facets that are the makeup of a person. As a military spouse, we simply don't have the time for that. When you get to a new command, you're going to be there for about 3-5 years, and even if you meet someone and strike up a friendship on the first day at the new command, there's a good chance she doesn't have 3-5 years left there, if you're lucky she has two. So you become friends, you hang out, and both of you seem pretty cool to the other one, and slowly, slowly you let that person in to your "sphere." By the time something more than just drinking buddies develops, she might have a year left, so you try to spend more time together, and then it gets interesting. She discovers that you get super upset if she doesn't call you at least once a day, and you discover that she doesn't have a problem flirting with other men as long as it doesn't go anywhere. If you had time, you could possibly work through these issues. You could see that it simply isn't in her nature to call as often when life gets busy, and then you won't take it personally, and you could show her that you really aren't comfortable with her behavior towards the opposite sex. Sure, you might have an argument or two, but there would be time to resolve the issues if there is a genuine connection there. Instead you are left with six months and those issues become huge because you don't have the years of friendship to fall back on to feel comfortable enough to confront the other about, and eventually you either have a huge blowup, or (more often) the relationship simply fizzles away and becomes the barest blip on the radar of your life.
A perfect example of this is what happened with my friend and I. We were very close, even after her husband separated from the military we kept in touch on a weekly basis. Then she went through major life changes and began to rely more heavily on me for my friendship. At the same time, I got busier with school, work, getting ready for the move, and all the things that go into maintaining a marriage and household. I wasn't as available as I had been. Then we started noticing things about each other that neither of us were okay with. I was really bad at knowing where my phone was or keeping it charged, so much so that she stopped believing me when I would tell her I was having phone issues. She had a habit of getting angry with people who were only trying to help her. We both tried to confront each other and maintain the friendship, but we just didn't have the foundation to make it through. Perhaps if we had known each other since elementary school there would have been a future, perhaps we would've blown up a long time before. I'll never know. I just have that blip that I can look at sometimes and wonder, what if?
This all sounds so dismal and hopeless. But it's really not. I do have some amazing people in my life. My dear friend, Linda just got engaged the other day, I've known her since we were in fourth grade. She was maid of honor in my wedding, and now I get to be a bridesmaid in hers! Spring break starts on Monday, and three of my girlfriends and I are going to New Orleans. In fact, one of those girls is someone I did not like when I first met her, but after allowing myself to get over that competitive b.s., she has become a very close friend. Military friendships can be some of the closest that you can ever imagine. Despite the fact that we spouses aren't actually in the service, we have our own sisterhood. No one else will ever understand what it is to see the man you love walking away, knowing you won't see him for months, or possibly ever again. No one else understands how hard it can be to have the strength our spouses need from us while all we want to do is fold under the pressure. And there is no way someone can understand the terror you feel right before he leaves, and then right before he comes home again, how scary that can be. Sometimes, the only thing we have is each other, and that can bring out the absolute best humanity has to offer. I consider myself lucky to be one of you.
Military word for the Day: Ropeyarn.
What it means : Released from duty for the rest of the day, usually around a holiday, but the C.O. can grant it any time he wants.
Where it comes from : When the British Navy was out to sea, they would take an afternoon off usually once a week on Wednesday to mend hammocks, rope, and clothing from the yarn from their ropes. It was a break from normal duties and chores, and became known as Ropeyarn Sunday (Sunday also being a time of rest). So when your guy tells you he's coming home early because the C.O. granted them ropeyarn, greet him with all the mending you'd like done! I mean, it's tradition!