From MilitaryOneSource.com BlogBrigade:
I saw an awesome t-shirt the other day that summed up my friendship philosophy: Your vibe attracts your tribe. Isn’t that the truth? I have an amazing group of friends who I trust with my whole heart. But friendships haven’t always been easy for me, especially as a new military spouse. Making friends as an adult under any circumstances can be tough. Making friends when you are away from home can be even harder. But having a crew of friends you can count on is one of the things that has helped me most on my military journey.
When I was a young military spouse in my early 20s, living on an installation for the first time, life was lonely. My husband was working a lot and I didn’t have many friends that I kept in touch with after high school. I remember our first tour well. It was the first time I’d ever met someone from another state, much less the other side of the world. I was being exposed to people from different backgrounds and cultures with different value systems and parenting styles. It didn’t take me long to learn that the military spouse connection alone would not be enough to sustain a lasting friendship. I’d meet a spouse and we’d hit it off, but our friendship would fade, sometimes for obvious reasons and others with no explanation at all. I wish back then that someone would have told me that it was okay to let friendships go if they didn’t feel right. Now that I’m older and I have good, caring, amazing friends, I would tell myself this:
- Don’t become someone’s enabler. Every military spouse needs a helping hand from time to time. An emergency sitter, a can of cream of mushroom soup, or a ride to the clinic. But if crisis seems to follow someone around like a lost puppy, that might not be a good relationship for you. Rescue friends are emotionally exhausting and take away valuable time from healthy relationships. It’s okay to help someone out in a time of need, but don’t become a savior for someone who constantly needs rescuing.
- Find a mutual connection. People get busy. We don’t always return calls, social media messages, or texts, and not all of us are planners. But if you’re always the person reaching out and trying to make plans, the friendship might not be reciprocated by the other person. You are worth a phone call. Don’t settle for less.
- Avoid gossip. If someone is gossiping to you about someone else, they most likely are talking about you when you aren’t around. Unless you enjoy being the topic of other people’s conversation, avoid people who talk about other people’s business. If someone shares something with you, even if they don’t say, “this is a secret,” don’t talk about it with someone else.
- Embrace people who embrace this life. It’s hard living away from home and family. For many of us, life in the military is a shock to our system – we aren’t used to the long hours, protocols and customs – but it’s much easier to embrace military life when you surround yourself with other families who enjoy it. As spouses, we are a part of military culture because we chose to marry and build a life with our service member. Oftentimes their desire to serve our country can be hard on us. But their commitment runs deep, just like our love for them. Surround yourself with people who have strong marriages and who are living their best MilLife.
- Remember you are the company you keep. The qualities you look for in other military spouses will be easier to spot if you possess them yourself.
Over the past 20 years, I have met hundreds of military spouses. We share a camaraderie that can’t be matched, but being a fellow military spouse is not enough to sustain a friendship. Finding your special few takes patience – it’s okay to let people come into and fade out of your life. The best people are the ones you can be your authentic self with. Hold onto those people, treasure them, love them and nurture those relationships. Your tribe is out there – you just need to build it, one healthy relationship at a time.
Now that we’re in the holiday season, you may be concerned about handling interactions with your in-laws. The key to handling difficult in-laws is to maintain solidarity in your marriage.
Communicate your concerns to your partner. Ask your partner to stand up for you if needed, and make sure that your partner doesn’t tolerate any criticism or contempt directed at you from their parents.
Their parents may be surprised at first, but they’ll come to accept the change in attitude and may begin to soften their way of speaking to you.
The same strategy applies if your partner is concerned about your parents, so ask them what you can do to help defuse a difficult situation.
Remember, you both are on the same team.
The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 23 November 2017. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.
We all make mistakes from time to time. When we do, saying “I’m sorry” is magical because it lets your partner know that you understand and respect them, which helps to bring you both closer together.
Try to be specific about why you’re apologizing, and try to explain how you felt when things went wrong:
I had been very stressed and irritable.
I hadn’t expressed much appreciation toward you.
I had been running on empty.
This will help your partner understand where you’re coming from. It will open you both up to calmly expressing what you need and how you feel.
The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 19 October 2017. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.
The one big thing in marriage is trust.
Can I trust you to be there for me when I’m upset?
Can I trust you to choose me over your friends?
Can I trust you to respect me?
We’ve learned that trust is built in very small moments. In any interaction, there is a possibility of connecting with your partner or turning away from your partner.
Turn towards bids for connection. Express appreciation for each other. Brag about each other’s talents and achievements. Say “I love you” every day.
The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 14 September 2017. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.
In any interaction, there is a possibility of connecting with your partner or turning away. One single moment is not that important, but if you’re consistently choosing to turn away, then trust erodes.
When this happens, you begin to focus on your partner’s flaws. You forget about their traits you admire and value.
Eventually you start making what researcher Caryl Rusbult calls “negative comparisons.” You start to compare your spouse to someone else, real or imagined, and you think, “I can do better.”
Invest in your marriage instead. Express appreciation for each other. Brag about each other’s achievements. Say “I love you” every day.
The grass isn’t greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it.
The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 31 August 2017. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.
We’ve all been defensive. Defensiveness is self-protection in an attempt to ward off a perceived attack, and it’s one of the Four Horsemen that predicts divorce.
The antidote to defensiveness is to accept responsibility for your role in the issue.
Think about the word responsibility.
You have the ability to respond with patience and kindness. The key is to be aware of your triggers. And to understand the difference between a perceived attack and an actual one.
Let that awareness inform your response ability.
The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 20 July 2017. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.
Research has shown that spending just one hour per week discussing areas of concern in your relationship can transform the way you and your partner manage conflict. We call this the weekly “State of the Union” meeting.
Here’s how to do it. Begin by talking about what went right since your last meeting. Then give each other five appreciations you haven’t yet expressed. Try to be specific.
Next, discuss any issues that may have arisen. Use gentle start-up and listen non-defensively. Take turns being the speaker and the listener. Only after each other feels heard and understood do you move on to problem solving.
End by asking each other, “What can I do to make you feel loved this week?”
The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 3 August 2017. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.