5 ways military spouses can build a support network
With time apart from your loved one, worry and being stationed around the world, life as a military spouse can be tough. Here, three experienced military spouses offer tips on how to weather the storm:
Join a family support group.
“When I first became an Army wife almost 30 years ago, we just called them wives’ coffee groups, but they eventually evolved into the U.S. Army Family Readiness Group,” explains Kathy Williams, the wife of Garland Williams, a retired U.S. Army colonel and associate regional vice president of the University of Phoenix Military Division.
“Each unit has its own group, usually run by the commanding officer’s spouse,” Kathy Williams explains. The groups do everything from organizing social gatherings to keeping families informed of soldiers’ whereabouts while on deployment. “Many of the friends I made via these groups have become my friends for life,” she says. All branches of the U.S. military have their own version of this program.
Have an open-door policy.
Building a support network can be as simple as getting to know your neighbors, according to Judy Fish, the wife of a U.S. Army officer for 28 years and a friend of Williams. “Wherever we moved, I always made sure I met the neighbors and invited them into my home,” Fish says.
She has done everything from introducing her native Dutch neighbors to Halloween traditions while stationed in the Netherlands to supporting other military spouses with personal problems. “I’ve even attended births for moms whose husbands were away on assignment,” she says.
Volunteer in the community.
Military bases offer numerous volunteer opportunities, which can lead to many new friendships, according to Cortney Palazzini, the wife of an Active-Duty Army officer and a longtime friend of Williams.
“I’ve tried to get involved right away everywhere we’ve been stationed,” says Palazzini, who has done everything from helping new military spouses adjust to teaching English classes for Army Community Service.
“Get involved in whatever capacity you can on base, because that’s where you’re going to meet the people who will support you,” she says. “I have my [blood] family, and I also have my Army family.”
Live on the base.
Although some military spouses and their families prefer to stay in private homes stateside instead of moving from base to base, these wives think that’s a bad idea. “The [military] already separates you and your spouse enough as it is,” Palazzini notes. “Stay on base even when your spouse is out on deployment, because that’s where your best support network is.”
Fish agrees. “The wives I’ve seen who chose to stay in one place instead of moving with their husbands were always miserable,” she says.
Try new things.
Being open to shared experiences can establish bonds that last a lifetime, according to Williams. “When my husband’s unit was stationed in Kosovo and we were still on base in Germany, the other spouses and I decided to spend Thanksgiving together in a randomly selected place,” she says. The group ended up taking a trip with their children to Venice, Italy. “That was 12 years ago, but to this day I’m still close to everyone who was on that trip,” Williams notes. “We made great memories together.”