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Why Civilian Families Sometimes Just.Don’t.Get.It.

June 16, 2008

I think I’m sensative to this right now because I had a long conversation with one of my civilian friends this weekend about the differences in civilian/military friendships. Before I begin, I should make it clear that I think civilian friendships are a very important part of life as a milspouse. This weekend I was explaining to my civilian friend how excited I was that one of my old friends from Pope AFB/Ft. Bragg has been assigned to Ft. Riley and I can’t wait to see her. She’s an hour away! My civilian friend was wondering why military spouse friendships are “different” than those with civilians. After much “uh… well… ah…” this is how I explained it: A civilian hears a knock on their door when their husband is at work and they don’t think anything of it. A military spouse hears a knock on their door while their spouse is “at work” and their pulse quickens, sweat peaks out of their hairline and they take a deep breath and open the door. A civilian wife is upset with her husband for spending $75 on a new video game and argues about it explaining that the $75 could have been put to better use, etc. A military spouse sees that her husband has spent $75 on a video game and she thinks, “there’s repreive for my love at the end of the day. $75 is a small price to pay. Besides, it’s not worth the argument.” This friend that recently moved to Ft. Riley had undergone extensive treatments trying to get pregnant while stationed at Ft. Bragg. When they PCSed to Georgia a few years ago, they gave up the fight and stopped treatments. She called me early one morning and said, “You’re going to the bathroom with me.” “Great. Good morning to you too.” “Guess what I doing” she said. “Uh… peeing?” “Yeah, but I have something with me” she further explains. “Really? What is it?” “Guess!” she teases. “Uh… don’t know.” “A pregnancy test! I didn’t get my period this month!” she exclaims. So she was with child and she was talking to me when she found out. That’s a military wife. Don’t get your husband excited until you know for sure. Don’t give him any reason to be distracted from his duties in the day. A civilian wife would not likely call her friend to share the anticipation with. I explained further to my civilian friend; military families move about every three years. We plunge ourselves into our next duty station, eager to meet the women of the squadron and immerse ourselves in community activities. We start “living” in our new home within a week. Civilian families can move accross the country away from their families and have to start over, but they rarely form the bonds that make their neighbors and community members “family”. I explained that as a military spouse, you forge friendships with other women that are almost an extension of your own body. The friendships you make as a military spouse are more than mere friendships, these women become your family.

Since PCSing to Kansas I have taken a position with a company with 100% civilian employees. This is quite unusual for a milspouse. We’re usually working beside at least one other milspouse if not mulitiple military family members to include retired/seperated military servicemembers themselves. I actually found employment with a group of nine other people with no military affiliation at all. This makes me subject to great scrutiny. People are curious as to how we live. They have questions that they feel since they are so “close to you” they should be allowed to ask. The Husband is away learning to be a Parachute Dude right now. He left a few weeks ago and will return this weekend. Of course, the woman I share an office with is ever so curious if not a bit spiteful. She asks me today, “How’s The Husband?” “Oh, he’s doing great! The Husband is crazy, but he’s having a wonderful time. He had two perfect jumps on Friday!” “That sounds great, I’m sure he’s having fun” she says. “Yeah, he’s certainly enjoying himself.” She continues, “When I was younger I had a friend who wanted to learn how to parachute. So she went up and learned all there was to learn, jumped out of the plane… but she didn’t have a perfect landing. She died. At eighteen years of age.” Shit. I know she wasn’t trying to upset me and honestly, I took it with a grain of salt and rolled my eyes behind my computer monitor. I guess when you aren’t confronted with military families everyday, you don’t realize that there are certain things you just. don’t. say.

Something to add to the conversation with my civilian friend about the difference of military friendships and civilian friendships. Military wives know when to keep their mouth shut.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. That's all Folks! permalink
    June 16, 2008 08:18

    There is definately something to be said for “knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.” Sometimes the urge is there to relate a story, but it is always best to make sure the ending will be good for the other person to hear. Some people just love doom and gloom.

  2. Alexandra A. permalink
    July 18, 2008 12:32

    The longer my husband has been in the Navy the more I have started taking civilian friendships with a grain of salt. It’s not that they aren’t worth pursing, it’s simply that as time goes on there seems to be less of a point to maintaining them. While they are important I cherish my military friendships more. It’s generally easier to be friends with those you have more incommon with. I also love the way military friendships seem to easily connect even if you haven’t seen each other for years. In so many ways the military is similar to a huge extended family.

  3. July 18, 2008 13:14

    I agree for the most part, but I do love my civilian friends and spending time with them kind of lightens my heart. Strangely enough- I live in a predominantly civilian community right now while The Husband is going through a commissioning program. So the strange part- out of all the places to live, we have an Army Vet (doing the same thing as The Husband) and his wife who moved in down the street. I was so excited I could hardly stand it! I took them a welcome basket about 2 months ago and they haven’t even said thanks. I think that’s very uncharacteristic of a military family, especially since they just moved here.

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