No, please, I don’t want to get together anymore.
When my baby was between six months and a year old, I enjoyed play dates out of the house where she mostly stared at other kids and swatted at a few toys or maybe crawled to a ball on the other side of the room. I appreciated seeing her development in new surroundings while I sipped on my coffee and attempted to make new friends.
Psychologists say most people can tell within 60 seconds of meeting a new person if they’re going to like them. Of course, there are exceptions to this, and we should never judge a person right off meeting him or her for one minute. But I’m exhausted thinking about all the times I spent forcing myself to have a conversation with another mom simply because all we had in common were that we were moms and military spouses. It was nothing but superficial conversations.
Is it me? I always ask myself. Am I difficult to get along with? Am I too opinionated or boring? It brought back suppressed memories from the trauma that was middle school and trying to find my clique to fit in with. I ate my lunch in a bathroom stall, and I cried on the bus ride home because I didn’t have any friends. Forcing friendships with other moms is like being in that middle school pressure cooker.
The answer is no. I have plenty of quality, lifelong friendships. As hard as I’ve tried, the women I have built the most authentic and vulnerable relationships with just aren’t at this duty station. The relationships I’ve formed are more like transactional acquaintances than someone I want to put energy and time toward.
And that’s OK. The sooner we all come to terms with accepting that new connections aren’t always going to be tightknit and comforting friendships, the better-off life will be for military spouses.
I know not everyone is as introspective about this like me, and they just go with the flow. Play dates and extra social events work great for many parents. One of my best friends excels masterfully at being a stay-at-home mom who has a full social calendar for her pre-K daughter.
The reality is my closest friends don’t live at our current duty station. During our first PCS I thought I’d never be able to replace the friendships I was leaving behind. But to my delight, I made a couple of new best friends with whom I text every single day. I kept that same promising attitude as the military moved us around. But it’s 1 in 44 million odds of winning the lottery twice and a truly great friendship feels like winning the lottery, doesn’t it?
I felt forced to like the people I met for the sake of having friendships. The Stepford Wife smile and the excruciating attempts to find root commonalities were soul crushing. I tried hard to make new connections work, but it was getting so overwhelming I finally went into seclusion in order to self-preserve.
I tried hard to make friends and develop deeper connections because I never wanted to cave into my unhappiness. No one wants to be lonely. No one wants to not have anyone come to their party.
But just like we try to teach our children, while we ought to be polite, we won’t always get along with everyone we meet. Not everyone we meet is going to result in a positive interaction.
This realization was difficult to come to terms with, please don’t think it was a flippant decision over one bad interaction. It was a culmination of month-after-month working up the energy to not only say “yes” but to leave the house to be around these people. It was saying “no” to invitations and always feeling bad about it. Look, it’s also totally fine if you’re the type of person who has expendable social energy and thrives in that environment. But for me and anyone else who just feels guarded and exhausted in a forced friendship circle, it’s OK to walk away.
It’s exciting and invigorating to find value for yourself and your family with hobbies, adventures and excitement that don’t involve putting on a brave face to try to make a superficial relationship into something it just can never be. I have more time now to try new things I want to do without any awkward pretenses.
Talking to someone you don’t click with is exhausting. Having your walls up is tiring. If a relationship doesn’t feel right, you’re not a terrible, egocentric person for acknowledging that.
You want to do the same? Not everything needs an explanation. Maybe slowly go quietly into the night or go full on ghost. Whatever you do, put your family and your emotional needs first.