by Katie Phillips, Guest Contributor
I have a confession – I’m not a military spouse (yet).
However, after an agonizing long-distance courtship, I packed it all up and moved to Virginia, 7 hours from family and friends to be with my bae.
How hard could it be? We’d be together and that’s what mattered.
I moved and then literally a week later, found out he’d be deploying later that month. Bye, Felicia. Good thing that I was already used to long-distance romance, so I thought deployment was NBD.
Turns out, it was a bigger deal than I anticipated.
The first night he was gone, I cried into my mixing bowl of cookie dough ice cream, filled with instant regret that I’d moved when I did. I had no food (because I’d eaten it all), no job (but I had a really good feeling about that 50th interview) and my pets’ heads were falling off (OK, that last one’s not true, but I never miss an opportunity to insert a “Dumb and Dumber” joke).
But seriously, the struggle was real. Because I wasn’t a military spouse, I didn’t have access to on-base resources, like FRG meetings or even running into people at the NEX.
I did know a few spouses of my boo’s coworkers, but we had very different lives: they all had children and evidently my neurotic furbaby didn’t quite count; I wanted to work and they stayed home with the kids, so our free time never synced.
When we lived apart, I had my friends at home to hang with on those weekends that we didn’t see each other. After I moved, I didn’t have that support system in place and I realized how much I needed to make my own social life.
That’s why, after my fourth weekend of binging on “NCIS” marathons and Chinese takeout, I decided I’d had enough and downloaded the Meetup app.
Meetup is a widely used app that is available for download on almost any device. You can also access Meetup directly though their website as well. Once you download the app, you join groups based on your interests.
I joined a very active group designed specifically for military spouses and girlfriends. I was nervous about attending the first one. I didn’t really know what to expect; I mean I watch a lot of “SVU” and felt like meeting people on an app was a good way to get Olivia Benson to investigate my murder. But, happily, it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done.
At my first Meetup event, dinner at a very non-murdery Macaroni Grill, I was instantly welcomed into a group of women who were from all aspects of military life. Some were wives of officers and enlisted, others were girlfriends. Several were veterans and a few were active-duty service members.
Whether we’re married or engaged, service member or spouse, we all know what it’s like being a plus-one in the military. There’s a lot of talk these days about finding your tribe or your squad. As we all know, that can be incredibly hard on a military spouse. After that first Meetup, I felt like I’d found mine.
It’s not just that these women are there to commiserate and offer another glass of wine (OK several glasses) when homecoming gets pushed back…again. They also offer invaluable advice, whether it’s the best restaurant for date night when you’re new in town or how to successfully move both cars across the country for the next set of military orders.
But this Meetup group is more than that to me.
Sometimes, as a military spouse, you can feel as though your social circle is predetermined.
If I had stuck to only meeting people through my partner or on-base resources (which are fantastic), I never would have met these wild and wonderful women. We do talk about our partners and spouses, but the group is really about cultivating friendships and creating bonds.
We’ll be leaving in February and we’ll be married by then, so of course I am going to take full advantage of all the resources the base has to offer.
But the first thing I am going to do is join a Meetup group and if there isn’t a group for military spouses and girlfriends, I’ll start one, because a girl’s got to have her tribe, whereever she ends up.
How have you found your tribe as a military spouse or significant other? Have you used Meetup in a new city? Please tell us about your experiences in the comments section.
Originally from North Carolina, Katie is relatively new to military life and is learning to enjoy this new lifestyle one day at a time. By day, she works for Access College Foundation, a nonprofit that helps underprivileged students apply and pay for college; in her spare time, Katie is a freelance blogger and writer. Stop by katierazer.com to say hello and keep in touch!