Dear Annie: My 20-year-old son joined the Army when he was 18. At his first duty station, he caught his barracks roommate, whom he thought was his best friend, stealing from him. My son felt betrayed and began isolating himself from his peers.
He recently had a permanent change of duty station, and I am concerned that even with this fresh start he is not making friends. He was always a fun-loving, sociable and adventurous teen with lots of friends. Now he locks himself in his barracks room at the end of each workday.
I know he is lonely, but he is hiding it from his peers, most of whom are much older than he is and married with families. They only see him at work, and I’m sure they have no idea that he is struggling personally. He gets angry when I encourage him to reach out to people and would be very upset if I tried to intervene. He lives on the opposite side of the country. I want to help him, but I don’t know how. – Proud and Loving Mom of a Soldier
Dear Mom: When someone betrays you as this roommate did, it can be devastating, not only because you lose a friend, but because it makes you question your own judgment. Your son undoubtedly feels he cannot trust himself to find a friend worthy of the title, so he isolates himself as a form of self-protection. In the military, it is crucial to know that others have your back. And even in civilian life, isolation is a dismal solution. Every relationship includes the risk of being hurt. Please urge your son to talk to one of the counselors on base. He needs to open himself up to friendship again.