Easy Does It: Your Spouse's Return From Deployment
Deployment happens. It is inevitable that it will occur during your spouse's military career at least once, if not several times. One way to get through a deployment is to focus on a goal: the REUNION!
You will have certain expectations and needs as you plan the day your Sailor or Marine returns to you. But while you're picking out the perfect reunion outfit, don't forget your spouse's needs as well.
If you've experienced deployment before, you may think it's old hat. Don't you believe it. Every deployment is different and you should give each reunion the consideration and time it deserves. Besides, planning and preparing for the reunion can be a great way to help the time pass until you see the ship pull in or the plane land. Here are some things to keep in mind for your next reunion.
When your honey returns, you can't just pick up where you left off six months or a year before. Having your spouse home again will bring your lives back into harmony with each other eventually, but it is not an overnight or easily accomplished task. In fact, given the circumstances that are evolving as a result of the terrorist attacks on our country, it may take more time and patience on everybody's part than what you may have experienced previously.
Don't Change Everything
New hairstyle, hair color, wardrobe, vehicle, and furniture all at once may cause your Sailor or Marine to think they're in the wrong house. They want to come home to the same person they left. Changes are good, but make sure you don't choose the day before the return to make all of them. Your spouse needs to come back to some things that remain unchanged from when he or she left. Sailors and Marines think of home the way it was when they deployed, and they need that familiarity when they return. It may have been the very thought of home, as they remembered it, that got them through some tough or challenging times.
Give 'Em Space
Make sure that when your wife or hubby returns it looks like they still live there. If you have taken over the entire closet, give them their space back before they arrive home. Don't put their stuff in the very back of the closet with the Christmas decorations. If you do stow away some favorite items while they are gone, make sure you pull them out before the homecoming.
Honey Dos and Don'ts
"Honey-do" lists never receive a round of applause, especially when presented within 48 hours of your spouse's return. Wait a while before hitting them with a list longer than the kids' Christmas wish list. On the same note, keep up the routine tasks during the deployment. Six months of lawn growth in the backyard or mold in the bathroom is not a very nice welcome home gift.
A Sense of Loss for Moments Missed
Service members may grieve for what they missed. Given the world climate now, those missed moments may be even more tender for your Sailor or Marine. First words, first steps, or first prom are all big moments in children's lives that can happen while the Sailor or Marine is deployed. Children may begin driving or dating during the time the deployed parent is gone. These things are landmarks by which you remember your children's childhood, and the service member may feel the loss of these events acutely. Deployed parents who miss these moments need time and understanding to adjust to the growth and changes in the family.
She's Doing What Now?
Watching the local football hero hold the hand of your little girl as they walk to his sports car, or finding the phone constantly tied up while your son talks to young ladies who were previously considered gross can be unsettling for the returned parent.
Keep a scrapbook or journal of all the events, personal and public, so your service member won't miss moments that were woven into your family while he or she was gone. Newspaper clippings, video recordings and mementos saved for their return can keep them from feeling like the world went on without them and nobody noticed. Sending clippings and videos to your Sailor or Marine throughout the deployment also helps prepare them for the changes that occur while they were gone.
Finding Your Family's Balance
Military families need to be independent and carry on with life while their Sailor or Marine is gone. When your spouse arrives home, he or she sees family routines that have been established without them. Events and activities go on without missing a beat. It could make them question where they fit in the family.
Our Sailors and Marines need reassurance they are needed, wanted, and appreciated. Conveying the message that life is much sweeter when they are home, while reassuring them that the family won't fall apart when they leave, may seem like walking a tight rope. However, it is as simple as saying, "We really missed you. It was fun, but it would have been perfect if you could have been here." Let your spouse know that they were dearly missed, but don't dwell on the fact that they weren't there.
The Husband/Wife Connection
Reconnecting with a spouse on an intimate and sexual level is typically at the forefront of every Sailor's or Marine's thoughts - the spouse's, too. Re-establishing intimacy is different from re-establishing a sexual relationship. Intimacy needs quiet time together to share personal thoughts and feelings. It takes time, patience, and understanding.
Some couples need more time to adjust than others. You need to get to know each other again. Sometimes physical feelings may have been suppressed. As a couple, you need time and attention to your relationship to help these feelings resurface. Help your partner understand what you're feeling, so that he or she does not view this needed time as rejection. Marriage needs to be continually nurtured, and yours is six months to a year behind in that department.
How the Navy Helps
The Navy has a Return and Reunion program that it takes out to Sailors and Marines as they return home. The briefing team tries to prepare the returning service members for the adjustments that they and their families will face. Discussing these subjects before the ship docks or the plane lands helps make the transition to home life a little smoother.
Here are some of the issues they'll discuss in the briefing:
- Re-establishing intimacy and sexual relationship, and the difference between them.
- Returning home to children.
- Not rushing in and taking over, but easing back into the established routine.
- Driving cautions: They must give themselves time to adjust to driving on the right-hand side, or driving at all.
- Alcohol tolerance: They may not have been in a position to obtain alcoholic beverages for a while.
Talking and listening to the needs of your partner and allowing time to adjust to life with the family again may take a while, but it will happen.
As you and your military spouse face the Navy and Marine Corps missions of today, be assured that deployment will be a part of it. As each deployment ends with a reunion, together you will help your family find its stride. Life will once again take on a familiar, steady pace.