I remember several years back when my husband was preparing to leave for a military deployment. He was in serious packing mode. Of course, he realized 47 things he forgot to pack the night before he was supposed to leave. Our house looked like it had been ransacked. Stuff flying everywhere. This was our normal. He was leaving for a war zone in less than 24 hours, and this is how we were ‘savoring the moment.’
Those could’ve literally been the last hours we ever spent together, and that is how it was going down—him packing, me cleaning. Fast forward a few deployments later, and not much has changed. Before a deployment we both tend to “get in the zone.” He prepares for the mission before him; I prepare to hold our life together without him. It’s simply our survival mode. Sometimes facing the true emotion of his departure is too challenging for either of us.
I suppose this is true of our time during deployment as well. We keep on with our separate lives, staying connected as much as possible. We grow and learn together as husband and wife during each separation—our marriage grows—and yet there is still a distance that exists after distance.
Even after multiple deployments I still struggle with reintegration. I still struggle with learning to reconnect with my spouse.
So here are a few things I always like to remind myself of when deployment ends and homecoming starts…
Prepare for mixed emotions.
Feelings of joy, excitement, anxiety, apprehension, restlessness, impatience….
Homecoming really is a snowball of mixed feelings. I always try to remind myself that emotions are not good or bad. They just are. Once my husband is home I try to focus on all the things I missed about him while he was gone. We try to take a date night within a few days of his return just to talk. A great conversation with him is a great way to reconnect.
Easier said than done…but worth every effort for us. We try to make great conversations happen by setting aside a few hours just to talk and catch up. We literally schedule the time in if we need to. And then we just talk…
Hey, what’s up?
How are you really doing?
I’m so happy you are here, but I’m adjusting.
I would love to learn more about what you did while we were apart.
Maintain realistic expectations.
It’s easy to mull over how the reintegration will go, but the truth is you’ll never know exactly what will happen. Fairytale reunions don’t exist and marriage is far from perfect. Sometimes it takes a bit to reconnect. That’s okay.
To let go of my need to control the household after he returns.
To allow for a few bumps along the way.
To allow him to be the parent and husband that he is trying be.
And to reconnect each day as best we can.
Change inevitably occurs during time apart.
Change is a normal part of life. It’s expected, but change is hard too. I always focus on how we can create our new normal. That we can’t keep searching for our pre-deployment marriage. It’s long gone. We changed and grew during our time apart and now our marriage is anew. We focus on our changes as a good thing, and many times they are.
Deployment is an amazing opportunity for self-improvement. To grow as a person. To become better. Think about how the changes in both you and your spouse will help your marriage thrive in the future. We can all grow and learn and become better together.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
One of the best ways to reconnect is to visit a place of common ground. Learning to turn the technology off and share your experiences and thoughts about the separation is an important place to start. We often look back through photo albums together and reminisce about our life together.
It helps us feel close and reminds us why we ended up together in the first place. Sharing our experiences (the really awesome and the downright horrible) during times of separation and reunion can really bring us back to center.
Minimize the conflict.
I always try to remind myself that conflict is not determined by the person who initiates, but by the person who responds. While I’m completely guilty of responding with conflict, I’m learning to give more, take less. To communicate smarter, not harder. One great way to do this is to channel the “I feel” statements…
When you (blank), I feel (blank). Works every time. Non-abrasive. Non-confrontational. Just open ended and simple.
Encourage each other.
Words are powerful. Encouraging words are even more powerful and help a healthy marriage thrive. Sometimes a simple ‘Thanks for doing that’ or ‘I’m so glad you are here’ can really go a long way. Encouraging your spouse not only instills support and confidence within them, it literally places courage in them. A well placed line of encouragement is a catalyst for reconnection, softening a spouse’s heart and bringing you closer together.
Wrapping it up.
If you struggle to reconnect after a deployment, you are not alone. There is a whole military community out there experiencing the same exact thing. No matter the time spent apart, there is often a time to adjustment and reconnect. If your reunion is easy, that’s great. Sometimes reunions truly are easy. But if you are struggling, we’ve all been there too. Know that tough times don’t last, tough people do.
Want more on military life?
- 43 Awesome Tips Every New Military Wife Needs to Know
- The Real Reason Being a Military Wife is So Hard
- Military Homecoming Tips That Will Make Reintegration Less Stressful
- 6 Military Homecoming Outfits to Make Him Swoon
How do you reconnect with your spouse after a military deployment? Let’s chat in the comments!