Welcome to Lizann, the author of The Seasoned Spouse and guest today on Jo, My Gosh!
A military homecoming is rarely picture-perfect. Even when you’ve planned out the perfect outfit, the best homecoming sign, and a photographer to capture the magical moment of that first kiss, it doesn’t always go the way you envisioned. Sometimes homecoming is delayed until the middle of the night. Or you have the flu. So many things can change a homecoming at the last minute so it doesn’t go the way you dreamed.
The days after homecoming don’t always go as planned either. The time after homecoming is called reintegration. Sometimes it goes smoothly and couples feel like they can pick up right where they left off. Other times, things are more rocky. After the joy and anticipation of homecoming, many military couples are shocked at how challenging it is to adjust to life together.
My husband is currently on his seventh deployment. That means sometime soon we will have our homecoming. Am I looking forward to it? ABSOLUTELY! But after all these years and all these deployments, I’ve learned a few things.
Homecoming can often be followed by intense frustration and disappointment.
Sometimes military life causes the frustration. After deployment comes a big PCS move, or a long school, or another TDY assignment. Or maybe life is getting in the way of ‘normalcy.’ If you had a baby or moved into a new house during the deployment, it may take a while before you and your spouse both feel adjusted. This can be frustrating to a military spouse who has waited months for the deployment to be over so things could feel right again.
It isn’t always the service member’s fault. Sometimes, my dreams and ideals were so unrealistic that they could never come true. Like after his first deployment, when I naively thought he would immediately be allowed to come home and see me (and his family). Instead, we had to wait an additional two weeks before he had block leave and permission to fly home. Or the deployment where I had a baby and expected him to jump right in changing diapers and spooning baby food. I forgot that he hadn’t held a baby for a few years, so he was a little rusty and couldn’t remember what to do.
Reintegration stress often comes from unrealistic expectations.
When separated from someone you love, it’s easy to put them on a pedestal and forget about their bad habits. You may have forgotten the smell of their dirty laundry, the way they always leave dishes in the sink, or the amount of time they spend playing video games. But I guarantee these things are still going to return.
And sometimes, service members add new habits from deployment, such as smoking, drinking more, or cussing. Habits that seemed normal to them during deployment may shock you. There were times I wondered if my husband was still the same person I had fallen in love with, or if deployment had changed him forever.
*Spoiler alert* He was the same person, and eventually his bad deployment habits faded and he adjusted back to our normal life. It just took a few weeks.
So now, as we face our seventh homecoming, I have learned to balance my expectations with reality. I allow myself to dream about date nights and quiet moments together and having fun as a family again. But I keep my dreams in check with the reality of our life. I know he will be exhausted when he first comes home, especially with the jet lag from a different time zone. I know he wants to spend time together, but with an upcoming school and PCS move, how much family time should I realistically expect? How much money do we have saved for date nights and babysitters? These are questions every military spouse should ponder before getting caught up in homecoming dreams.
Balancing your expectations with the reality of military life will keep you from being hurt or disappointed during reintegration. If possible, try to talk or write to your spouse before they return.
- Share with them any ways that your habits have changed during deployment. (I’ve been trying to eat low-carb and want to continue that after you come home.)
- Tell them some of your top priorities, things that you would be really disappointed of they didn’t make time for. (I don’t care if we go to the movies or a restaurant, but I REALLY want to go hiking on this new trail with you!)
- And make sure you tell them if you want the house chores adjusted. (I always used to do the dishes, but now that we have a baby, can we take turns doing the dishes and giving her a bath?) Starting these conversations before Homecoming will start off your Reintegration on the right foot.
Reintegration can be tough. It’s all part of the deployment cycle. But with patience and support you can get through it! That’s why I created a free FB group for deployment support. It will have a special challenge week of videos, interviews, deployment tips, free resources, and prizes! Sign up for free to learn how to handle deployment like a boss!
How to Handle Deployment Like a Boss is the Seasoned Spouse’s 1-week Facebook group challenge to help you through deployment. From March 10-16, you’ll have access to videos, tips, and great resources from a variety of military spouses and companies. It’s all hosted by Lizann, the ‘Seasoned Spouse.’ Topics include moving home, having a baby during deployment, care packages, the deployment curse, communication, making friends, health & nutrition, and much more! There will be checklists to download and prizes to win. You can sign up for free here.