Updated: Jun 10
June 9th, 2020 By: Ashlee Beasley
Military homecomings may vary across the branches but one thing is the same--there is a lot of build up to homecoming day. The fridge needs to be stocked with his favorite foods, the house has to be cleaned like you've never lived there and you've been planning your outfit for weeks. There's been a lot of "I can't wait to see you" and "It's almost over".
The countdown finally ends and at last, you're in his arms again. It's exciting. It's relief. It's romantic. Your lonely nights are gone. Your dinners alone are over and your cold bed is warm again. Then, somewhere excitement turns to reality and it's time to figure out how to operate as one. It can be hard but having the right expectations will make all the difference. Here is what I wish I knew about reintegration.
WE WOULDN'T JUST PICK UP WHERE WE LEFT OFF
After a long deployment, I knew reintegration would be hard, but I honestly thought after the hard was over we would just keep doing everything the same. I didn't think about the fact that we had just spent months apart from each other creating new routines and habits. I had to eliminate sugar and dairy while he was gone and now our diet looks completely different. The friends we had before he left have now PCS'd and our social life has changed.
When you're not together for those subtle shifts, they feel like abrupt changes once you're together again. Trying to go back to exactly the way things were just isn't practical. Reintegration requires a lot of grace, understanding and open communication. You have to be willing to figure it out together. Embrace the fact that some things may be different and you'll save your marriage a lot of stress.
SEX MAY NOT BE IMMEDIATE
I don't know about you, but I can't be the only military wife who's been caught daydreaming about what those first moments alone might be like. I was so excited to feel like his wife again. I was looking forward to reconnecting intimately and emotionally. And, let's be honest, it was a long deployment and sex with my husband is fun. So, imagine my disappointment when he wasn't ready to get behind closed doors at the first chance we got.
If your husband will be returning from a deployment soon, especially your first one, it's important to remember that he will be exhausted from traveling. An overseas flight is stressful and your husband has been waiting to get home to you. As much as the stereotype depicts men as ready for sex at any moment, stress and exhaustion can affect them too. He also may just need a few days to decompress, especially if he has just returned from a combat zone. Take advantage of that time to get used to being together again --cuddle on the couch, grab your favorite takeout and remember to talk to each other about how you're feeling.
PTSD COMES IN MANY FORMS
I assumed that PTSD ( Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) was reserved for those who had experienced direct combat. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. If your husband is returning from a combat zone, he has been required to alter his state of mind for survival. It is incredibly stressful especially if they've endured traumatic events and circumstances. We will never fully understand what it is like to face death and the realities of war. He may have lost friends, experienced direct combat or even carry tremendous guilt just for surviving. No matter his unique experience, all of it can contribute to PTSD.
It's important to check in with him and let him know you're a safe place to talk but don't push him. Your husband may feel like he doesn't want you to carry the emotional burden of his experiences. If you feel like things are becoming unhealthy, reach out to a trusted friend or your military Chaplain. Chaplains maintain 100% confidentiality and do not report to the chain of command. If you're not sure where to start email us or message our FB page. We are not trained mental health professionals but we can help connect you to the right resources. Subscribe to our blog below for our upcoming post on what to do if you think your husband is dealing with PTSD.
EVERY REINTEGRATION LOOKS DIFFERENT
At first, I expected all of our readjustments to look the same but the reality is they just don't. From dating, to newborns, to our own tiny herd of children, we've done deployments through it all. If there is one thing the military life will teach a military wife it is to be FLEXIBLE.
Getting our mind set on one specific experience will only create more stress and disappointment. Sometimes my husband is ready to jump right in and get hands on with the kids and sometimes he needs some time to readjust to the chaos. Sometimes I have a hard time letting him in again and sometimes I don't. Each reintegration period will have its own external factors. You will have your own needs. He will have his own expectations. Remember to communicate those expectations and have open conversation about what each of you need.
NOT EVERYTHING IS BAD
My hubby always says that reintegration has been good for our marriage. It can be a challenging time but it is also a sweet time of reconnecting. If you feel like you've drifted apart over your deployment, treat this as a chance to get to fall in love again. (Check out this book about loving each other well).
Military life will highlight the weaknesses of our marriage, but if we let it, it will also highlight our strengths. Yes, there will be hard days of reintegration but it will also reveal where your marriage is thriving. It's okay if you have areas that you need to work on, every military couple does. High-five your hubby for the areas your marriage is succeeding!
SOME THINGS STAY THE SAME
Turns out Olaf knew what he was talking about. Some things really do stay the same. Sometimes it takes some refocusing, reconnecting and reminding but our love for each other has never changed. From day one, we made the choice to never give up on each other and to stay on the same team. We've promised to fight for each other and not against each other. Most importantly, we are strengthened by an unchanging God who has provided a constant and firm foundation for our marriage to weather the storms.