Do We Have to Invite In-Laws to Homecoming?

Simply put, some of us want that romantic moment all to ourselves. The thrill of spotting your husband or wife in the blur of uniforms. That unbridled smile mirroring yours. Those hundreds of lonely days and nights put to rest by grateful tears and a long-awaited embrace.

And then your mother-in-law taps you on the shoulder to cut in? Buzz kill. Yes, she waited too, and her parental love and concern for your spouse during deployment are real and valid. However, at the risk of sounding selfish, I wonder: Are military spouses obligated to share homecoming with their in-laws?

If you enjoy including extended family on homecoming day, I applaud your open heart and generosity; that is not to say, however, that those who discourage company are being greedy. As military spouses, the entirety of deployment demands our selflessness. If you want its final day to yourself, I would say that you are entitled to it. Even those on the friendliest of terms with their spouse’s folks may wish to keep homecoming a private affair.

After all, what is more intimate than the reunion of two people in love, hearts fonder and bond stronger by the long absence?

Homecoming is nothing short of magical for military spouses; it is something that we pine for, dream about, and above all, earn. In my humble opinion, anyone insisting on taking a piece of that pie is the selfish one, not you (so long as you did not offer, of course).

If your in-laws have the courtesy and consideration to allow you and your spouse this precious time alone, count your lucky stars and pray for the rest of us.

I can tell you from experience—and from the stories of many a milspouse—that some in-laws assume their attendance to be welcome, which makes a request for their nonappearance painfully awkward. Some will graciously understand. Some will feel hurt. Some get angry.

Graciously understand, my own in-laws did not. I rescinded their presumed invitation to the homecoming following my husband’s second deployment, still haunted by their behavior at the first. I had hoped to enjoy the first homecoming without their presence as well, but being newly married and not wanting to ruffle any feathers, I kept my mouth shut when they announced their plans to attend.

Lesson learned.

The morning of the first homecoming, my mother-in-law insisted that I take her to not one, but two, different fast food restaurants for breakfast on our way to base, despite us already running late (her fault). Her reasoning: “I actually didn’t want an Egg McMuffin; I wanted Subway.” Again, I bit my tongue out of respect. I had promised to arrive early to help the spouse’s club set up catering tables, and I wanted to make a good impression, it being the first time meeting my fellow spouses.

When we arrived, my in-laws proceeded to awkwardly cut into conversations and grill spouses with military-related questions. When personalized beach chairs—made for service members and spouses only—were unboxed, my mother-in-law balked, “Are these the chairs no one told me about?” One of her several passive-aggressive remarks that morning.

Sensing my embarrassment, many spouses offered me sympathetic looks. Some admitted annoyance with her. To her credit, she did not sucker punch me before racing toward my husband to hug him first.

She and my father-in-law, however, did stick to us like glue for a whole week, despite our hints at wanting some time to ourselves. For these reasons, they were not allowed to attend Homecoming No. 2.

They were displeased and I became the bad guy. Worth it? Absolutely.

At some point, boundaries have to be made. You are an adult, your significant other is an adult, and if you both want to cherish homecoming day without guests, that is your right. Of course, if your husband or wife requests that family members attend, you have some compromising to do; otherwise, no sharing necessary.

In-laws may need some time to digest your request for privacy, but ultimately, their respect for your wishes is proportionate to their respect for your relationship. To prevent hard feelings, consider a compromise by inviting them to a celebratory dinner later that day or the next. Extended family have missed your spouse, too, and it is important to acknowledge their feelings (just not to the extent that your own are ignored).

After all, you not only missed your spouse; you held down the fort and made sacrifices with which your in-laws cannot relate. Homecoming is your hard-earned day, selfishness be damned.

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