I remember my first year as a brand new military spouse that I heard a lot of buzz about the trials of reintegration. This concept always left me so confused. Seasoned spouses talked about how difficult it could be when their service member returned, and they had to figure out how to put life back together following a deployment.
I must admit that I was one of those newly minted military spouses who thought that surely I knew more about myself and my husband than years of military tradition and research could know. I was appalled with the notion that a homecoming could be faced with anything other than constant joy and happiness because your family is back together.
Little did I know how months of deployment could strain relationships, combat zones can injure bodies and brains, infidelity can creep in when you least expect it, individuals in a marriage can change when forced to spend time apart, the challenges of parenting separately (then together again)…and on and on the list goes. Any marriage is work. Marriage during a deployment is an extra effort. Putting that marriage together multiple times during the necessary reintegration phases throughout a service member’s career is another thing entirely.
After being so sure of myself about the strength of my marriage and the utterly ridiculous thought that reintegration could ever be as hard as they said it was, it felt a little like a smack in the face when my husband was assigned a career field where he would deploy 3+ times a year which meant 3+ “goodbyes” and 3+ reintegrations. I quickly learned that the seasoned spouses did, in fact, know what they were talking about. Go figure! I quickly learned that after taking the time to adjust to maintain everything at home while my husband was deployed, it was also difficult to readjust again once he was back.
Being the over analysis junkie that I am, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why it was so tough to get used to having him back home. Here’s what I figured out – at least about my own life.
1| Sharing control again is really tough
We probably have the most post-deployment disagreements because I try to independently make any and every decision even once he’s back home. I inadvertently keep parenting the kids as though he’s not standing right next to me. I find myself trying to manage things that I can share responsibility of. Or, I don’t take his schedule/plans/commitments into account when trying to create my daily plan. Looking back, I feel bad because I complain about having to fly solo at home while he is gone, but once he’s back I’m not immediately ready to hand some of the control back.
2| Your rut gets messed up
My husband recently came home early from a deployment unexpectedly. I was absolutely thrilled to have him home. However, after the initial shock wore off of his surprise return, I immediately started running through the laundry list of chores and responsibilities that I had planned over the next few days and realized I wasn’t going to get any of them done. It was wonderful to get the few extra days with him, but it threw me off my plans and routine enough that it made me uncomfortable and anxious about how I was going to get everything done with him home. I have a tendency to really pack my schedule when he’s gone to keep me busy and keep the kids’ minds off the fact that they miss him. But when he’s home, we try to shut out the world a little so we get good family time. Sometimes that can create some reintegration pains as we readjust to being a complete family unit again.