By Jenny Sokol, Marine Spouse
I scoffed the first time I attended a command sponsored reunion brief. Whereas I’d happily accepted advice on how to thrive during my husband’s deployment, I rejected tips on how to best welcome him home. That part seemed obvious.
Lo and behold, reunions can be tricky. After that first deployment, I made sure to pay attention at reunion briefs. I combed through the handouts, but still didn’t ace reunions that followed combat deployments.
Through trial and error, I established my own “reunion rules,” most of which apply to marriage outside of a deployment cycle. Maybe a few of them will work for you.
10) Resist Comparing Who Had it Worse
Perhaps your spouse dined in European ports while you fed mashed peas to a colicky baby. He watched movies while you heeded wildfire evacuation orders. Conversely, perhaps he slept on the hard ground while you sprawled across your fluffy pillow-top mattress. Don’t turn it into a competition – the deployment wasn’t a cakewalk for either of you.
9) Embrace Moderation
Reunion joy is intoxicating, convincing you to celebrate in big ways. Booking the vacation of a lifetime suddenly seems reasonable, as does spoiling each other with gifts, finishing the sheet cake, and drinking bottles of champagne. However, overindulging, spending loads of cash, or establishing a drinking problem will only cause problems down the road.
8) Focus on Listening, Not Fixing
Pain lurks in unexpected places. All you can do is listen.
7) Time for Just the Two of You
Schedule a date without the kids. It’s possible you’ve been unintentionally clinging to them (or friends and family) during the deployment. Time together (without them) is critical.
Bases, military units, and chapels often offer couples retreats or family weekend getaways. Such retreats are inexpensive ways to reconnect in a relaxing environment. Also, just being with other reconnecting military couples can be therapeutic.
5) No Fireworks or Crowded Theme Parks
It’s possible that your spouse is secretly scanning crowds for the enemy or the highway for IEDs. If so, he will not see the romance in watching a fireworks display, nor will he enjoy navigating through mobs of tourists on Disney’s Main Street.
4) Stop Criticizing
Of course he doesn’t put the kids to bed exactly like you do. Maybe he stays up too late or plays his music too loud. Readjusting to pre-deployment normalcy takes time. Give each other some room.
3) Laugh and Play
Schedule fun. Attend a Laughter Yoga class, rent a bounce house, visit a comedy club, see a funny movie, or go on a bike ride. Be together and keep it light.
2) No Big Decisions
Don’t act on a whim, especially if it includes putting in discharge papers, selling your worldly possessions, and moving onto a boat.
1) Give Each Other Space
Let him have a few moments to himself as well as time with his buddies. Go out with your friends or treat yourself to some alone time. It’s okay – he’s home!