The military way of life throws many curveballs into families. Even on trips as short as two months, it’s easy for the romance to change between partners. You haven’t been living the same life together. You’ve been through a very different set of experiences. For the service member, life back in the states can be overwhelming.
For the spouse left at home, it’s easy to be overwhelmed during the deployment, but expect life to just return to “normal” as soon as you’re together again. Not so! You have to be willing to take time and a little effort to regain some ground that might have been lost while you were separated during the deployment.
Recognize the possibility of a problem before it even starts.
Doing everything you can to stay in close communication with your spouse will go a long way in avoiding an issue when they return. I’m not necessarily recommending you share pictures like those that have recently been leaked from celebrities’ phones … well … maybe I am. But that’s just part of it. Military families have to be flexible to make marriage work even while apart. Learn from the stories of other women who have already gone through this!
One way my 11 year marriage has survived through 9 deployments are the very real conversations that we’ve had via instant messaging. We FaceTime for the kids, but when we want to actually have a conversation with each other, we type it out. If issues come up in your relationship that need to be discussed, find a chance to talk about them. We always called them “Skype Dates” and I would, literally, block off time on my social calendar (even if it meant a 3-5am conversation) and we would talk. One of the reasons it worked so well for us is that we both had to really think before we “spoke.” I’m the vocal one and always end up running the conversations. Yet, when we were on instant messenger, I couldn’t interrupt him. Now I work on trying not to interrupt him, especially when we speak face to face. Communication is key, (right?)
I’m not suggesting that you harass your service member with every little thing that bothers you while they’re gone. They truly need to be mission focused while they’re out there. But take advantage of the time you do have when you speak to be open and honest. This can maintain emotional intimacy that can otherwise get lost when you’re separated by a deployment. Maintaining emotional intimacy can also help quite a bit when you’re trying to get the romance back into your relationship after a deployment. If you’ve got 12 months without being open and honest with your spouse, likelihood is that once the kids get tucked in bed and the lights go off, it’s not going to be really easy to open up mentally or physically if you haven’t made an effort to stay close emotionally despite the physical distance!
Admit that things are going to be a little different for a while.
You can’t expect to fall into bed like a couple of teenagers the moment your service member returns. Usually, they’ve been traveling for hours (or even days) just trying to get home. It takes time for you to get used to living together again. I know that when my husband and I first got married, that first year of living together was a bit miserable in overcoming the awkward-ness of just being in each other’s space so much. I’ve found it’s also similar when he returns home from a deployment – especially a long one. While he’s gone, the kids and I establish a routine and have inside jokes and our certain way of doing things, and just that can make a service member feel alienated upon return.
Much like things have changed around the house, little things might change in the bedroom, so take time to maneuver around. Don’t pretend that they’re not there – talk about it. Share with your spouse that things are different or you feel awkward or uncomfortable or shy again. Admitting that to each other is so much better than trying to keep it a secret or covering it up and just confusing each other by trying to read each other’s minds. It is hard work to fall in love again, but stay strong.