Flirt again and be romantic.
I might get a little push back from this one, but I think you should make an intentional effort to be flirty and lovey with your service member – even if you’re not getting that kind of love and attention from them. I’ve learned from watching my spouse reintegrate with our family that war changes people. It changes people who aren’t on the front lines. I remember being shocked at how my husband was overwhelmed at the differences in women’s fashion changes in just the 8 months he was gone, or having to drive on the right side of the road, or having to deal with the reality that he felt the need to be the protector again of me and the kids now that we were all under the same roof. Situations that might seem like “little things” to those of us who have stayed home, but can feel overwhelming to those who have been away. Car trips with loud boisterous kids can be daunting when they haven’t been around any children for 6+ months. Try some of these romantic ideas that are only special for a Military Spouse.
That being said, I think it’s important for whichever spouse has stayed at home to gently ease the service member into the reality of family life with a touch of gentleness and humor. When my husband and I were first married, we left little notes of encouragement for each other all over the house some days. Ten years, two kids, seven years of the Air Force, six different jobs, a house, three cars, and ½ a lifetime later, we don’t do that. You slip out of those habits as you fall into the ruts of a marriage. This last time, I made it a point to try to bring some flirty humor back under our roof. I made it a point to do things that let him know I was thinking of him throughout the day. I wanted him to feel cared for – again – it’s about deepening that emotional intimacy to push away the cobwebs that the lack of a physical relationship have allowed into our lives through deployment separation.
Give it time
Military spouses (especially women) get this beautiful image of what a homecoming reunion will look like. I’ve heard others refer to all the YouTube clips of homecoming videos as “Reunion Porn.” And it’s so true. I have certainly given into the temptation of watching the videos. I have wanted our family’s reunion to be just as perfect as that 25 second clip: everyone embracing and my service member picking me up and swinging me in the air as light the angels sing in the background. Our perfectly behaved children greet their dad with signs and American flags and we share the beautiful family embrace. Who wouldn’t want that, right!?
Well, while that image is lovely to think about, it’s just not reality. Our reunions often look more like a stressed out mother running across the street at the airport hoping we’ve gotten there soon enough to get a pass to go to the gate and greet him. I screech at the kids for asking the 90th question in as many seconds. Our son is running around the terminal and getting in the way as he waves his flag and then drops it on the ground and accidentally steps on it! My poor husband walks off the jet way and enthusiastically hugs the kids and hugs me – but it’s weird to be touching someone that intimately after so long. More than ½ the time, we have other extended family with us so we’re all talking and asking my husband a million questions. Meanwhile, he’s been awake for 47 hours straight and has traveled across several time zones so is starting to get a little sick from lack of sleep and good food. We cross our fingers that all his bags made it home with him. We trudge to the car with the kids pestering him about what gifts he got them, and I just stand back so happy to have my family back together.
If your homecoming experiences have been anything like ours, once you finally get the kids asleep, that awkwardness kicks in. Without the buffer of children to prattle away about their days, it’s left to just you and your service member. And you’re just not used to this after being apart for a while.
And that’s ok. You can desperately want for everything to go back to normal, but you have to get used to each other again. I remember just groaning at the thought of having to give up some of the covers and adjust some of my behaviors that I had picked up while my husband was gone. But after a few weeks (or sometimes months) that natural ease will return.
It takes time to make the adjustments and brush away the cobwebs and push the distance away and reconnect. It’s very much worth being intentional about it, though. Military families and couples have to truly cherish the time that we do get together because we have to spend so much of it apart. It’s part of the idiosyncrasies of military couples, but putting some thought into it before, during, and after a deployment can really shorten the distance that comes with all that distance.