#576. Reintegration Understanding each other when dealing with the “honeymoon” or the “not-so-honeymoon” parts of reunion
Your servicemember packs his/her bags and you say your goodbyes. You and the kids see him/her off. You return home. Three weeks go by and you’re getting into your natural rhythm of deployment. Three months and you’re well on your way. Six months, nine months, and then the day your servicemember is scheduled to re-deploy draws nearer and you are on pins and needles awaiting his/her arrival. You can hardly wait. It’s so exciting. You’re so in love. Your servicemember arrives. You greet, the kids greet, and you all return home as one big happy family.
Reintegration is supposed to be the “honeymoon” phase and the next few weeks everything is supposed to be blissfully wonderful. So you’re not quite sure what to say or do when you start to realize that things aren’t exactly the way you expected them to be. There are big differences and readjustments to be made. In some families this means dealing with combat injuries or PTSD. For most, its less complicated things like figuring out how to co-parent or budgeting and spending differently once you realize there is no more “deployment” check. There are small differences too, like when you realize on Tuesday night you don’t want to watch the same television show and you’re fighting the remote. You might find this person in the bed next to you when you are used to sleeping sideways. Your laundry is now full of ACU bottoms and brown t-shirts. And there are even laughable differences – let’s face it, cereal is not going to cut it for family dinner night anymore.
You’re not a complainer. You really did miss him/her. You’re in love. You know many others out there would love to be in your shoes and have their spouse home right now. So why on Earth are you not happy?
Relax. You’re normal. Redeployment is hard. That’s all there is to it. We spouses are beating ourselves up thinking we’re not normal. Wondering what is wrong with us and why this is happening. For some reason we think that the first ninety days our servicemember is gone it is ok for us to be sad. But when he/she returns we think we’re supposed to immediate snap back into our old rhythm again. We need to cut ourselves (and each other) some slack. The fact of the matter is that we have been functioning without our spouses as a completely different family unit. Just like when we married our spouse, or when we brought our children into the picture our lives have to go through a period of adjustment during reintegration.
We’ve been stressed, overworked and overtired for many months during their absence, and so have they. We automatically assume having help with daily tasks and raising our family will immediately make things better. Ironically, we’ve had no choice but to take control of our family’s life and so relinquishing that control can be just as stressful as it was when it was required of us. Both you and your spouse need a break but life doesn’t stop and this can be a serious source of frustration.
Your spouse’s return can be both joyful and challenging – hence the “honeymoon” or the “not-so-honeymoon” parts of reunion. Military One Source offers some tips to help ease the transition back into “normal”. Those tips include planning a special homecoming, understanding that it’s normal to feel out of sync with your spouse, easing into intimacy, being patient with yourself and your spouse, spending time talking about both of your experiences during the separation, expecting your children to test the rules now that both parents are at home, making time to spend as a couple and as a family without all the distractions, and most importantly knowing when to seek help.
The best way to make sense out of what we’re feeling is to recognize that we are normal, allow these feelings to take place and work through them, and to realize that stress, whether it be good or bad stress, all takes a toll on our bodies and emotions. Having your spouse home is a blessing, but no one said adjusting back into your life was going to be easy.
*Top Pic – Kevin, Tara, and Wrena’s first reintegration 2005. Bottom Pic – Kevin, Tara, Wrena, and Chloe’s second reintegration 2007. The Crooks hope to have their family back together for Christmas this year for their third reintegration 2012.