I had the honor of guest posting on The Six Box blog earlier this month and I am so happy to have Megan on the blog today sharing some of her best reintegration tips!
It’s true what they say: every deployment is different. Since each deployment is different, than the reality that every homecoming is different as well. Of course, this makes sense when you think about it, from 6 weeks to 12 months a lot can change in one person’s life. Now multiply that by two people (or more if you have kids), with one living in a war zone, and the changes can be more intense and impactful on a relationship than anything you have gone through together prior.
My husband deployed to Afghanistan this past year and we experienced a myriad of unanticipated challenges and changes through the past 12 months (including an injury while deployed, birth of our son, loss of a close family member to cancer, and our little girl becoming a sassy 2 year old). To be honest, just one of these events is a lot to take in by themselves, but lump them all together and we now see why 2016 felt like a very long to year.
He has been home a few weeks now and we are navigating what “re-integration” looks like for our family. Somehow, through all of the changes and stress, we are finding ways to re-connect and live life in light of these new realities. While each family’s situation is different, the following are some ideas we have embraced and I share these reintegration tips in hopes that it might help another couple preparing for a homecoming soon too.
1) Expect the unexpected. If you are anything like me, this can be the hardest thing. After my husband returned, I realized my days were less “controllable”. There are now two adults in the home again so opinions, needs, schedules, etc. have to be blended together along with the fact that the Army can change his schedule without much warning which impacts our family immediately (unlike deployment where many of the changes only impacted him directly).
A deployment and a return home has forced me to learn to let go more (okay, with him joining the Army 5 years ago I started learning to let go), but even more so in the past year. There are some things I can control and so many more I cannot, so trying to clutch tightly to what he told me last week on the phone about a schedule or predict exactly how each day will go, only causes more stress. In turn, he is learning to live with children (which can greatly derail the best of plans), being part of a “home” again and no longer just responsible for duty. We have each committed to doing our best with the schedule, time and communication we are given and not worry about the rest.
2) Communicate. Have you ever heard the phrase “Listening isn’t waiting to talk”? I heard it many years ago and when I take time to really live it out, it is a game changer. My husband isn’t always a “talker” and rarely is the one to go first (oh, your husband too? ha). While we don’t always have time to sit and talk for a long time (newborn and a toddler over here) we have been finding pockets which have been great. Allowing each other to share what happened while you were a part and how you feel that changed you or fits into your post deployment life is important. We have had tears, arguments, hugs and laughter as we work to get back on the same page in our new normal. Communicating with words, actions or just a simple high five for a good day (we are into “high-fiving” at my house) is important. If you are looking for ideas on how to communicate better we have a little post on that over on The Six Box Blog.
3) Give time and allow for space. I am a firm believe that all things in life need time and space to work themselves out. Time for truth to come out, time for healing, space to reflect and grow, space to be yourself. A homecoming is a wonderful thing (for most), but not all of the emotions, fears and more need to be worked out in the first 24 hours. Give each other space as you adjust to sharing a home together again- maybe he needs to go for a quick run alone or you need to drive with the sunroof open and an iced latte in hand by yourself sometimes. Perhaps your husband will surprise you one night by telling you about an experience or revelation he wasn’t ready to talk about right away. Bottom line is, you don’t have to have it all figured out in the first day, week or month. Allow each other time and space to figure it all out.
4) Plan a vacation. Seriously! I don’t care if it is just a stay-cation at home. You both need a break together. Deployments are stressful no matter what happens. Vacation is when you allow yourself to let go a little bit, re-connect and have fun. Go enjoy each other without the pressures of life pushing you around. After a deployment, I can think of no better thing than letting go of daily life for a little bit with your partner in a relaxed environment!
Whether you are preparing for your first Homecoming or you’ve had many, I hope these reintegration tips resonate and help you in the transition.
Megan is one half of The Six Box, care packages created for military spouses holding down the fort, an Army wife, momma of two sweet kiddos, lover of sunshine, red wine, coffee and the kind of laughing that brings tears to your eyes. You can find out more about The Six Box on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.