One big part of a military lifestyle is reintegration.
If you've been through at least one deployment, you know what I'm talking about. When the spouse leaves, life is different. It's a fact.
We get used to doing things on our own. Tasks that were the responsibility of our spouses are suddenly ours. Taking out the garbage, taking care of the cars, paying bills, etc.
We get used to sleeping in the bed alone and doing things alone.
If you have kids, you get used to acting on behalf of the both of you.
We have to. While we know that there is an end to the deployment, we can't just go on living our lives as though our husbands are going to walk back through the door around 5 or 6 pm. Things would get awfully messy, in more ways than one.
But it always seems that once we finally get into that groove, the deployment ends and then we're forced back into married life. Actually, we're thrown in, head first.
Homecomings are amazing. There is absolutely nothing like them, and I always tell people that until you actually experience one in person, you'll never really know what it's like (like when I watch the "True Life: I moved back in with my parents" episode, and the one girl is going to pick up her husband from a year long deployment. I cry every single time she's running through the crowd trying to figure out which one of the men in the sea of cammies is hers. And then when she finally finds him...? I'm done. Anyway...).
But after everyone goes home, and the homecoming banners are taken down, and the seabags have been unpacked, we have to readjust.
The first night The Husband was home from his first deployment, I slept on the edge of our bed. Literally. I think I was taking up a whole 8 inches as I slept on my side as far away from him as I could. I had heard stories about one spouse forgetting that he was home. His wife accidentally bumped him in the middle of the night and he cold clocked her as he was startled out of his sleep. I was convinced this was going to happen to me. Or vice-versa. What if I woke up and saw him there and forgot? I barely slept.
Then there's that honeymoon period that happens after they come home. Everything is right with the world again! My husband is home! Safe and sound. I have my partner in crime back. Someone to take me on dates, take the garbage out, kill the spiders!
Then when that week is up, and things get back to normal, the honeymoon ends. And you're both left standing there going "What is happening?"
I'd be lying to you if I told you that reintegration is easy. It's hard.
It's hard even if your separation wasn't due to a deployment!
If you're wondering what you've gotten into, you're not alone. Most, I'd even venture to say all, couples go through reintegration pains. It's natural. Here's what has made it easier for us and for friends...
1: Be clear about what you need. It's easy to just assume that when your spouse gets home, they're going to jump back in to whatever they were doing before. The problem with this is that they know that you've been doing things your way for the last 7-15 months. Not only do they not want to interrupt, they feel like they're not needed. If the garbage needs to go out, and before deployment, that was your husband's job around the house, don't just let it pile up until it's unbearable. If you need to ask, do so! Don't be mean, don't assume they're avoiding something, just ask.
2: Be open and honest. When you're frustrated, sit down and discuss it. The only way to work through it is to actually work through it.
3: Be patient. Things aren't going to get back to normal right away. It may take a few weeks or even a few months. THAT is normal. We all change during deployments. We each grow and change in different ways. Those things can be good for our relationship if we let them be.
4: If you need help, ask for it. Let's face it, PTSD and TBI are facts of life. Stress is a fact of life in military marriages. Just trying to deal with it never ends well. I know all of the excuses. "I don't want his command to find out we're getting counseling", "People will judge us", "We don't need help". These are all lies. You can get help, whether it is solo counseling for you or your spouse, or couples counseling, through Military One Source. It is entirely confidential. They will not tell your spouse's command or anyone else and things will stay between you and your counselor (As long as there is no danger to oneself or others present). The best part is that these things are totally free. Don't be afraid to seek help. There is absolutely no shame in it. It takes a strong person to realize that they need help. Hiding things and avoiding things are easy. Facing things head on and dealing with them are for the strong. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Reintegration is a difficult time, but it can be a time of growth and a time to find out what you're made of, alone and as a couple.
Just remember to take it one day at a time and remember that you're not alone.