This morning, I read an interesting article in the Los Angeles Times about reintegration.
It's an emotional and psychological adjustment for the family when a Marine or sailor deploys, and another emotional and psychological adjustment when he or she returns. Sometimes, in the up-tempo deployment schedule, it seems there's barely time to get adjusted to one phase when another one begins.And while it may seem counterintuitive to civilians, many military spouses say the homecoming phase can be the most difficult of all. With that in mind, the military provides "return and reunion" briefings to both the stay-behind and deployed spouses.
Reintegration is a subject we've discussed at length here at SpouseBUZZ. It's one of the most inquired about topics among our readers and SpouseBUZZ LIVE attendees.
Reintegration is a very broad subject. It covers a lot of ground and each family deals with it differently. Love My Tanker published one of the most comprehensive posts I've ever seen on homecoming/reintegration here (a must read). Ginger wrote about the humorous aspects of reintegration here. Just after SpouseBUZZ debuted, I wrote about reintegration, too:
When it comes to reintegration, as with all issues, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all. Some families find it an easy process, and some find it incredibly difficult. Each family is different and each returning spouse has their own set of issues to work through. Reintegration issues range from the seemingly-superficial to the complex to the intolerable.
From the perspective of the returning service member, they may be amazed at what their spouse has been able to do while they were away. So amazed, that they become insecure. Recently, I had a soldier ask if they're even needed when they return. The best response I've heard came from one of the panelists at SpouseBUZZ LIVE who said, "we can take care of business while you're away, but we need you when you get back." Holding down the homefront is something we do, but it doesn't mean we don't miss or need our spouses.
Homefront Six recently wrote that all is well in her household, and that's great. But it doesn't work out that way for everyone. One of my favorite posts at SpouseBUZZ came from a deployed soldier who told me via email that he reads SpouseBUZZ to get a taste of what his wife is experiencing on the homefront. He also gave us some valuable insight into what the returning service member may be experiencing.
Everyone has changed since I left and it will take time for us to get reacquainted. My wife will not be used to picking up my socks and I will not be used to seeing the toothpaste squeezed in the middle. My ideas of discipline will not have been enforced while I was gone and it will take others time to get used to them again. Reintegration can be more painful than the separation.
I have been through this more times than I care to count in my 15 years of marriage. It has been our shared faith, love and commitment that has helped us survive each of these difficult times but they still have left their scars. The emotional roller coaster of repeated separation and reintegration is very painful so I tend to level my emotions. If I suppress my joy at home, the pain of separation will be diminished. Sometimes I feel like an emotional zombie. This is my greatest sacrifice; I still think it's worth it.
If you've found it easy to jump right back into your pre-deployment routine, good for you. But if you haven't, it's perfectly understandable and quite normal. For me, it wasn't as simple as turning on a switch. I had developed a crazy routine. Crazy, but it worked for me. When my husband was away, I did my best work late at night. I would often eat dinner at an insane hour and crawl into bed around 2:00 a.m. (not good). When my husband returned, I found myself having a difficult time readjusting to going to bed at a decent hour, it took some time for my body clock to level back out. Ultimately, having my husband home helped bring some balance back into my life, but it didn't happen overnight.
Reintegration sounds like a scary word, like a stigma should be attached. But in reality, it's about readjusting to life with your partner. Going from being CEO of the household back to a partnership. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's not. And if it's not, there is nothing to be ashamed of.
And for some levity, loved this quote in the Los Angeles Times article:
"Marriage is more than just sharing the remote control," said Sheena Buteau, 24, whose husband is Marine Cpl. Joshua Buteau.
Maybe so, but being the mistress of the remote control, I must admit, was nice. Silver lining, and all that stuff....