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From the Mailbag: R&R - To Share or Not to Share

Reader CS sends this interesting exchange:

Dear Prudie,My husband has been serving a 15-month tour in Iraq and has an 18-day R&R break in September, when we will celebrate our first anniversary, as well as take the GMAT exam and fill out applications for graduate school. His combat tour will be complete in February 2009. We had already discussed his R&R, and he said he just wanted to see me and was fine with not seeing family. But now his parents want to visit while he's here. His father talks incessantly and can be abrasive. He's a Vietnam vet and likes to express his reservations about the Iraq war. I just don't think that's what my husband needs, and others who have already had their R&R recommend spending all of it together and not trying to see others. What's the best plan here? Can I suggest they wait until February when he is (hopefully!) back for good, and we'll go visit them for a long weekend? Can I limit them to a four-day visit here? Or am I out of line for thinking a new wife has a say-so about familial guests at a sensitive time?

-Out-law

Dear Out-law,You're not out of line to decide with your husband what to do with this precious time. But as annoying as your father-in-law may be, and as much as you and your husband may just want to drink in being with each other, it would be cruel not to let his parents get the comfort of spending some time with their son. All three of you are doing your best to get through the days until he is safely home. Do not deprive your in-laws of the relief of seeing for themselves that their soldier is all right. But there is nothing wrong with limiting them to a long weekend. When you tell them, don't say how little time you're giving them. Instead, explain that despite the leave being so short, and with the two of you squeezing into it both a second honeymoon and preparations for graduate school, you are really happy that you will be able to devote four days to their visit. If you're working during part of your husband's leave, it might be best if they came during the week-that way they could maximize their time with their son, and you could minimize your time with his father. And please express my gratitude to your husband for his service.

-Prudie

Link can be found here.

I didn't experience an R&R break on my husband's last deployment, but on the first deployment, he got two weeks, which fell perfectly over Christmas and New Years Day. I have to admit that I would have rather had him all to myself, but, at the time, his father was ill and his mother was, understandably, anxious to see her son. I planned a surprise visit home on Christmas Day. My husband's siblings knew we were coming, but my mother-in-law had resigned herself to a Christmas without her Army son. When she saw us come through the door, you should have seen the look on her face. I love that memory, and I love that my husband was surrounded by his family on that Christmas day, especially since he lost his father just one year later.

Even with all the packing up and flurry of travel in such a short time span, I don't regret our decision to spend a few days of R&R with his family. Had the R&R been in March or June or some time other than the holiday season, I'm not sure we would have hit the road. Perhaps so, because his family loves him, too, but the holidays are a time for family, so there was never a question as to what we should do.

However, I totally and completely understand the desire to spend every single moment -- alone -- with your spouse during R&R. I think that's a natural desire. After all, two weeks goes by like lightening and when it's been six months since you've seen your spouse, there's a lot of catching up to do.... I prefer the idea of having visitors come to us, rather than the other way around. Saves on the stress and time that travel requires. In our case, it isn't logistically feasible since all of my husband's family is located in the same town and there are more children than you can shake a stick at. It's easier for the two of us to pack up than have the whole crew caravan down to us.

Everyone has a different family dynamic and I'm sure our opinions on this will be diverse, but I'm interested in hearing what you think about this topic and how you and your spouse have dealt with R&R. Did you share, or spend the time alone? Would you do anything differently next time?

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