Over the years, we've seen so many spouses wrestle with the issue of extended family wanting to be present during R&R and/or at the homecoming ceremony. At one of our SpouseBUZZ LIVE events, an Army wife told the crowd that her father-in-law went so far as to suggest that they share a hotel room homecoming night to save money! You just can't make this stuff up...
A friend of mine told her mother and father-in-law that she preferred they not come out until a few days after homecoming during his last redeployment. This was a joint decision, but even so it caused some resentment which is about to bubble up to the surface again. Fast forward to another deployment and an R&R on the horizon. My friend and her husband prefer not to travel during the brief R&R period, but are open to family coming to see them. Only not on day one. Or day two. Or day three. My friend knows that no matter how their desire is framed, her husband's parents are going to be upset given the previous episode.
Reintegration is tough. It's tough for childless couples. It's tough for couples with children. It's tough no matter what. Each family is unique and each family must decide on a path that works well with their family dynamic. As for my family, I'm very lucky to have in-laws who I actually like. I want them to share in the military milestones and I've done my best to include them when these occasions materialize. I know they love and miss my husband when he's away and want to see him with their own eyes when he returns. And that's okay. Just not on day one. At least not for me.
I've never invited my in-laws to come out when my husband has redeployed, or on the one occasion when he had a R&R break. We did travel to see them after each instance, but I wasn't going to share the homecoming moment with anyone. My husband and I needed, and wanted, a couples-only reunion. Luckily, I have non-intrusive in-laws who take their queues from us. In fact, they've never asked to come, so I've never dealt with having to tell them no. However, I know many people have, and I know it can cause anomoysity and feelings of resentment can build up.
I suggested to my friend that her husband break the news to his mother long before the R&R so that the ground rules are stated well in advance, and it comes from him. If they drag it out, it's only going to compound the stress that goes along with getting things ready for R&R and the mini-reintegration issues which crop up around that time. Managing expectations long before a reunion can go a long way towards preventing an undesirable confrontation.
Some families are perfectly happy to experience homecoming with extended family in tow, and that's great. Whatever works for you and yours. My friend and her husband have to do what's right for their family and they've chosen to reunite as an immediate family first.
There's never a one-size-fits-all to this situation. How has your family dealt with R&R and redeployment?
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