The Pre-Deployment State of Mind: Fight Club


There are two particularly sensitive times in the lives of military families when everyone should be harmonious and as loving as possible; pre-deployment and reintegration. With pre-deployment, you're getting ready to say good-bye to your loved one and you want those last days together to be as wonderful as possible. With reintegration, you've made it to the finish line and life is good. Everyone's on their best behavior during these periods. It's all Peaches-and-Creme, right?


From the Mailbag comes this question from DB:

Why is it that right before a deployment you hate your soldier and fight all the time? Just the sheer sight of him right now makes me want to punch him square in the nose! LOL. I wouldn't but some things he is doing right now are very annoying. Why is that?
Before experiencing my first deployment, I would have thought DB was from Mars. How could she ask such a question? Her husband is about to leave and she's complaining that he's annoying? Shame on you, DB. Shame.....

But whoa boy, after going through three deployments and various other lengthy separations, when I read DB's question, I raised my glass, nodded in agreement and said, "I hear ya sista."

Pre-deployment is an emotional time. It's often hard to face the fact that your spouse is leaving in 8,7,6,5.... days. The countdown can take a toll on the best of relationships. You're more irritated than usual, but it's not really because his gear is strewn all over the house. It's what that gear represents. It's not because he has packed, unpacked and repacked a zillion times. It's because he has to pack at all. I've often said that this is a period of time when you want to push them out the door so the clock can start ticking, but you also want to hold onto them for dear life and never let go. It's tough.

The same is true for them; they don't want to leave us at home, but they do want to get on with their assignment. Our spouses, though present physically, may have already "checked out" mentally. Their body is home but their mind is already in the sandbox. I've heard many milspouses say that a wall of separation is erected at home. During pre-deployment, both parties are dressing in armor and preparing to live the next few months (or year) without one another. Spouses may pick fights and push each other away because they think it'll make the good-bye and/or separation easier.

DB's situation is far from uncommon. We've heard this over and over again. Pre-deployment brings all sorts of tension with it as this Emotional Stages of Deployment article references:

Pre-Deployment Phase (6-8 weeks prior to deployment): Feelings in this stage may include fear, anger, denial, resentment, excitement, and guilt. Common thoughts include "What will I do without him/her?" "I can't believe he/she is actually leaving me!" "How in the world will I cope with the kids?" and "I wish the ship would leave so I could get on with my life!" Reactions during this phase may vary between "honeymoon" like behavior to severe arguments.
Knowing that other military families spar and spat during this time is a big relief. One of the best lessons I've learned over the years, whether we're talking about pre-deployment or moving, is to remind myself that these things will occur, and it's a normal part of the emotional cycle. At least for my family.

Do you find pre-deployment to be a less than harmonious time at your house?

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