Before my husband came home from deployment last year, I attended all of the reintegration briefings, read all the pamphlets and handouts that were provided and attempted to prepare myself for that last phase in our deployment -- homecoming. Everything that I read or heard spoke about how while the reunion with our loved ones is joyous and much anticipated, it also can be very difficult and can take a while to finally feel back to normal. People and relationships change when faced with the unique challenges of deployment. New roles are taken on within the family. Hobbies and interests change or develop. Independence and strength are gained in order to survive. All of these are good and necessary things to help adapt to the challenges of lengthy separations, but they are also changes that can require some getting used to once our servicemember returns home.
Our family easily fell back into old routines and roles, with my husband taking over the cooking and trash duties (yay!) while I took care of other household chores. My husband was proud of the new skills that I had obtained while he was away and how resourceful I had learned to be, especially when it came to tearing apart and rebuilding the washing machine that broke a week after he left (it's still working!). Things seemed to be getting back to normal very quickly for us and I began to think that those couples that I read about in the reintegration pamphlets who had a hard time reconnecting -- nope, that wouldn't be us! Everything was going smoothly ... or so I thought. Our biggest obstacle during this reintegration time turned out to be one of the best things that helped me through the deployment ... my new-found interest, blogging.
One of the best suggestions that I was given during the deployment was to keep myself occupied to pass the time. Luckily my kids keep me very busy, but I needed something that was for me, especially during those quiet, lonely hours after the kids went to bed. I began blogging to document our life while my husband was away and through this I met so many incredible women who were going through, or had been through, the same situations. It became my support system. My outlet for my frustrations and a place to share in the joys. I also found a love for writing that I didn't know I possessed. My husband thought it was great too, because he could follow what was going on back home. But once he came home, he didn't need those daily updates and it became something that took up time. Time that could be spent with him. I saw it still as my support network because even though he may be home, I still needed this support to help me through some of the difficult times of reintegration! And I had found friendships that I wanted to continue and a community that I still wanted to remain a part of. Needless to say, my new interest became the hurdle to overcome in our reintegration.
After much frustration for both of us, we used another golden piece of advice that was handed out at every briefing I attended -- communicate! We sat down and figured out how we could make each other happy without having to give up the things we enjoyed. Simply put, we compromised and found what would work for the both of us. We are both happy with the outcome and feel like things are once again back on track to figuring out what "normal" is for now.
I never thought that a hobby or interest is what would have caused our rough spot during reintegration. Luckily we learned a lot about communication during the deployment and were able to continue to use that in our new situation. Whether it is a new hobby, gained independence, adjusting to new family roles after a deployment (and during!), or just simply reconnecting as a couple, communicating with your spouse is the best way to get through the tough spots. Getting back to normal, or figuring out that the new "normal" is for your family, will take time after a deployment, but by telling each other what you need and how you feel will go a long way to making it an easier transition.
What things caused tension when your SO returned home from deployment? How did you resolve it?
The New Normal is a proud Army National Guard wife, mom of two, teacher, runner and keeper of the household zoo. She currently writes for SpouseBUZZ and blogs at The New "Normal" about everything from the struggles of reintegration to her 7-year old son's "puppy love."