The wife of a deployed soldier gets used to a quiet house. Taking up only half the bed at night, filling up only one coffee cup in the morning, and working as many hours a day as she can to fill in the gaps of silence becomes a habit - a normal routine that seems only natural. But with the pangs of loneliness and the heartache of separation that comes with military deployment, comes the sometimes difficult adjustments of military leave. Sharing the schedule and that other half of the bed again isn't always easy.
Since 2005, military divorce has gradually been on the rise, and it isn't always because of the stress of being an ocean apart. Oftentimes, the stress of reuniting after months or even years apart can be just as detrimental, especially to a woman who has established her independent lifestyle, or to children who aren't used to a father or mother in the home.
Fortunately, there are some steps that can be taken to avoid disaster once your soldier comes through the door again.
Set a family meeting right away and discuss the routines of the family. What is everyone expected to do? Are there any changes to the schedule since the last time your husband or wife was home? If you are on the flip side of the situation and are in the shoes of the military man or woman, make sure to remember that changes happen - but be careful to try to note only the positive changes, because the world keeps revolving, even when you're out of the home.
Take time for one another and understand
Take time for one another and understand that at first, it may feel like living with a stranger. With young children, they may be shy at first or not talk much. Remembering not to take these displays of emotion personally is important. Everyone in the situation has to adjust and get used to being under the same roof again.
Joining the household is a huge adjustment for the soldier, too. One marine says, "I need to remember to not treat my significant other like another marine. You have to work at keeping calm and not undermining people that make a mistake."
Give each other wiggle room
After deployment, there may be painful experiences to recount or time that needs to be spent alone or in thought. The best way to adjust to this is to give each other room to breathe and time to get used to a new environment. This can also entail talking to one another without judgment and being patient with one another and any new needs that have developed. It's not a race to get back to how things were - once the military becomes part of the family, things will be different from that point on.
- so talk about them
Once a military member comes home, it's easy to be over-zealous in spending in fine restaurants or on family outings. But it's good to remember that a home without financial hardships is a much happier home. Make sure that you are on the same page with your significant other when it comes to spending - even the spending and budgeting that went on during deployment - and it'll be much easier not only to adjust, but to make sure that stresses caused by debt or overspending don't arise.
When you or a loved one is in the military, the battleground can be in the home just as much as it can be overseas. The trick is to make sure no one is trying to change things back to the way they were, but to adjust to changes and understand one another. Be willing to change your habits from one plate to two at the breakfast table, and from quiet reading to someone to talk to before falling asleep at night.
After all, the changes are all worth having your soldier home again.