The post-deployment reintegration period is different for each military couple. Some make an easy transition back to their pre-deployment life, while others experience a honeymoon phase followed by a rocky period.
Below you'll find a number common issues military couples face when a spouse returns from deployment and some helpful suggestions on how to deal with these issues if you encounter them.
Since the day your spouse deployed, you've been running the household and making all the major decisions.
But now that he or she has returned there's a good chance you'll need to give up some of that control—or at the very least, include your spouse in some of the decision making.
After a deployment, some returning servicemembers try to make up for lost time by diving right in and taking over the household duties. If you're the type of person that enjoys being in control, you may feel threatened or scared at having to let go.
On the other hand, if you've been counting down the days until your spouse returns so you can unload some of his or her former household responsibilities, you may be disappointed if he or she is in no rush to assist. After all, you've done an excellent job of handling things, so why change things?.
Either response from your spouse can be frustrating, especially if the two of you are on opposite ends of the control scale. Like most aspects of a healthy marriage, this is an area where open communication is critical.
Explain your position (why it's hard to give up control or why you're beyond ready to hand over the reins) and then listen to your spouse's. It may take a little time and patience to meld the old with the new, but chances are you'll find a way to work through this.
Change in Routines
Out of necessity, you probably changed or slightly altered your routine after your spouse deployed.
Throughout the course of the deployment your new system has served you well, but now that your spouse has returned you'll need to decide whether or not to go back.
Irregular Sleep Patterns
Changes in time zones and adjusted sleep schedules can wreak havoc on your spouse's sleep patterns. It's not uncommon for returning servicemembers to be wide awake at 3 a.m. and feeling exhausted and ready for bed at 4 p.m. Generally, given a little time, this issue will resolve as your spouse's internal body clock readjusts to your current time zone.
Co-sleeping is another sleep related issue that may complicate matters for you and your spouse. It may take a little time for one or both of you to adjust sharing your bed with another adult. Similar to your spouse's irregular sleep patterns, this adjustment usually just needs a little time to resolve itself.
Acknowledge the Changes
During the deployment, there's a good chance that you and your spouse have both changed. Out of necessity, you may have become more independent and self-reliant.
Perhaps you've discovered new interests or hobbies that you want to continue to pursue after your spouse returns. Although these changes in your behavior or interests may seem subtle to you, keep in mind that they're new to your spouse.
The same holds true for your spouse. You may be shocked to learn that prior to the deployment his favorite food was chicken. Now he can't stand the stuff and want's nothing to do with any kind of poultry. Before deploying, the person you married may have had little or no interest in books or video games, yet after the deployment you discover he or she has a newfound passion for literature or gaming. (Call of Duty. Sound familiar?)
Create Time to Reconnect
Shortly after your spouse returns, you may experience a whirlwind of activity, including an onslaught of family and friends who want to welcome your spouse home or plan belated celebrations.
Throughout this time--and especially after things calm down--make it a priority to carve out some alone time so and your spouse can reconnect. Some couples set a weekly date night, while others prefer spending time alone together after the kids are in bed.
Weekend getaways (sans kids) and/or marriage enrichment retreats may also help you and your spouse reconnect.
The important thing is that you make the time to get reacquainted and simply enjoy each other's company without the pressures and hassles of everyday life.
Although it's not pleasant, bickering, arguments, and disagreements are common when military couples adjust to living under the same roof again. The solution is often as simple as open communication, patience, and time. However, if you can't resolve your conflicts and things seem to be getting worse, get some professional help or counseling right away. A good place to start, assuming you're both comfortable with the idea, is your post/base chaplain.
Returning servicemembers often exhibit mood changes of varying degrees. Your once-happy, outgoing spouse may be quieter and express a desire for extensive periods of alone time. You may notice that he or she has less patience and tolerance than before, especially over matters that would have been trivial before the deployment.
Minor mood and behavioral changes are normal. However, any form of domestic violence—whether against you or your children—is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. If you find yourself in this situation please seek help immediately.
Updated by Armin Brott, July 2016