When my husband is deployed, I miss him. I wish he was home. I wish he was there to spend time with the kids. I wish I could take a bath in peace, while the kids played happily with him.
When he comes home, it is nothing like what I wished for, what I thought it would be like. I’m not saying it is bad, it’s just not what I expected or wanted.
We are approaching a full year of him being home from a deployment. Of course, he wasn’t home the entire time. He always has short trips for a week, or two, or three, that take him away and I’m back to parenting alone. However, he is here, at home, part of the time.
Even before kids, when he was gone, I envisioned dinner together. In my mind we talked about our day, went to movies, hiked with the dogs. If you are a military wife, you know what I mean. We build up so much expectation in our minds and hearts. Many times, most of the time, that expectation doesn’t happen in reality.
Last year about this time I was envisioning a dad who takes his kids to the park every day. I saw a husband who wanted to come home every single day, talk about his day, help with dinner, with homework and go to bed with me every night. That didn’t happen.
He came home and things didn’t immediately change. He was still on his schedule, the one from over there. He was tired. He didn’t know how to “be” around family. He had spent his days taking care of himself and his guys. He set his own schedule. He only had to decide what he was going to eat.
I scheduled my life and the life of my kids. We wake up at a certain time, had to be at school by a certain time, had dinner at 5:00 PM, bath at 6:00 PM, bed at 7:30 PM. When he came home it was difficult for him to just jump into our schedule.
It sounds crazy, but I had to adapt to him for a while. If he wanted to spend his day off sleeping and playing video games, I had to see that as part of his reintegration.
Don’t you hate that word: reintegration? In military life we hear it all the time. “Experts” give us their advice to give our soldiers time, give them their space, let them ease back into life as part of a family. I’m a selfish person and I wanted my husband back. I wanted my kids to have their dad back.
I had to learn that he had to relearn how to be around kids. He had to relearn how to be a husband and a dad. It didn’t just turn into a fairytale ending: the soldier returns from war and they lived happily ever after. He had experiences he will probably never tell me about, I learned to be OK with that. He had to remember that we had been there all along, waiting on him to come back to us.
After a year, our life is getting back to our “normal.” He is still gone almost every month, so we still have to reintegrate constantly. That’s our normal and I have learned from my kids how to live with that. They have never known any different lifestyle, so I watch them for lessons on how to live life. They tell him about everything that happened while he was gone, whether it is a week or three months. They don’t stop living just because he is gone. They sit with him and play video games. They ask him to join their life and because he loves them he does. They don’t even consider that because he’s gone life isn’t as good.
The bottom line is we keep living life, just as we did when he was gone. We invite him to join our life and when he is ready, he comes back to us.
I’m not writing this to tell other military wives to just let their husbands be when they first get home. I’m writing this to remind you that for six months or a year or two weeks, you lived your life and he lived his. If he doesn’t just jump back into it, don’t get your feelings hurt. If you feel he has not come back to you emotionally after a while, seek help. There are other wives who’ve been through this and are going through it. I’ve found understanding and support for issues from “all he does is sleep” to “I’m scared of how he’ll be when he gets home” at HerWarHerVoice.
Military One Source offers all kinds of links to support and help. In a military community, you as the spouse, can seek help to keep you strong and there are professionals who can guide you toward the best choices.
Don’t lose heart just because it doesn’t get better immediately. You may not have the spouse who left, but eventually, you’ll see pieces of them come back. They want to come back to you, sometimes they just need time.