We’ve all seen those homecoming videos. You know the ones that I’m talking about.
Soldier surprises kids by showing up at a football game. Or the group of perfectly done up military wives welcoming their husbands home on the tarmac. Clever signs, and only pretty criers. Don’t get me wrong, I love homecoming videos. J and I have one that my dad filmed in the airport, and I could probably watch it over and over again, all the time. It’s on my Instagram, and it’s adorable. Seriously freaking adorable.
But the full video is something like 45 seconds to 1 minute long. And there is a definite reason for that brevity – it’s not real. That is not real life, and it’s not what the expectation of your soldier coming home should look like.
It truly is a fairy tale couple of minutes. That ceremony where they all pile off the bus, or fall out of formation, or even just running and jumping into your soldier’s arms in an airport. That’s homecoming. And that high (while awesome) is pretty stinking short lived. Like, the second you have to corral your party of excited in laws and family members into a restaurant, or get people to get out of the way at the airport – it goes away. And is replaced by all the 1,700 emotions you’re going to have built up along the way to this deployment.
And don’t lie – you’ve built up some emotions on the route to this homecoming. Anger at the car problems you had to deal with on your own. Depression at the several months of nights spend cuddled up with a dog/cat/body pillow with your soldier’s t-shirt on it. Confidence from the time you fixed the leaky toilet by yourself. And then the weeks of anxiety over the moment that is happening right now. Did you pick out the right dress? Are his family members going to drive him crazy? Drive you crazy? What if he doesn’t like your newfound attitude? What if you guys don’t like each other? What if he’s different? (He will be.) What if you’re different? (You will be, too.) What about getting… intimate? Cause that’s been not a part of your life for a while – and you have the furry legs to prove it! (Sorry, mom.)
Reintegration. For most people, that word means almost nothing. For military families, it can be the most tense part of the deployment cycle. I can guarantee at least one person here read that sentence and felt themselves physically tense up. If you’ve gone through a deployment as a spouse, or even a child, you have a ‘after they got back’ story. It’s probably not a good one, although sometimes they get funny later. ( I have some good ones about the last six weeks that I’ll be able to tell in about five years.)
I would love to tell you that J and I have this whole thing worked out, and that I’m writing this from a place of being ‘on the other side’ of reintegration, and that we’re perfectly adjusted and loving being back together, 100% of the time.
If I typed all that out, I would be lying. Through my teeth. In the spirit of full disclosure – I’m horrible at this. I am absolutely atrocious at having J come home. It’s so exciting… but then I start itching for him to just get the heck out of my space. Terrible, right?
J and I have now been married for 1 year and 10 months, almost exactly. Of that 1 year and 10 months, we’ve been physically together for about half of it. Extend that to include dating and being engaged – we’ve been ‘together’ for almost 4 years, and have been together for slightly over a year of it. You would think that with being apart, and having him come in and out of my life over and over again, that I would be much much better at having him leave and then come home.
I got used to having the bed to myself (and Bravo the Infantrydog, of course.) I got up when I wanted, and went to sleep when I wanted. Then all of a sudden I had a 200 pound man laying next to me, taking up my space and setting alarms for six in the freaking morning to go to the gym. Every day. I hadn’t gotten up at 6 in the morning since… since before he left. And now just because he wanted to work out with his friend, I had to change my routine for him? That pissed me off. Enough that I was willing to throw what I would now call a tantrum over it. For basically the entire time he was home.
Didn’t he know I didn’t have to be at work until 8:30? And that meant that I needed to sleep in? And how could he not realize that I needed to be asleep much, much earlier if he was going to be getting up and starting my day right along with his?
Women who have been married much longer than I are laughing – we were not arguing about the gym time with his friend. We weren’t even arguing about the fact that he was getting me up at six in the morning.
We were arguing about the fact that I had (have) no idea how to be married to this man anymore. He’s different. I’m different. Not good different, or bad different. We’re just different people than we were when he left. And we don’t know how to be married as these different people.
I’m going to go ahead and say that almost every single military couple has felt this way after a deployment. Even a short one. And if I thought it was frustrating for me to have J come crashing into my life, trust me, he felt the same level of frustration. But I didn’t want to see that – he ‘got’ to go do his job, and then ‘got’ to come into my life and screw up my schedule. But on his side – he was coming in to a world where his wife had all new systems, and was leveling all her frustration about his absence on him.
I think the most difficult part is that while lots of people were willing to tell me it would be difficult – no one really sat me down and talked to me about what to expect. Not really. Being ‘just’ national guard, our challenges are a little different than those of an active duty family. And there weren’t a lot of people around who would understand when I was asked if I was happy he was home, all I wanted to say was ‘yeah but he can go to a school any day now.’
There’s no perfect formula for the perfect army wife – and if there was, I promise you I would be failing at it, and chipping away at that image every time I open my mouth, let alone sat down at this laptop. I’ve got lots of stories to prove it – ask in a private message and I would love to tell you.
I wanted to put this up here, and I wish I had done it sooner, but I guess it’s better late than never. So, here goes…
It’s okay to be angry when your spouse leaves. It’s okay to be anxious about them coming back. It’s okay to just not like your spouse. It’s okay to even not want to be around them when they’re home. It’s okay to be annoyed at people when they breathe too loud or ask your husband stupid questions when he comes home. It’s okay if you just need to climb in your car with the radio all the way up and just primal scream if you need to. Just… make sure you’re not pointing your car in the direction of the neighbors yard. If they see you that can be weird. Or so I’ve heard.
However, it is not okay if you don’t talk about it. Talk to your spouse. If they can’t or won’t talk, talk to your friends. If they don’t get it, or won’t talk to you, expand. I just set up an extra special email just for this. Comment – send me messages, DM me on Instagram or even just creep on whatever I’ve posted. The reason I do this is so people can learn from the things that I haven’t quite mastered yet. The point is – talk to someone. It doesn’t make you weak if you can’t ‘handle’ post deployment tempers or mood swings – it makes you a person.