5 Rules for the Best Possible Reintegration
by Tim Blake, Army spouse
I told my wife in the weeks before she came home from Afghanistan: Reintegration is a no-joke process. Learning how to live together again, how to begin sharing the roles and authority in the family—these can become very real points of contention, leading to fighting and frustration. With that in mind, I came up with my “rules for reintegration” that I’d like to share with you.
They have served my family well and I hope they’ll be useful to you. Stick with them and I think you’ll find that reintegration is a smoother, healthier process for everyone.
1. I allow one full week for every month my wife has been deployed (for example: 12 weeks for a year-long deployment). This means I accept that it can take that long for things to return to normal. Reintegration may not be a quick process, and that’s OK.
2. NO EXPECTATIONS! I told my wife just before she got home that nothing would be expected of her when she got here. I would continue to do everything around the house and all kid-related stuff when she got home. As she felt comfortable and ready, I’d be happy to have her help. But there would be no pressure on her when she came home.
3. No out-of-town trips (vacations, trips to see family, etc.) in those first weeks after deployment. I know this goes against what most people do and believe, but there’s a reason: I wanted us to learn to live in the same house—day in, day out—after we’d spent a year apart. Remember the challenges of learning to live together when you got married? It’s the same thing here. We can’t learn to live together in the same house if we aren’t home, and the issues and challenges that inevitably arise can’t be dealt with as effectively in a hotel room or someone else’s house.
4. Absolutely no out-of-town guests during the weeks of reintegration. This one was hard because there were lots of people who wanted to come visit when my wife came home. Perhaps some of our family and friends got their feelings hurt. Tough. I was, and I am, more concerned about making sure my marriage and family are strong after a long deployment. Anyone wanting to visit us would just have to wait until our 12 weeks was done.
5. All decisions relating to the children have to go through me, at least initially. This was a bit harsh for her, but she understood my reasoning. There was no way for her to know what our routines and schedules were when she got home. For instance: Right after she got back, she told one of the kids they could have a snack, not knowing that dinner was less than an hour away. Once she found her groove around the kids and their schedules, and really took in how we were doing things, then I’d be happy to give up that authority.
While these rules might not seem to be very much fun, they were designed to put our family on a strong footing after a long separation. Having a solid marriage and family are vital to remaining strong in the military. Hard work? Perhaps. But it’s worth it!
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