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Re-Negotiate Togetherness

Heidi Evans
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tagged: reintegration, relationships, deployment
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photo by Brynja Sigurdardottir, Air Force spouse

 

After a long separation, it’s normal to feel both anticipation and anxiety. Will your spouse still find you irresistible? How will he or she fit back into your household? What if the spark is gone?

“Deployment happens to the whole family, it doesn’t just happen to the service member,” says Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, Ph.D., director of the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University. Reintegration will likely bring some surprises for everyone. 

Long-term studies show deployment slightly increases rates of divorce, says Benjamin Karney, Ph.D., professor of psychology at UCLA. “It’s tough to maintain intimacy with another person for an extended period of time,” Karney says, and long geographic separations make it even more complicated. But military marriages also receive lots of support.

Army National Guard spouse Andrea Knotts of St. Louis, Mo., knows redeployment can be disorienting. Frequent phone calls and Skype sessions allowed for open, direct communication with her husband during deployment. But, she says, “the bottom dropped out when my husband came home. He was dealing with his own demons, processing what he had seen over there. And he kind of took it out on me.”

 

THE DANCE OF REDEPLOYMENT

“It’s normal for a long separation to be followed by fighting or distance,” says therapist Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., author of “Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and Coupled Up.” Some couples yo-yo back and forth between the two. The process of reconnecting isn’t linear; it’s more like a series of slow and quick dance steps.

Service members face changes on every front after deployment: at home, in relationships and on the job. It’s hard to predict how these changes might impact your spouse.

Some miss the sense of mission and the adrenalin rush that comes from doing what they’re trained to do. “Reservists may lose their sense of connection to the military unit when they transition back to civilian life,” Wadsworth says.

During deployment you both relied on friends, family and your own coping skills. Post-deployment, “spouses must reorient themselves back toward each other,” Wadsworth says. In your attempts to reconnect, you and your partner may take on the roles of distancer and pursuer, says Lerner. One seeks closeness and the other withdraws. To get back in step with your spouse, try following these simple rules:

 

TOUCHING BASE

In the weeks after a long deployment has ended, it’s wise to revisit ?some key issues. Discuss them calmly, before conflict arises, to ?see how things may have changed and how you want to proceed. Major areas worth covering are:

⇐ How household/marital decisions are made

⇐ How money is spent

⇐ Rules for the children, if you have any

⇐ Who does which household tasks

⇐ Claims to physical space in your home

Read on for the 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Reconnecting -->

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