Laura anxiously anticipates the return of her husband Dan. What will it be like and what should she do? After all, he is not returning from a successful business trip or golf weekend. He is coming back from war. Should she arrange a romantic just-for-the-two-of-us event or a family reunion? This is the first homecoming experience in their young marriage. It has been over a year since Dan left. Little Maja was born 3 months ago and Dan has yet to meet his new baby girl. Laura, once shy, dependent and overweight turned into self-reliant and confident woman. She had joined the gym, lost weight and signed up for computer classes. Even though Laura had missed Dan terribly, she adapted to being a military wife. They had kept each other up to date through e-mail and phone calls. Dan will be surprised to find how much has changed since he left.
How do you deal with the challenges of homecoming? Relax and accept that homecoming can be difficult. In getting ready for the big day, put your own needs aside and help your spouse reconnect with the life he or she left behind. The real challenge is life after deployment. Historically those fighting in combat have a much greater likelihood of relationship break-ups than their civilian counter-parts.
Depending on how devastating the war experience has been, your soldier may not be the same person that you saw off. Your spouse could have witnesses others including children or comrades die. He or she may have been forced to kill in the line of duty! While your soldier may not share all of these experiences with you, listen with empathy if he or she does. Even though your life was clouded with fear during deployment, don’t compete for the most wounded heart. After the big homecoming, you might be anxious to get on with life as a couple, but find each other at different junctures.
Returning from a country at war, every day life may now seem trivial to your spouse. He or she may suffer from post-war trauma or guilt. Here are the two of you trying to pick up where you left off. This is the critical point where military couples set the stage for a spiral breakdown or deeper love. How do you prevent your relationship from becoming a divorce statistic? Simply be what people in exceptional relationships are: Fit 2 Love! Do what people in exceptional relationships do: Become better for each other every day!
By following the 3 principles of being fit to love: mutual respect, moral responsibility and authenticity you can turn your relationship into a solid anchor. Here is what these principles mean:
Exercise true mutual respect instead of self-serving respect. In real terms this means your partner is just as important as you are. Respect how your homecoming soldier feels. He or she has gone through a life-changing phase while serving, an experience the two of you did not share. Cherish the new person that has emerged. Accept his or her altered perspective on life and be open to learn from it.
You are always morally responsible to your partner. Everything you think, say or do affects your partner. Sometimes you even have to think of your partner first. Yes, you are responsible for each other’s well-being. Be kind, loving and understanding. Allow for time to heal the wounds. Be sensitive and encouraging when you help your partner get on with life. It is your job to be an anchor.
Be you! Create and be the best of you. Be better for each other. Be honest about your own feelings, but don’t blame each other if your relationship is going through change. It could also be a change for the better. Depending on how you react, crisis like these are often the kick-start for more authentic and more solid relationships. Take your cues from your heart, for it will never betray you.
Think back when you wholeheartedly committed to your partner. Did you commit to respect and be morally responsible to each other? Did you commit to be the best you could be for each other? Sure you did and now you have a chance to do all that and do it better. While your soldier’s homecoming will definitely fill your heart with happiness, the months after can be very stressful.
Here are some tips to make military love stronger:
• Don’t be anxious to get back to everyday life
• Allow for re-adjustment
• Become acquainted again
• Respect the different person he or she may have become
• Don't try to make up for lost time
• Accept that things may be different
• Don’t have unrealistic expectations
• Talk to each other openly and listen with empathy
• Don’t be surprised if your sex life is uneasy at first
• If you have children be open and reassuring
• Spend quality time with your partner and as a family
• Don’t be controlling or manipulative
• Learn to make decisions together again
Keep the faith; you need each other more than ever.