Separations are tough on marriages, and military life is full of them. Separations are supposed to be tough, though; it’s expected. What’s less expected is when reunions are tough.
I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of a completely smooth reunion, especially one that follows a combat deployment. (If I did, I didn’t believe it.)
Reunion training ensued when the military community collectively realized that the wars weren’t going to end in 2004, and that homecomings were becoming increasing complicated. I’ve read the handouts. I’ve attended the counseling. I’ve learned from experience.
At first, I learned the basics. Don’t drop the babies in Hubby’s lap and tell him you’re exhausted (at least not immediately). Then I graduated to the more advanced lessons, including don’t insist he watch the firework show at DisneyLand (explosives, crowds, and an unnerving, giant mouse).
Eventually, it dawned on me that the “reunion rules” shouldn’t only apply to reunions. If I could just follow the “reunion rules” consistently, my marriage would thrive. Everyone’s would. I haven’t mastered them yet, but I’m working on them.
I’ve learned that pain lurks in unexpected places. There are unseen wounds that even time can’t heal. All you can do is listen.
I’ve learned that now is not the time to overindulge. Do not spend tons of money celebrating. Don’t drink too much. Go to sleep, for heaven’s sake. Stop eating cake and go for a walk.
I’ve learned to schedule a date without the kids. Do this even if you’re convinced that the kids need you every waking second and especially if they look at their Grammie and scream as if she’s a wicked witch. Also, if anyone asks if you want to sign up for a couple’s retreat, say yes. You probably look like you need one.
I’ve learned that no one wants to communicate with someone who is overly critical. When emotions are high, be gentle and respect one another. In other words, geez Jenny, shut your pie-hole and listen already.
Lastly, laugh, play, and be patient. A happy marriage is a marathon, not sprint.
To all you who have more years of experience than I do, what have I missed?