Deployments or temporary duty assignments (TDY) can have a significant impact on intimacy within relationships. Awareness of the unique challenges involved may help with rebuilding intimacy when your spouse returns. When away from each other for extended periods of time, emotional distance can emerge, communication may break down, and both partners may undergo personal changes. I remember the first year of our marriage I was on a remote assignment and the transition back into “normalcy” was quite challenging for us.
Reconnection following absence can take time, and patience. It is normal to feel a range of emotions about reconnecting after being apart. You may find that you balance feelings of excitement as well as uncertainty and nervousness. You may even feel “disconnected” even though you all are in the same house.
Kristina and I have learned many lessons over the years and have realized that with planning, communication and managing proper expectations the transition back can be smooth.
I have said this many times, however this saying holds true “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Having a plan (with room for flexibility) connects you as a couple and ensures you are both moving in the same direction. Here are a few things to consider when coming up with a plan.
- Understand what will be the same and what may be different.
- Take the time to learn what your spouse, children, family and friends have been up to while you have been gone.
- Consider your children’s responses: Be prepared that they may display an array of emotions. It is no reflection of their love for you, it is just a natural process of re- establishing the relationship. I would plan a special event for my son and I so that we could re connect. Taking individual time with each child in an environment of their choosing goes along way to re-igniting the bond.
- Plan time with your spouse (apart from children): When you come home from deployment it is very easy to feel pulled in many directions. Making this time with your spouse non-negotiable is crucial for your marriage. Kristina and I would chat before I arrived and plan a date or an overnight at one of our favorite places so that we had something to look forward to.
Intentional Communication is also a vital component of the re-entry process.
- Talk to your children about what it will be like when the serving member returns home.
- Keep communication open, flexible, discussing both your excitement as well as nervousness.
Be sure to properly manage expectations. Understand that this is a process. Take it slowly. Give yourself time to talk, reconnect, readjust. Understand that it is also perfectly fine to take time for yourself once you are home. One of the things I would do is take a day and head out to the woods or get on my boat and just spend some time in meditation and prayer. It may seem selfish, but I will tell you that time well spent made me a better husband and father. I would also encourage Kristina to have a day or so just for herself. We learned that we had to be good to “Me” before we could be good for “We”.
Lastly, don’t forget the power of prayer, specifically intercessory prayer in this season of transition. God knows your heart and the heart of your spouse and children, after all, He created them. Intercessory prayer is a powerful and underutilized tool that the Lord has given us. When we pray on behalf of our spouse or children, we are inviting God into our situations. Because He created our hearts, He knows just how to speak to them. James reminds us that “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
Another verse that has been my go-to in seasons of transition is Daniel 2:20-21 “Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons: He removes kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding…” This verse keeps me grounded to the truth that He is in full control over all things in my life. My wife, family and calling are all in His hands and He takes care, leads, guides and protects when I am there and when I am not. When I am struggling with re-integration, I can take that struggle to Him and watch Him work. I am never alone, because He is with me and only one prayer away.