My husband returned home in the spring from his fifth deployment. We’ve learned that homecoming requires some adjustment. It takes a while to wash all the sand out of the underwear, so to speak.
Getting back together after a long separation is difficult. One Army wife, whose husband was gone for more than a year, wrote to share her story.
"Adjustment was hard," said Denise. "It was weird having him back, having someone else in the house. I’d been solo for 15 months.
"We were without kids before the deployment and had a child during the deployment, so it was a big adjustment toting around all this baby equipment – and not being alone. Our child was kind of a buffer, and also an excuse for us not to connect."
Sometimes returning veterans find it difficult to talk about their experiences. Denise said she was equally hesitant to bring up the subject.
"I rarely asked or ask about it. I had an aversion to his uniform for a long time. I just was sick of being so immersed in the military life — and just of the war."
She said they found it difficult to talk and their arguments were heated.
"Once he blurted out ‘I wish I could go back there instead of being here.’ Another time he said something about how I was as hostile as the people over there. That wasn’t cool."
Denise said she felt her husband’s war experience had changed the way he felt about her: "I was bitter with the military, our government and life in general, by this point. I had been depressed and was just so confused on how to feel, how to react.
"I felt abandoned and left behind. We even talked of divorce, or I did. I felt like he had given up on me and us and on himself," she said. "That scared me. The war has given me new fears and realities."
Denise said her husband experienced PTSD, and the experience triggered past traumatic issues in her own life.
"We both had stuff to work through — old stuff and new stuff."
Denise and her husband were determined to find a way through their ordeal.
"We got counseling. We talked about it in small increments and over many months and years," she said. "It was hard to process it all, for him and for me."
Denise said that getting past difficult experiences requires hard work and determination.
"Get help if you need it," she advises others. She said her first attempt to find a counselor was a bad one, but she kept trying.
"If you have a poor experience with one counselor or chaplain, don’t give up," she said. "Find someone else. Get help. You deserve it. Your marriage deserves it, and your kids deserve it! Sometimes we have to step up to the plate and fight for ourselves.
"Homecomings are not a fuzzy warm Hallmark, happy-ending movie. They can be awkward and painful for some people."
Denise recalled an Army Community Service manager, who told her to expect the transition period to be as long as the absence.
"She was right. At the 15-month mark we renewed our vows. Soon after, another bundle of joy arrived in our house!
"It was a long 15 months of him being gone and a long 15 months of adjustment. It was all worth it. We did a lot of hard work and fighting for our marriage. Things will never be the way they were, and that is OK. Many people keep trying to recapture the old days instead of living the new days."
Terri Barnes proudly celebrates 23 years of marriage this month to her Air Force husband, Mark. They have three children and live in Germany. Contact Terri at firstname.lastname@example.org and see the Spouse Calls blog here.