by Kimmie Fink, Guest Contributor
You’re ready. After 6, 9 or even 12 months apart, it’s time to reunite with your soldier. You’ve made your witty, Pinterest-worthy sign, planned your outfit and showed up to the gym or field at the appointed time (0200, no 0300, no 0200) only to have a delay.
But nothing can take away from that perfect moment when you spot your soldier from the sea of camouflage. That first embrace is the stuff of military spouse dreams.
As far as your social media circle is concerned, it ends right there at the blessed reunion and you all live happily ever after. What people outside the military community don’t realize is that after a week or so, the bloom is off the rose, so to speak.
You’ve been on your own for the better part of a year handling it like a boss (when you’re not totally breaking down), and suddenly there’s this other person with opinions and habits, who as much as you love them, is now all up in your business.
Reintegration is a process, and the transition can certainly put a strain on your relationship and family dynamics. Certain fights are something of an inevitability, but we do ourselves a disservice when we deny that they happen. What’s important is that we prepare ourselves, recognize them when they happen, and deal with them with patience, understanding and yes, humor.
If you and your partner have been in the reintegration trenches, I’m willing to bet you’ve had one or more of the following arguments:
The 9 Inevitable Reintegration Fights That We All Have After A Military Homecoming
The “Turn Off The Damn Light When You Leave The Room” Fight
I’m convinced my husband is a vampire because he’s constantly shutting the blinds (the wrong way) and turning off lights. I, on the other hand, need lots of light on account of my seasonal affective disorder and depression. I think we spent the better part of 2 days with him following me and turning off lights as I left a room and me getting mad because I wasn’t done in there.
The “Get Your Military Gear Garbage Out Of My Office” Fight
If there was one perk of deployment, it was not having giant green duffel bags stuffed with Army paraphernalia all over my damn house.
I was in for a rude awakening when he shipped 2 giant boxes home before his arrival, filled with what I can only assume were standard Army-issue anvils.
Upon his return, there was a fine layer of canvas and Velcro blanketing my sacred workspace for the span of a few days, but with some not so subtle hinting, it was soon returned to its former state.
The “Whose Kid Is This?” Fight
If you have kids, you know how much they can change over a year. Our little girl went from a baby to a walking, talking tornado of a toddler. I’m sure it was a rude awakening for my husband when he came home to a kid who could now say, “No, Daddy.”
It’s hard not to feel like any bad behavior is a reflection on you because, well, it was on your watch that they changed.
Once you get past the “What did you do to my sweet baby?” phase, your partner will come to know and appreciate who your child is now.
The “You Spent How Much On What?” Fight
Ah, sweet deployment paycheck. How do I miss thee? Not quite as much as I missed my partner, but still.
When you’ve been budgeting for yourself and the kids (if you have them), it’s hard to get used to the extra expense of another adult human. Especially when that adult human spends $24 on gourmet cupcakes. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve them, but dude could go to Safeway instead.
The “Have You Always Chewed That Way?” Fight
Absence makes the heart fonder and the memory foggier. When they’re gone for so long, you forget how loud your spouse snores, the way they leave half empty water bottles all over the house, or how annoyingly perky they are in the morning. If you’re me, you let it all fester until it explodes and your partner says, “I don’t remember you being this sensitive.”
The “I Want My Drawer Back” Fight
Hey there, milspouse who bought too many LuLaRoe leggings and had to take over one of her service member’s drawers. I see you. You can keep your drawer, but maybe make some space in the closet. Compromise is, after all, the name of the reintegration game.
The “That’s Not How I Do It” Fight
It can be as small as the way you put the toilet paper on the roll or the brand of peanut butter you buy (this isn’t Jif, you monster) to something as major as the way you’re disciplining your children. I realized that if I wanted my husband’s help in potty training our daughter, then he had to have some ownership of how we were doing it.
The “Other Spouses Do…” Fight
Him: *pinning ribbons on dress uniform* You know, So-and-So does this for her husband.
Me: Oh really? Does she have a 2-year-old and 2 part-time jobs?
I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s never a good idea to compare your spouse to another during reintegration. Or ever. Mmkay?
The “It’s Not A Fight It’s A Discussion” Fight
Yeah, it’s a fight. When you’ve been doing the heavy lifting on the homefront, it’s hard not to take any constructive criticism, well, constructively. It can feel like an attack, and if you’re like me, you dig in when someone who hasn’t been there suddenly tries to tell you what to do.
I’m sure some people will read this and think what a terrible marriage I have. The thing is, we have a great relationship. We experienced all of the above, and we came out stronger.
All it took was telling each other how much we hated the other’s face as we hugged it out to get us to laugh and forgive.
If you see your relationship reflected in these fights, all that means is that you’re normal. If you’re in the midst of it, know that this too shall pass. Just because certain arguments are somewhat unavoidable, doesn’t mean they’re earth-shattering.
Take a deep breath, remember how much you love your soldier, and maybe turn the light off in the garage. Just trust me on this one.
Kimmie Fink is a stay-at-home mom, staff writer at Romper, and consultant, Expert Trainer, Nationally Certified Facilitator, and blogger for Welcoming Schools, a project of the Human Rights Campaign. Her work has also been featured on Scary Mommy, BLUNTmoms, NextGen MilSpouse, and Sammiches and Psych Meds. Kimmie blogs on issues of diversity and equity for elementary educators and parents of young children. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.