One of the first lessons learned by military spouses during a long separation is that coming home and being one-half of a couple again takes some getting used to. Whether by talking on the phone, video chatting or written letters, you and your partner probably succeeded in staying close but, now that you’re back to living together, some fine-tuning may be needed for the relationship to run smoothly again.
Here are some tips on how to reconnect:
- Expect everything to feel a little awkward at first. It’s entirely normal. You haven't spent time in one another's presence in a while, so you have to get back in the routine of being together. The awkwardness has the potential to be part of the fun of reuniting - remember your first kiss as a couple? That was probably a little awkward, but in an exciting kind of way.
- Don’t rush things. Take some time to get to know each other again. To avoid disappointment, make intimacy – not sex –the focus of your reunion. Sex can resume immediately, but intimacy takes longer to re-establish. Set aside time to do something fun together where you can put the responsibilities of life on the back burner for an hour or two and enjoy each other's company.
- Be sensitive to your spouse’s needs. Acknowledge the differences between men and women. Men tend to focus on the physical relationship while women may concentrate more on verbal communication and affection.
- Communicate. Talk with your spouse about your wartime experiences and what you’re feeling. It will help relieve your stress as well as your spouse’s.
- Avoid power struggles. It’s very important to acknowledge the many responsibilities your spouse had to shoulder in your absence. Take time to ease back into your routine, or create a new routine. Be clear about who is in responsible for what. This covers everything, from parenting duties to paying the bills on time.
- Check yourself emotionally to see if you’ve brought home any “extra baggage” (such as mood swings, or new bad habits) from the battlefield. Encourage your partner to do the same in a way that is constructive. When talking about these issues, ask your partner to focus on behaviors and feelings (For example, "When you're short with me, I feel like I've done something to upset you," is a lot better than, "You have a bad temper lately."). Try not to react negatively if he or she shares some observations about your behavior. Instead, think about why you might be acting or feeling a certain way, and do whatever’s necessary to resolve the issues before they take a toll on your relationship.
- Make the most of the homecoming opportunity. This is your chance to address things about your relationship that you or your spouse didn’t like before, like a fresh start, or to build upon the intimacy you’ve always shared.
- If the relationship becomes strained, get a “second opinion.” All couples can benefit from the objective observations of another party. You have many options to choose from: your faith leader, a service chaplain, a family services counselor or a mental health professional. Keep your relationship strong by getting the help you need.