If I’d known better, I would’ve stayed home until I got the “official” phone call. My husband was finally coming home from deployment after months away on ship.
36 weeks pregnant (with a soon to be 10 lb baby) with a very energetic toddler in the peak of an oppressively hot summer, and I was so ready for my husband to hurry up and get home.
Related: Having a baby with a service member
I’m not sure why after years of military life I actually expected him to come home on time. Maybe it was because several people called me and confirmed that the ship was set to arrive “any time now” and that it “would be pulling in soon.”
And then…I waited some more.
You know the crazy thing about military homecomings? The date and time changes so much that you are ready to throw your hands up in the air and forget about the whole thing by the time it actually happens.
Finally, I got the call at 11 pm.
The ship docked and they were ready to unload, which meant my husband would be ready for pick up around 2 o’clock in the morning.
I know the military doesn’t care that I am dragging my family out of bed at 2 am to go pick up my husband. But 2 am doesn’t exactly speak picturesque reunion to me. Rather it shouts tired momma sans make up, kids dressed in jammies who barely understand what in the world is happening, and a service member who is ready to eat a home-cooked meal and sleep in his own bed.
You will spend as much time apart, as you do together.
Deployments, field training, and TDY will all keep your service member away from home. And during these times of separation, you will have a lot of time to think about things. Stay focused on what’s really important—keeping a strong marriage—and take actionable steps to achieve it.
Girl, you need help.
Whether help comes from friends or family members or even a cleaning lady or a babysitter, you will need help at some point. Getting help keeps you sane. It prevents overwhelm. And it enables you to take a deep breath and drink a cup of coffee every once and a while.
Homecoming is the hardest part of the deployment.
What do you call a military homecoming happens when it is supposed to? A military life miracle.
Homecoming rarely happens when they say it will. Waiting and waiting and dates changing and more waiting. Hang in there. Stay flexible.
Adjusting to life as a family again? It’s challenging and messy. It’s definitely not like the movies.
You will have tough conversations more often than you care to admit.
Tuto, we aren’t in the 1950s anymore. Wills and power of attorney are important to have for both you and your spouse. If you have kids, setting up guardianship for your children is uber important. Talking about death, dying, finances, how you will handle separations, and big military moves are so important.
Honest conversations are the backbone of a strong military relationship. They aren’t easy conversations, but they are best to have when you are happy and healthy, rather than in the middle of a crisis, emergency or stressful situation.
Home really is where your heart is.
Home stops being a permanent place and becomes a feeling associated with a person. Your military family is your home no matter where in the world you are. This is something all modern military couples know true.
You cannot take lack of communication personally.
In our modern world, we are accustomed to instant access via social media, Skype and FaceTime. During deployment and separations, however, lack of communication is inevitable. This doesn’t mean you don’t care and love each other just the same; it simply means deployment sucks.
The military isn’t forever, but your relationship is.
It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, especially if your service member plans on a long career. Relationships are a marathon filled with unexpected hills and valleys and twists and turns. Keep your eye on the finish line.
“Things turn out the best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” ~ John Wooden
Always remember YOU. Have your own friends, hobbies and career.
It’s easy to let military life swallow you whole. To leave behind your friends, family, career and dreams. But in a few years, you’ll look back and wonder what happened to you. You’ll wonder where you went.
Always keep something important just for you. Maybe it’s a regular hobby. Maybe it’s classes you take online or in-person. Or maybe it’s getting a job despite all the barriers. Or maybe it’s a weekly lunch date with friends. Remember YOU.
You grow a relationship beyond what you ever expected. And it’s pretty amazing.
Yes, military relationships are hard. But with every great relationship comes a set of unforeseen challenges, forcing you to fight for your marriage each complicated step of the way.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell
That’s what makes a great relationship great! That’s what makes a military relationship worth fighting for. In the end you are left with a beautiful relationship that you wouldn’t trade for the world.
The night he came home.
Ready to pick up my husband at 2 am, my toddler and I patiently sat in my car in the middle of a dark parking lot. My toddler patiently oblivious to what we were doing in a parking lot. My pregnant belly now 3 times bigger than when my husband last saw me.
The door opened. I knew everything was going to be okay the moment our eyes met. We smiled. We said nothing. Instead, we simply gave each other “the look.” It’s the look where you both know you’ve done this way too many times before. It’s the look where all the frustration and annoyance washes away and you simply feel love. It’s the look where you know you’re in it for the long haul.
After a good 10 seconds of silence, our toddler shouted, “DA DA! DA DA!”
My husband shouted, “Hey Buddy! It’s so good to see you!”
And then, he hopped in the car and we went home. It was as simple and mundane as it sounds. But our hearts felt a love so enormous they could literally burst at any moment. We were together again, and that’s all that mattered.