Saturday, July 19, 2008

Marriage and Deployment

Marriage and Deployment are not two words that fit well in a sentence together. They don't sound good together, you know? They don't roll off the tongue the way "peanut butter and jelly" does.
Do a favor for me. Take a few minutes and read this article I found: As wars lengthen, toll on military families mounts
It's a bit long, but it's so important for civilians to know what we go through. Throw what you see on Army Wives out the window. When we really get down to it, deployments suck. They don't last two months like they do on that tv drama so many people are in to. It's not romantic when he comes home. It's work. It's struggle. It's him looking around the house wondering why you spent money on that new chair that you obviously didn't need. Or the new bikes for the kids when their old ones were perfectly fine. After all, he didn't get to run around buying fun stuff with the money he was earning.
And it's not just money. It's the fact that the wife and kids kept moving on. The kids grew up (without his permission!), the wife cut her hair and lost a few pounds and started wearing nicer clothes. The kids and wife have their own routine down, and it doesn't include Dad. The chore chart on the fridge (that wasn't there before, mind you), doesn't have a place for Dad's name. The getting-ready-for-school-and-work routine in the morning has no room for Dad in it. And how come the 3-year-old keeps going to Mom for everything? Before Dad left they were best buddies. Inseparable. Now he acts like he barely knows his own dad!
On the flip side of that coin, the wife has her husband home. Who keeps asking her questions. About everything. Why didn't you pay off this bill like I asked you to? When did you start letting Billy go to the park by himself? Doesn't Sarah need her helmet to ride her bike? The wife thinks, "I've got this all under control! I've been doing this for 15 months on my own!" But all of a sudden she's got someone to answer to again.

Like I said. Struggle. The husband is changed from what he saw/did overseas. The wife is changed from a year of dealing with ALL household issues on her own. Instead of changing and growing together, like normal couples do, the military couple has changed and grown apart. The kids aren't used to listening to Daddy. There are mixed feelings about him being home.

What all this boils down to is repeated, long term deployments. Although this is "only" my husband's second, many many of our friends are going through #3 and yes, even #4! Since late 2001, these troops have been deployed over and over, sometimes living in horrible conditions, many times sleep deprivation is the norm, the sweltering climate with a hundred pounds of gear strapped to your back 24/7.... how can that NOT take a toll on you? How can that NOT stress a marriage? Even a normal marriage, sans deployment, has it's fair share of trials and tribulations.

Husband and I are lucky. We talk. A lot. We get our frustrations out. We don't keep much in. "Experts" tell us spouses back home not to overwhelm our guys overseas with our problems. We're told to keep somethings to ourselves and that there are plenty of outlets on our bases to get stuff out if we need to. I say "HA!" My best friend is 7000 miles away. The one I talk to about everything under the sun, and I'm supposed to clam up and not talk about my problems. Sure sometimes I get a, "What am I supposed to do? I'm too far away to help you". Most of the time I get what I need, a shoulder, a pat on the back, a "it's okay, honey". Then I'm recharged and ready to face the rest of the week.

The article talks about families being stretched thin from multiple deployments. Add in to that all of the divorces, domestic violence, and PTSD resulting from those multiple deployments and I say, well DUH! Of course we're stretched thin! The last time I checked, 15 months in a *combat zone* wasn't anyone's idea of a Beaches Resort vacation.


Anonymous said...

"The husband is changed from what he saw/did overseas. The wife is changed from a year of dealing with ALL household issues on her own. Instead of changing and growing together, like normal couples do, the military couple has changed..."

It is so true... sometimes change can be for the better... but even after a year of being home, some of the things that happened over there - things that he saw, have impacted the way he acts and reacts to things here. Not really lovin' that part.


snowflake said...

Oh I saw that article too and like you, can't believe that it is much of a revelation to anyone. It is hard - adjusting to them being gone- then all of us readjusting when they get home. You and your dh do a great job and really are an inspiration to so many. I know I often think of you and how you guys handle things as a guide...

Gina said...

Wow! Finally someone who can see the the "other" side of the homecoming. Everyone keeps asking why I always say...when Daddy comes home everything is going to be turned upside down. Daddy keeps wondering why I constantly remind him that baby girl (2yrs-he deployed just after she turned 1)may not run to him with open arms screaming "Daddy!" and why I constantly remind him that life goes on here..and it doesn't matter if he's not spending any money, because the bills still come and the kids still get sick. The summer is still hot and we still need groceries...etc. Thanks for the post! It's nice to hear someone describle real life after deployment!