Return, reunion & reintegration (R3) after a military deployment can be a time of tremendous happiness and relief. But the transition back to family life can also bring its share of challenges. Fortunately there are steps that both returning service members and their spouses can take to make the return to family life as joyful and stress-free as possible.
Couples who have been separated by military deployment often look forward to a service member's return as a time of happiness and a chance to get back to normal life. Children look forward to having a missing parent back at home. The deployed service member looks forward to a joyful reunion and the comforts of home.
However, mixed in with those feelings of excitement and anticipation are also some perfectly normal worries and resentments. Husbands and wives may worry that their spouse has changed. They may be concerned about giving up the independence that being apart has allowed them. While everyone in the family looks forward to getting back together, they may also have mixed feelings about having been separated in the first place - a feeling that children sometimes express very openly and may resemble anger.
At the end of this page a number of additional resources are hilighted, but a basic checklist of things to consider is provided below:
Before the Reunion
- Communicate the details of the return plan & schedule
- Have a backup plan in case flights are delayed or family can't make it
- Think carefully about whether to plan something special to do together as a couple or with family, or if it might be best at first to rest without expectations
- Keep plans simple and flexible
- Try to minimize expectations -- be understanding if the reunion doesn't match plans or expectations
- Be patient if no one is there when you arrive
- Make a conscious effort to make only positive comments
- Look for positive changes when you arrive home -- show your appreciation for the extra work your spouse has taken on while you were gone
- Anticipate that children may be shy
Spouses at Home
- Do something simple yet special to welcome your returning service member home: perhaps a banner or a similar decoration
- Understand that you may feel out of sync with your spouse
- Allow time to reconnect
Service Members: The First Week/Month
- Understand that it's normal to feel out of sync at first
- Make time for family
- Talk with your spouse & children
- Take time to understand how the family has changed while you've been gone
- Spend time with each family member individually
- Watch your spending: it's tempting to have celebratory dinners or buy special gifts but keep an eye on your budget as income will likely decrease with the end of special pays from deployment
- Intimacy & sexual relations may be awkward at first: allow time for readjustment and reconnection
- Take your time when reintroducing expectations
- Talk with each other: you've both been through separate experiences and have changed some
- Expect children to test the rules now that both parents are home
- Don't give up activities that you enjoy and that help you relax
- Sort out the household responsibilities - who makes which decisions, and who takes care of which household tasks
- Talking through these adjustments can be hard if the service member has seen or experienced violent action during deployment
- Be mindful of signs of combat stress if the service member is still not adjusting well. These include being uncharacteristically angry, depressed or having trouble sleeping. This can compound any family or relationship problems you may be experiencing. If these symptoms persist, it's important for the service member to seek professional help.
The BOG phase is the time to start planning for the relational impacts of R3. At a minimum, consider reviewing these resources and discussing them with your loved ones at least three months out from you return date.