Military Deployment is hard on marriages and families. We need to pray for our deployed men and women and the spouses and families left back home. We also need to encourage them in every way we can. We can do that by letting them know we are praying for them, forward links to good articles and online communities to help them sort through all the challenges.
Also, the principles in The Marriage Turnaround can help as well. Many of the myths that are addressed are the same type of thinking that military couples get caught up in. Bad thinking can lead to bad directions in marriage. Right thinking can lead to the right emotions and behaviors.
Recent Military Divorce Stats
The divorce rate in the armed forces rose again in the past year, the Pentagon said, and is now is a full percentage point higher than around the time of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. There were an estimated 27,312 divorces among roughly 765,000 married members of the active-duty Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps in the budget year that ended Sept. 30. That is a divorce rate of about 3.6 percent for the fiscal year 2009, compared with 3.4 percent a year earlier, according to figures from the Defense Manpower Data Center. In late 2001 the reported rate was 2.6 percent. As in previous years, women in uniform had much higher divorce rates than their male counterparts ”¹ 7.7 percent in 2009, compared with 3 percent for men. There is no comparable annual system for tracking the civilian divorce rate, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in 2005 that 43 percent of all first marriages ended in divorce within 10 years. (AP November 27, 2009)
After serving as an active member in war or service assignment overseas, homecoming is both sweet and bitter. It is sweet from the angle of reuniting with your spouse and kids. You no longer simply dream about or yearn to hold your family, it is now a reality. The sights, sounds and security of home are now genuine.
The bitter portion of coming home can dampen the excitement when the “party” is over and reality of adjustment begins to creep in.
The sights, sounds and challenges of deployment are the world you lived in 24/7 for months, but now the sights, sounds, sights and challenges of family life is realistic for you now.
Though it is great to be home, the baby’s diaper has to be changed, the dripping sink must be fixed, the floor has to be vacuumed, the bills should have been paid six weeks ago.
To add to that, you notice how your spouse has changed and wonder why they may have grown so anxious and maybe even cold during your absence.
The kids have continued to develop at warp speed and may act and look like someone else’s kids. There is this mysterious window, a space of time, which is gone to never be reclaimed. During this unknown period, so much has occurred and you desperately seek to make sense of it all.
Stress and anxiety has been enormously high, frustrations have mounted. Now you are faced with the question “how in the world can I readjust to my family who I love dearly, but now seems like the family down the street in stead of your own?”
Here are a few suggestions to consider as you transition back home:
· Brief/ educate yourself. Before you return, try to gain as much information about making the transition from war to home. Consult your branch’s Chaplain Family Life Center or Family Assistance Center. Ask for resources and even counseling services that may help you to identify normal transitional challenges and how you can prepare for those issues. Ask fellow soldiers who have experienced returning home before for their advice. Don’t assume you know how to handle it,
· Give yourself time. If possible, take vacation or personal time off to give yourself time to decompress and time to reconnect with your family. One of the worst things that you can do is unnecessarily recommit to assignments or work that will consume valuable family time. Invest your time and energy in your family, not your career. You may be tempted to go out with your deployment buddies or spend a great deal of time alone but resist the temptation. Reinvesting time with your spouse and family is the wisest investment of time and focus.
· Realize that your spouse and children may be different. Don’t expect your marriage or kids to have slipped in to some type of “hyper-suspension” state during your absence. Life went on, so did your family. And be rest assured, as they went on with daily life, so did stress, anxiety, frustrations and crisis. Each one of these elements leaves behind traces of after effects including exhaustion, bitterness and confusion. Though you have your own baggage to deal with, expect your family to have been affected by your absence as well. Understanding the reality of these issues helps you to accept and deal with adjusting to family change.
· Take time to reconnect. Reestablishing closeness and intimacy in your marriage and with your kids is important, but takes time. Your absence created a strain on your closeness. Intimacy is built by spending time with, communicating and interacting with your family. Absence naturally impacts this connection. The only way to regain it is by spending time together. Be intentional about telling your family what they mean to you, how much you missed them, what you thought about while gone and most importantly listening to how they felt and currently feel. Don’t try to fix the problem, just listen.
· Be Flexible. You are no longer barking orders or receiving commands from a soldier, this is your family. They can’t perform like your soldier buddy, they are your family. Flexibility and understanding is key in how you communicate, interact and respond to your spouse and children. Choose your battles. Remember you are home.
· Be real. Don’t let pride or strength which may have carried you through deployment stand in the way of admitting that you may need help. Real strength is saying that I have been impacted deeply by what I have gone through and I will do whatever it takes to deal with it properly. It takes real strength to get help when you need it.
Read more from Mitch at MitchTempleOnline.com
Used with permission. Mitch is the Director of Marriage at Focus on the Family.