Within 24 hours of the homecoming ceremony, you're bound to run into at least one minor marital hurdle. Whether the sex is awkward or you're having trouble communicating, the issues you're facing are normal, solvable and often short-term.
What are these hurdles, and how can you conquer them?
Hurdle: Getting reacquainted
Conquer: Date your spouse! Both of you have changed, if only in small ways, since the commencement of deployment. Have fun relearning each other's favorite food, movie and date-night activity. Does he still like sleeping on the cold side of the pillow? Does she still love ketchup on her eggs? Pick-up a book of "if" questions or a board game that will facilitate the process to getting reacquainted.
Hurdle: Divvying up duties
Conquer: Let your spouse know of your desire to keep-up with additional household duties while he adjusts to home life. In the mean time, complete some chores together as you mutually brainstorm a flexible set-up that will work best for both of you. And don't forget to have a balled-sock fight or squirt each other with the hose while doing dishes. Chores don't have to be drudgery when a friend's involved!
Conquer: Deployments are capable of financially disengaging couples. The spouse at home may take care of all finances or spouses make keep separate budgets during the deployment. Either way, gaining financial unity shortly after homecoming is essential. Re-assess your pre-deployment budget over a carry-out pizza or at your favorite coffee shop. Remember, if you were receiving hazard pay, you won't be any longer. Assign each incoming dollar to a category, and make sure one of those categories is "savings." Pay down debt, pay the bills and set aside a few bucks each month to invest in your marriage. Apply them to a date night or surprise present for your spouse.
Conquer: It's hard to understand from an outsider's perspective, but anxiety, readjustment, job stress and painful memories can all lead to unexplained irritability from your returning service member. Let your spouse know you see his distress. Ask if there's any way you can help, or just lend a listening ear. If your spouse is resistant, let him know you love him and give him some space.
Hurdle: Differing sex drives
Conquer: Many returning service members find their sex drives are lower than they were prior to deployment. (Stress, depression and exhaustion can also dampen a sex drive.) Discuss your sexual needs with your spouse. Do your best to be understanding, and remember: As a married couple, your bodies belong to each other.
Hurdle: Emotional stonewalling
Conquer: Many service members emotionally disengage during battle as a means of coping. It's a tough habit to turn off once they arrive home, and troubling memories don't just disappear. Succinctly let your spouse know you sense an emotional disconnect. Even if he is resistant to sharing his feelings, you can share yours. Above all, be patient.
Hurdle: Shaky faith
Conquer: Faith is often found and lost, both temporarily and permanently, on the battlefield. If your husband is a Christian, he may be wondering how a kind, loving God can let his comrade (a husband and father of four) return home in a body bag. These questions are normal, both by human standards and by God's. Pray for spiritual intimacy, and seek to walk alongside him during his struggles. Don't pretend to have all the answers. Be honest about your own spiritual struggles, and "wrestle" with God together.