In this week’s Monday Minute, Liz kicks off our July theme of transitions with five ways we can all flourish during troubling transitions after Deployment.
Flourish in Transitions after Deployment
by Liz Giertz
Military families constantly face troubling transitions from relocation to reenlistment to retirement. But perhaps the hardest and most misunderstood is the reintegration of the uniformed military member back into family life following a deployment.
The whole world weeps tears of joy with us as they watch welcome home ceremonies. While we do enjoy many big and small benefits with reunification (ahem… an end to forced celibacy), one of the greatest myths about military life is that everything is rainbows and unicorns once the military member returns home. And honestly, military families are guilty of encouraging the spread of this falsehood.
We pretend everything is wonderful. Because that’s what the world expects of us. We constantly say how grateful we are to be under the same roof again. Because there are so many who are far less fortunate. We blame exhaustion and quality family time for our lack of social engagement. Because it sounds a lot better than admitting we’re struggling to find our groove as a family again.
But what if we got honest and admitted our struggles. To ourselves and each other. I’ve found when I get brave enough to admit I’m in a mess, I discover I’m not alone.
Welcome Home is Just the Beginning
Just like a wedding is only the beginning of a marriage, the welcome home ceremony is only the tip of the iceberg of reintegration. We become like newlyweds learning to live together again. Only we bring a whole lot more baggage to the party this time around. Husbands have changed. Wives have changed. Children have changed. It doesn’t matter if the deployment was ninety days or fifteen months, the passing of time changes us all.
While the streets of Baghdad may be more stressful for the service member than a desk job in Kuwait, simply being absent produces anxiety in the spouse and kids who wait at home. Difficult discussions we didn’t have time for during the deployment are still hard. Unmet expectations still sting. Neither party really knows the full extent of what went on while they were apart. The one who was away is often stinky and starving after traveling for days on end. And the one who was home is frayed and frazzled after making grand preparations for the big day. Both of them are exhausted. As good as it is to be in each other’s arms again, the support network they knew during the deployment seems distant now.
If you’ve endured a deployment of any length this probably sounds pretty familiar. But it doesn’t sound like a formula for flourishing to me. But there is help and hope. Here are 5 tactics I’ve discovered for flourishing in troubling transitions.
How to Flourish in Troubling Transitions After Deployment
- Communicate Effectively. Unmet expectation gets blamed a lot of messes in marriage. But the root cause is a failure to communicate. Expectations we don’t communicate are just wishes. And no matter how much we might think our spouses should, no one can read minds. We lose our right to feel hurt if we haven’t made ourselves heard and understood. Use this time to re-discover your spouse’s best method for communication.
- Be Intentional. Do something together. The best way to close the distance between you and your spouse is for you both to grow closer to God. A couples’ Bible study would be a great way to remember why you fell in love in the first place, reconnect, and re-open the lines of communication.
- Set Goals. The natural pause created by the end of a deployment enables us to make changes that would otherwise feel awkward. We can assess our lives and families and make plans to be better in the short and the long term. Setting goals as a couple encourages us to have a shared vision for our families and gives us something to work toward together. Changes are harder to make once you re-establish routines.
- Be Honest. With yourself, your spouse, and those in your inner circle of support. Don’t be afraid to ask them to pray in specific ways about your transition. Even hiding hard truths with good intentions can cause a divide when discovered.
- Get Help. So many agencies are available to help military families navigate transitions. Getting help for your marriage and your family doesn’t make you weak, it makes you a fighter! God created and placed each of us strategically in community because he intends for us to help one another.
And here’s a truth you can stand on during troublesome transitions: No matter how much things change, God never does. We can rely on him to be faithful, loving, and always working for our best interests. When we believe this and trust him, we can flourish no matter how tough the transition feels.
We flourish during difficult transitions after deployment by being honest and intentional, communicating effectively, setting goals as a family, and getting help when we need it. For more tools, tips, and resources for flourishing in times of transition visit the Planting Roots Deployment Resource Page!
Dear Lord, as we approach the end of a deployment prepare our hearts for this transition. May we grow closer to you and each other and not apart. Bring the help we need to truly flourish. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Verses to Ponder
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2