Homecoming and return from deployment are incredibly happy and significant times for military members and their families. Military members look forward to a return to their loved ones, a safe environment, the opportunity to reconnect, and the chance to start building new memories. Family members look forward to once again having a “complete” household with everyone there, a relief from constant worrying, and making the service member part of their daily lives again.
With all these great intentions, we still are the people that we were during the period of separation. The returned service member was probably often in danger, living in austere conditions, and used to immediate comprehension and orders to resolve problems. Family members were used to making decisions alone, operating an incredible balancing act to make sure everything was done, and, more than likely, a detailed schedule and household plan.
Your goal with communication is to hear and be heard so that both parties understand what the other wants, feels, and feels confident that the other spouse understands their feelings. Here are a few tips to bridge these worlds for an effective and heartfelt communication style.
1. Start with a Small Homecoming Celebration. Elaborate homecoming parties, surprising family members, and others have been the rage for years on internet media. Save the grandiose and have a small get together with immediate friends and family in a private location. Small Backyard BBQ’s for example are ideal because they allow great conversation, space to play with the kids, and it lets the service member enjoy being home. If a large party is important for both spouses, then do it in a few weeks.
2. Reintroduction to the Household. It’s a great idea to reintroduce the service member where things are in the house and why and to go into detail on the weekly schedule day-by-day. A great way to build communication is to understand the why and how of the day-to-day schedule so that the military member knows how and where to fit in. These reintroduction sessions(s) are a great way to have face-to-face, engaging, and meaningful conversation on a subject that matters to you: your life together.
3. Make the Environment Right for Conversation. Pick a time and a place to talk where the spouse and the service member are awake, relaxed, engaged, and focused. If you have to put smart phones in the freezer, then by all means do it so you are focused on each other. The Service member may be awake and ready to talk at 5 AM, but for the other spouse with thoughts of breakfast, outfits for school, and getting backpacks ready so everyone is out the door at 7:30 AM, this will be a difficult time to focus. A great option is to meet for lunch and that way it’s just the two of you.
4. Start with Small Sessions on Mutually Enjoyable Topics. Avoid your first few conversations back to start discussing life changing and / or life altering topics. Instead, start small with things that you read and liked or some new food that you tried. The point of these conversations is to listen, to engage, to interact, and renew your connection and trust. These fun, engaging conversations on life’s joys lead to success with larger conversations.
5. Include Alone Time for Both Spouses. Alone time often helps communication. Homecomings are intense for both spouses whether you were deployed or not. Schedule an hour of alone time for each person after some of your communication times, daily if you can make that happen. A time to think and understand outside of the household often leads to more meaningful communication when you are back together.
6. Expect A Few Bumps, But Look For Support if You Feel You Are Going Over a Cliff. Relearning how to communicate after a deployment is a sometimes difficult process, but it is by no means an impossible task. Remember that relationship time is always changing and evolving. Just because you had an either a good or a challenged communication style before deployment does not guarantee that you will have the same communication style afterwards. If you feel you need some help, there is an array of military, community, and other support networks to help. The point is, if you feel it’s not working as well as it should, go and get someone to help and go together.
Welcome back. Communication is hard work for any couple regardless of their profession or age. Make sure you use this opportunity offered by the redeployment homecoming to renew, build, and foster a great communication style that you both are happy about.
Have something to add to this story? Share your advice in the comments below:
About the Blogger:
Chad Storlie is the author of two books: Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success. Both books teach how to translate and apply military skills to business. An adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, NE. Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces officer with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics. He has been published in The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and over 40 other publications. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.
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