After an extended deployment with all its unique stresses comes the long-anticipated reunion. Unfortunately, reunions can be stressful. After the initial excitement, resentment and stuffed emotions may surface. Idealistic perceptions are quickly dashed, and forgotten problems, which existed prior to the deployment, haven't vanished--they've merely been on hold.
It's important not to use past hurts as weapons against each other. Forgiveness is not forgetting or pretending that nothing has happened. When you remember the hurt, remember your forgiveness. The Hebrew word for forgiveness means "to have anger in one's fist and to release it."
Some soldiers return home with a critical attitude, ready to inspect, take control, and fix the mess their families have made. Maybe things aren't running smoothly, but family members have had to cope as best as they could. Returning spouses should respect the decisions made in their absence and be positive about their spouse's accomplishments.
Troops may return home only to discover their spouses have become more confident and independent. They've had to operate alone during the months apart, and have grown by the experience.
Feeling Like an Outsider
Some soldiers hesitate to re-enter the family system since it's not easy to pick up where they left off. They may feel like an outsider or appear indecisive. Perhaps the best way to return is initially as an honored guest-- expecting their children to turn to the remaining spouse for permission, and letting the rules stand until mom and dad have a chance to calmly renegotiate.
If a couple has been actively and regularly communicating concern and support, they may discover they have a stronger marriage when they are brought together again. These couples may wish to renew their wedding vows--or at least re-dedicate themselves to one other--in an intentional act of commitment to each other and to God. Their home church can be a supportive part of that celebration.
The adjustments families need to make can be improved by a good understanding of the stresses of separation and a strategy for thriving.
Robert Leroe has a Doctor of Ministry degree from Drew University. A former Army brat with 25 years of military service, he is the Chaplaincy Endorser and Pastor of the Cliftondale Congregational Church in Saugus, Massachusetts.