In case you missed it, Ryan is home! He returned from his most recent TDY this past Friday, and we’re slowly but surely settling back in as a family – a process you’d think we’re completely comfortable and familiar with at this point in our lives together. I’ve mentioned it before though, and I’ll mention it again; the military lifestyle doesn’t always favor familial relationships, and it’s not an easy process to weather as a family. Last year, I posted about the reality of reintegration, something that we’re far too familiar with as a family and couple now, but I wanted to take the time to address what it really means to a military couple. Each time Ryan leaves and returns, we find ourselves finding our new shape as a military couple, and it’s daunting.
This past TDY wasn’t too long. Ryan was only gone about five weeks. All in all, in terms of time apart, it wasn’t that bad, but here’s the elephant in the room. Each time a servicemember leaves, they’re forced into a situation in which they live alone again. For better or worse, they revert to some semblance of bachelorhood in which they look out for number one and, of course, the team/unit/troop, and so on and so forth. And, while they transition to that new role on the service side, the spouse is left behind to find their new shape. The kids and I adapt. We stay busy. We go places and do things, and I find a new drive, focus, and goal each time. We create a new routine, and we create a new shape each time, adapting and overcoming the challenges together.
And then your servicemember comes home.
It’s fantastic, and blissful, and perfect, and wonderful, and it’s downright hard. It doesn’t matter how hard they’re gone, and it doesn’t matter how much you love them. It’s hard.
As a military family, we learn to exist as one shape for a very long time, and then that shape is dissected into pieces and forced to find a new shape. Then, those pieces are placed together again and somehow have to find a shape that fits together once again. It’s an elaborate puzzle that never really stays the same and because of the challenges of military life and growing both individually and as a couple, that shape is constantly evolving over time. I’ll admit, the more time we spend apart, the more I get why this lifestyle doesn’t work for so many couples. Finding our new shape as a military couple is hard work. It’s not easy, and it’s not always fun. Yes, it is always worth it, and it never diminishes the love and partnership that this lifestyle takes, but it’s also a hardship that many couples never have to experience or weather together.
I’ve mentioned before that I will always prefer deployments to TDYs, and this is why. With a long, continuous deployment, we have time as a couple and individuals to prepare ourselves for finding our new shapes on both sides of the equation. With a TDY, the separation is shorter, and just as you begin to adapt to being apart, you have to change course and adapt to being together again. It’s a maze in the best of times.
So, how do we do it? Honestly, it’s a constant work in process. It’s about communication and giving each other space to breathe – literally and figuratively. It’s about letting those pieces of the puzzle find their new shape again naturally, and it takes time. We stay busy while we adjust, learning each other’s individual patterns and begin to adapt little by little.
And yes, it’s one hundred percent worth it to put in the work.