Getting ready for a deployment starts long before the spouse actually leaves. Many people tend to:
a) Ignore/deny that the deployment will actually happen.
b) Fantasize that the ship will sink or plane will break before the soldiers get on it, or that something will happen so their spouse does not have to leave.
c) Try to avoid the recognition of the reality of departure - that a small event, a date or a commonplace happening will trigger an emotional and/or cognition of the fact that the departure is imminent and real.
Thus the cycle begins:
- ANTICIPATION OF DEPARTURE
- from 1-6 weeks prior to leaving, people may experience:
1) Difficulty accepting the reality of leaving or separating
2) Crying unexpectedly at "silly' things-- allow this to happen as it is essential to release the varying emotions
3) Feel an increase of tension, arguments may occur
4) A cramming in of activities/projects-- fixing up the house, lawn mower, washing machine, etc.
5) Experiencing feelings of anger, frustration and emotional distance between a couple
6) Some couples dent the separations likely occurrence by putting off the chores, discussions, etc., not facing the inevitable, procrastinating on projects
7) Difficulty in intimacy and sexual relations. It is hard to feel warm and loving when feelings angry at each other. Some say "It's easier just to let him go," or an increase in activities such as hanging on, or fearing the loss of lover/support person may occur
8) Symptoms of restlessness, irritability, anxiety, feeling an inability to cope and concern about the changes in the home environment that will occur
9) A sense of panic even though good plans have been made and most of the chores done
- DETACHMENT AND WITHDRAWAL
- Last week before departure- A difficult stage where some people may experience:
1) A sense of despair
2) Feeling the marriage is out of control, feeling a desire to separate, to run away to lessen the pain
3) A lack of energy, feeling so fatigue, depression
4) Difficulty in making decisions or keeping self together
5) Ambiguous towards one's partner and sex. It is difficult to be physically intimate when trying to separate emotionally. This should be viewed as a reaction to deployment rather than rejection of each other
6) A stopping of sharing of thoughts and feelings
***Remember these feelings and events are normal- your relationship is not generally breaking up or going down the tubes. Though you are both together in the same house, you are mentally and emotionally preparing for the separation. This is a necessary adjustment to reality.
Sometimes wives think "If you have to go, go" and the husband thinks "Let's get on with it so we can get it over with." Or vice versa depending on which spouse is leaving. Everyone will survive this stage!!!
- EMOTIONAL DISORGANIZATION
- Begins at the start of separation and can last up to 6 weeks into deployment. Partners of experience:
1) Shock when the deployment finally arrives, a feeling that preparation has not been adequate
2) An initial sense of relief that the pain of saying goodbye is finally over, may be followed by feelings of guilt and emotional turmoil- "If I love him, why am I relieved he's gone?"
3) Feeling numb, aimless and without purpose as old routines have been disrupted and new ones have not been established
4) Depression and the desire to withdraw from the world, family, and friends, especially if friends' husbands are home
5) Feeling of being overwhelmed by responsibility and trying to be everything and do it all
6) Sleep disruption- due to loss of security and the support person; tendency to sleep too much (to escape) or too little. Eating disorders may also come to light, or become worse
7) Feeling anger at the husband for not doing everything that needed to be done around the home fro safety/security reasons
8) Feeling anger towards the military for taking spouse away when you needed him/her the most
9) Felling restless, confused, disorganized, indecisive, and irritable at everyone, especially the children
10) Feeling guilty for things that did not (or did) happen before separation
***Getting "stuck" at this stage can create an unwillingness to move on emotionally and can be detrimental to healthy adjustment
- RECOVERY AND STABILIZATION
- Variable between weeks 3-5- For most people, begins several weeks and lasts until about a month before return. Most people begin to:
1) Realize at some point, usually by midway in the deployment, that "Hey, I'm doing OK."
2) Establish a new family pattern that works for them
3) Feel more comfortable with their situation , self, and the reorganization of roles and responsibilities
4) Complete successful experience, which ass to self-confidence and feeling of being able to cope
5) Reach out for support though friends, church, work, wives groups, etc.
6) Eat "cruise food" to save time/energy and to choose priorities- let some things go to have more time
7) Have higher long distance telephone bills- but must learn to keep within budget
8) Go thought the "my syndrome- my house, my car, my kids, etc.
9) Appear more mature and independent as "single" wives- you have developed new activities, accepted more responsibilities to fill the void- while secure in being married
10) Experience more sickness, initially, as increased responsibilities are more stressful until healthy coping skills are practiced
11) Feel vulnerable due to isolation from the husband and even family. Wives may feel uncertain of their abilities and may experience self-doubt
12) Feel asexual- no longer in need of sex or affection- or feel estranged due to suppressed needs and desires. Some women see themselves as unattractive and stop caring for themselves
13) Minor crisis can put person back into the disorganization stage
- ANTICIPATION OF RETURNING
- About 4-6 weeks prior to spouse coming home, people begin to feel a sense of anticipation "He's coming home and I'm not ready!"
1) Compile a long list of things still left to do and begin to pick up the pace to get things done
2) Experience feelings of joy, excitement in anticipation of the spouse's return and being together again
3) Experience feelings of fear and apprehension. "Does he still love me?" "Will he have changed?" "Will he have like what I've done?"
4) Clean house of activities required to fill the void- now- to make room for the man again. Some resentment may be felt at having to give up some of the things and having to change again
5) Experience process of evaluating- "I want him back but what am I going to give up?"
6) Feel tense, nervous and apprehensive- burying fears/concerns in busy work and activities
7) Experience a sense of restlessness again but it is generally productive. Some spouses may feel confused due to the conflicting emotions they are having
8) Put off important decisions until the husband's home gain
9) Experience changes in eating and sleeping patterns developed while the spouse was gone
10) Children also go through a range of emotions and react to the temperament of the parent
- RETURN ADJUSTMENT AND RENEGOTIATION
- First 6 weeks home- The return to home and family stage. The husband and wife are back together physically but are not emotionally adjusted to being together. They still may feel distance and have trouble sharing decisions or talking to each other. Be patient, this stage will take time to complete.
The husband and wife:
1) Need to refocus on the marriage- share experiences, feelings and needs and avoid forcing issues on each other
2) May stop being "single" married spouse and start bering married again
3) May feel a loss of freedom and independence- feel disorganized and out of control as "deployment" routines are disrupted
4) Need to renegotiate roles and responsibilities. Husbands often feel isolated, unwanted, unneeded, which can cause arguments and hurt feelings for both partners
5) Need to be aware that too much togetherness can cause friction due to having been apart so many weeks/months
6) Need to begin to share the decision-making hat should be "their" decision
7) Need to increase their time to talk together and with the children. They may want to plan special activities of short duration as a couple and as a family.
8) Will need to progress slowly with desired sexual relations, which may fall short of expectations. This can be frightening and produce intense emotions. Wives may feel like husband is a stranger and can be hesitant at first about intimate relations.
9) Need ot allow sufficient time to court each other before true intimacy can occur
10) May find questioning threatening and see their partner as being judgmental not just curious
11) May miss the friends that helped them through the separation or who served with them during the deployment
- REINTEGRATION AND STABILIZATION
- Sometimes within 6-12 weeks after homecoming, wives have stopped referring to "my" car, house, kids, and returns to using "we" or "our" and husbands feel more at home, needed, accepted, and valued.
1) New routines have been established and adjusted to by the family.
2) Both partners are feeling more secure, relaxed, and comfortable with each other.
3) The couple and family are back on track emotionally and can enjoy warmth and closeness with each other and their children