Heather Greene Hinckley (wife talking about her husband’s return from Iraq): “It was like heaven for about two to three weeks, and then it was like the largest black cloud known to man came floating over our heads. I hated him and wanted him to leave again. He was angry with me because he didn’t have the same role as when he left. Thank God we have the relationship that we do and we were able to weave together, work together, and talk together to get through.”
I'm not sure if civialian wives will fully understand this quote. I mean, I know any wife (ahem, spouse) can relate to being some sort of angry when their husband says they'll call and he doesn't, or the garbage didn't get taken out. It's probably hard for most, though, to imagine that life can some times be more difficult when their husband is around. I mean, can you suppose doing every single thing your way and then having your husband back after more than half a year? How much do you change (for the better, obviously!) in 6 -8 months? Can you imagine your husband having been gone so long he had to take a class to learn how to "reincorporate" himself in to his family's life? Military wives will understand The Cycle or ECOD (Emotional Cycle of Deployment). Even if a military wife has never had a name for it, she's felt all of the emotions. Military wives don't mean to feel anger, but think of missing out on more than 6 months of speaking to your husnbad. Missing his touch, hearing his words, smelling his scent, watching him play with your children. Anger just happens.
It's hard thinking of this, in advance. To most, it's "early" but we really don't have much time. John is underway here and there and then it's "time." I'm starting to get things in order: ordering Daddy Dolls, planning trips, thinking of crafty ways to bide our months, and realizing it's all true.
Emotions run high (I CAN DO THIS!) and low (OMG I HAVEN'T SPENT ONE RESTFULL NIGHT WITH MY HUSBAND...THIS IS REALLY GOING TO HURT OUR MARRIAGE). Emotions. Emotions. It gets blurry. What am I supposed to feel? Who the hell has time to "feeeel" with two toddlers, a house, and extra hands around to help? WTF are feelings?
According to most sources, there are five stages of the ECOD. However, with new Operation Tempos (OPTEMPOs) from the past few years seven stages have been identified for military families.
Stage 1 – Anticipation of Departure
Stage 2 – Detachment and Withdrawal
Stage 3 – Emotional Disorganization
Stage 4 – Recovery and Stabilization
Stage 5 – Anticipation of Return
Stage 6 – Return Adjustment and Renegotiation
Stage 7 – Reintegration and Stabilization
Stage 1- Anticipation of Departure: In this stage, spouses may alternately feel denial and anticipation of loss. As reality sinks in, tempers may flare as couples attempt to take care of all the items on a family pre-deployment checklist, while striving to make time for “memorable” moments. In the new emotional cycles of deployment, Stage 1 may begin again before a couple
or family has even had time to renegotiate a shared vision of who they are after the changes from the last deployment.
We are --->here. One minute I'm Rosie the Riveter, the next I'm an emotional wreck. I cried when, two days before we left for Lynchburg, I realized my favorite camera lense was broken. What if I missed one of the boys' last Daddy memories? It's a horrible stage, but expected.
Stage 2 – Detachment and Withdrawal: In this stage, service members become more and more psychologically prepared for deployment, focusing on the mission and their unit. Bonding with their fellow service members is essential to unit cohesion, but this may create emotional distance within the marriage. Sadness and anger occur as couples attempt to protect themselves from the hurt of separation. In the new emotional cycles of deployment, as this stage happens more often and more frequently, marital problems may escalate. When a husband or wife must repeatedly create emotional “distance”, they may gradually shut down their emotions. It may seem easier to just feel “numb” rather than sad, but the lack of emotional connection to your spouse can lead to difficulties in a marriage.
We experienced this while stationed in Japan and I know it will happen again. Not the "bonding with fellow service members" but the "protecting yourself" part. You have to protect yourself and your children and this creats a severe line. An inevitable but sever scar. It will always be there, but you'll always be able to look back on it and remember the shit you waded through.
Stage 3- Emotional Disorganization: With back to back deployments, one might think that this stage of adjusting to new responsibilities and being alone would get easier. Although a military spouse may be familiar with the routine, (s)he may also be experiencing “burn-out” and fatigue from the last deployment, and feel overwhelmed at starting this stage again.
I am already emotionally disorganized so this will be intersting!
Stage 4- Recovery and Stabilization: Here spouses realize they are fundamentally resilient and able to cope with the deployment. They develop increased confidence and a positive outlook. With back to back deployments, however, spouses may find it hard to muster the emotional strength required, but many resources are available to provide needed support.
When you realize how much you can do on your own, you can't help but stick your chest out and be proud. But, have you ever been the man and woman of your house? It's hard on the hubs when he comes back from so many months of gogogogo and realizes he has no "job" at home.
Stage 5- Anticipation of Return: This is generally a happy and hectic time spent preparing for the return of the service member. Spouses, children and parents of the service member need to talk about realistic plans and expectations for the return and reunion.
What do you think? Trench coat with nothing under it or super sexy sun dress with nothing under it? ;0)
Stage 6 – Return Adjustment and Renegotiation: Couples and families must reset their expectations and renegotiate their roles during this stage. The key to successful adjustment and renegotiation is open communication. Families also need to be prepared to deal with the effects of combat stress on the returning service member. Such stress and trauma can be difficult to deal with. Troops with combat stress are often irritable, guarded, and want to be alone. Some may use increased alcohol or drugs in a failed attempt to “numb” the emotional pain they are experiencing. Attempts at renegotiation may result in increasing marital arguments.
Stage 7- Reintegration and Stabilization: This stage can take up to 6 months as the couple and family stabilize their relationships anew. As noted with Stage 6, the presence of
combat stress can severely disrupt the stabilization process. Reintegration and stabilization can hit more roadblocks when a family must make a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move immediately upon the return of the service member. Back to back deployments create stress as families stabilize only to begin Stage 1 once again.
This will be the case. We'll be up for orders in Jan/Feb and then, as John returns home I will begin the move process with the boys.
For me, being separated by an ocean or a contenent isn't tough. I've been there before. Explaining where Daddy is, day after day, week after week is heart-wrenching. At times, it seems like I'm the only one but I know better. There are Daddy's that don't come back and marriages that don't survive. There is always someone that has it worse.