Wednesday, August 8, 2012

7 Ways to Deal when the Homecoming Honeymoon Phase Ends

So your Sailor has been away for one, two, six, or maybe even eight months to a year and the big day finally arrives—homecoming. It’s a wonderful, amazing experience that gives military couples the rare chance to have another honeymoon phase. But when the magic wears off, things start to feel a little wrong.

Suddenly your home, the place that you have been busting your ass off to keep in one piece, is being invaded by this dude who throws his crap on the floor and doesn’t want to adhere to all the little routines you’ve created in his absence. Suddenly, you have to start sharing your space again, and you feel a little smothered by the fact that you can’t go anywhere or do anything without having to check in or run it by someone.

photo  ©2011  emilydickinsonridesabmx, Flickr

You knew you were going to be sharing your living space with this man again, but you were thinking he could help take the trash out and change that light bulb that has been out for the last four months—you didn’t think he’d want to do things differently.

Then the guilt and confusion kicks in—you know this is his house too, and he should have some say, but the things he keeps saying are downright dumb. Your way was better! You feel like the honeymoon phase should last forever because you are so happy he’s not gone anymore, but he’s driving you freaking crazy!

Wait. Are you crazy? This is all you've wanted for months and months. Why are you suddenly wishing things could go back to the way they were?

Good news—you’re not crazy—this is totally normal, and it will all pass with time, but until then, here are some tips to deal:

1. Part of the Process
The weird and confusing emotions that arise during homecoming are all a part of the process and sometimes just remembering that can help. Once the honeymoon phase ends and you start to fight or just feel off around each other, just remember that you’re not alone, and you will find your equilibrium again. Things will get back to a normal state eventually but first you got to go through the confusion.

2. Let Go of Guilt 
The first thing that happens is you feel guilty for being irritated with him, for getting into that fight, or for kind of wishing you were alone and in charge again. It's okay to feel the way feel but if you can, let go of the guilt because you haven't done anything wrong. You put a lot of effort into surviving on your own and there's nothing wrong with mourning the loss of some of that independence.

3. Consider His Perspective
Keep in mind that he feels out of sorts too. He feels guilty and ashamed of his feelings as well. He feels like a stranger or a guest in his own home. He might also feel a little emasculated. You’ve survived without him all this time. Where does he fit in? Is he needed or even wanted? You did all the stuff that he thought you needed him to do. He spent months fantasizing about being home just the way he remembered it, just as he left it, frozen in time, but now there’s all these new house rules, your new diet took carbs out of all the dinners, he liked the couch where it used to be, and he hates that new lamp and can’t believe you spent as much as you did on it.

Plus, his survival entailed a few factors that we did not experience. He had to find a balance living in close quarters with a large group of people that share the camaraderie that only exists when lives are at stake. He's used to having them around at all times. He's used to living, eating, and breathing the military atmosphere whether he was on a sub, a flight carrier, or on the ground. That immersion has a big affect on them. When they come back, things like walking on land, sleeping in a large bed, eating decent food - all of it is like culture shock.

4. Reaffirm his Manhood
Give him the opportunity to have a little say and reclaim his role as the man of the house. Maybe even ask him to help out somehow just to let him know he does have a place and is needed, but don’t give him a laundry list of to-dos either. Just help him feel needed and wanted.

5. Encourage Compromise
Right now it feels like he’s invading, but with time you will each get your way where it counts, but there will have to be compromise. You can’t expect to have full control anymore, and he can’t expect for you to change everything that has gotten you through this nightmare.

Let him know how you feel and stick up for the routines and procedures that you want to keep and explain to him why it’s important, even if it’s just for comfort. But, also be lenient when he makes a request.

6. Let Go of Resentment
I just spent six months taking care of this place all on my own and you want to come in here and just take over? With that kind of thought running around our heads, it's easy to build resentment. Resentment is like pride, it sneaks up on you and before you know it you are entrenched. I personally recognize resentment by trying to be aware of negative thoughts about him that repeat in my mind and which I do not tell him. Telling him how I feel is generally the key to getting rid of that repeating thought. It also helps to remember his perspective and rephrasing the thought in my head to become positive. Still sharing my feelings with him seems the most affective solution.

 7. Share!
In addition to not relying on him or having him around, the number one things that changed for you two while he was away was communication. You guys were not able to communicate everything the way you used to so when negative feelings and emotions pop up, you initial instinct is to deal with them yourself as you have been all this time, but this leads to the resentment discussed above. Habits can be hard to break but this one is probably a weird combination of being the hardest, the most important, and the most rewarding. Once you two begin sharing again, you will be amazed at how good it feels.
Share with others too. You have no reason to be ashamed or feel like this expereince is only happening to you. You don't have to hide it. Other wives and girlfriends are going through the same thing when their Sailor returns, so share with them, vent your frustrations, and get it out there.

You can share here too! Or on our Facebook Forum of course. So, what are some of your post-honeymoon experiences—after your man gets home—those “awkward” moments that make you feel guilty and confused. How have you coped or are you still in that coping place?

Stephanie Carroll
U&E Founder & Author
Photo by Randy Enriquez
I married my husband who was already in the US Navy when I was 19. We did the courthouse wedding followed by a ceremony three years later. Even though we married after only six months of dating, I felt like an outsider for the first half of our marriage. He didn't understand what I needed to know about the Navy and deployment survival, and I didn't know what to ask. At that time blogs were unheard of and the internet was not the playground it is today. Navy Wife help online was unheard of.

It took years to learn the ropes by trial and error and after ten years of marriage in the Navy, I founded Unhinged & Empowered Navy Wives & Navy Girlfriends. I wanted to spread my knowledge and help other Navy Girlfriends and Navy Wives who are new to this world and reveal to them what it took years for me to learn: the moments when you feel the weakest and craziest are actually the moments that reveal how strong you really are.   
Cover Design by Jenny Q
In addition to being a Navy Wife, I am also a novelist. I write historical women's fiction, and many of the themes in my work are inspired by my Navy Wife experiences although I don't write about the military. My first novel A White Room debuted in July 2013 and it is about a woman forced to sacrifice her own ambitions to marry a man she hardly knows. He moves her to a strange, small town where she slowly succumbs to madness. Sound familiar?

Become a VIP reader at and purchase A White Room on Amazon US, Amazon UK or Amazon Canada. Find my author page @CarrollBooks on Twitter Facebook, and on Pinterest too!

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  1. Hey Steph, this is G. I always thought the hardest part of my husband coming home was finding equality between us as parents. With him gone for so long, Gwen got used to only one person loving her, taking care of her, and disciplining her. When he came back and we LIVED together as a family for the first time, she was 14 months old. The younger they are, the harder it is. Infants, and toddlers especially, don't remember Dad (or mom) the way a 10 year old does. The kids may be afraid of the returning parent. This, too, is natural. What is important as a spouse is to not let the service member feel guilty. It's not their fault, and they weren't gone because they wanted to -- they HAD to. It is their JOB. I know I am not perfect and what I'm about to say is easier said than done: but I think it is important for a spouse to remember that so they can remain pragmatic about it and try to leave emotions out of the picture. The important thing is to allow the returning spouse bonding time with the child so the child can learn to love, and be loved, by the service member. As far as disciplining goes, being on the same page is ALWAYS important - regardless if you are a military family, but since we are focusing on military families, it is especially important during the homecoming transition because kids (even older ones) have a mentality of "Well, you've been gone, so you're not the boss of me!" With both parents being on the same page, the sense of seriousness will be easily picked up by the kid(s). I hope this was helpful, and not too preachy -- also, this is just my opinion. It can be taken in whole, part, or not at all. :)

  2. Thanks G for commenting. This is a great perspective! Thanks for sharing.

  3. BTW my weird routine that's been completely ruined since my hubby returned is that I was keeping my animals out of my room except at night the dogs could come in . . . but only after I washed their feet. =)


I love, love your comments and questions! Just remember to not mention any security info about your Sailor! Thank you!

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