The Pre-Deployment State of Mind: Fight Club


There are two particularly sensitive times in the lives of military families when everyone should be harmonious and as loving as possible; pre-deployment and reintegration. With pre-deployment, you’re getting ready to say good-bye to your loved one and you want those last days together to be as wonderful as possible. With reintegration, you’ve made it to the finish line and life is good. Everyone’s on their best behavior during these periods. It’s all Peaches-and-Creme, right?


From the Mailbag comes this question from DB:

Why is it that right before a deployment you hate your soldier and fight all the time? Just the sheer sight of him right now makes me want to punch him square in the nose! LOL. I wouldn’t but some things he is doing right now are very annoying. Why is that?

Before experiencing my first deployment, I would have thought DB was from Mars. How could she ask such a question? Her husband is about to leave and she’s complaining that he’s annoying? Shame on you, DB. Shame…..

But whoa boy, after going through three deployments and various other lengthy separations, when I read DB’s question, I raised my glass, nodded in agreement and said, “I hear ya sista.

Pre-deployment is an emotional time. It’s often hard to face the fact that your spouse is leaving in 8,7,6,5…. days. The countdown can take a toll on the best of relationships. You’re more irritated than usual, but it’s not really because his gear is strewn all over the house. It’s what that gear represents. It’s not because he has packed, unpacked and repacked a zillion times. It’s because he has to pack at all. I’ve often said that this is a period of time when you want to push them out the door so the clock can start ticking, but you also want to hold onto them for dear life and never let go. It’s tough.

The same is true for them; they don’t want to leave us at home, but they do want to get on with their assignment. Our spouses, though present physically, may have already “checked out” mentally. Their body is home but their mind is already in the sandbox. I’ve heard many milspouses say that a wall of separation is erected at home. During pre-deployment, both parties are dressing in armor and preparing to live the next few months (or year) without one another. Spouses may pick fights and push each other away because they think it’ll make the good-bye and/or separation easier.

DB’s situation is far from uncommon. We’ve heard this over and over again. Pre-deployment brings all sorts of tension with it as this Emotional Stages of Deployment article references:

Pre-Deployment Phase (6-8 weeks prior to deployment): Feelings in this stage may include fear, anger, denial, resentment, excitement, and guilt. Common thoughts include “What will I do without him/her?” “I can’t believe he/she is actually leaving me!” “How in the world will I cope with the kids?” and “I wish the ship would leave so I could get on with my life!” Reactions during this phase may vary between “honeymoon” like behavior to severe arguments.

Knowing that other military families spar and spat during this time is a big relief. One of the best lessons I’ve learned over the years, whether we’re talking about pre-deployment or moving, is to remind myself that these things will occur, and it’s a normal part of the emotional cycle. At least for my family.

Do you find pre-deployment to be a less than harmonious time at your house?

About the Author


Andi is married to an active-duty soldier and is the founder and former editor of SpouseBUZZ.

She is the founder of the Annual MilBlog Conference. The MilBlog Conference is the premiere event of the year for military bloggers. President George W. Bush, U.S. Representative Adam Smith, GEN David Petraeus, LTG Mike Oates, LTG William Caldwell, RADM Mark Fox, MG Kevin Bergner, MG David Hogg and The Honorable Pete Geren have addressed previous conferences.

While living in Washington, DC, Andi was the Ambassador to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for Sew Much Comfort, a non-profit organization which makes and delivers, free of charge, special adaptive clothing for wounded service members. Andi has worked with several non-profits to help our wounded heroes and their families. She finds that work to be the most rewarding and meaningful of all.

Andi strives to find humor in the good, bad and ugly of life and is a firm believer that laughter has the ability to cure most ills.

12 Comments on "The Pre-Deployment State of Mind: Fight Club"

  1. I think it's part of a self-defense mechanism too. It's a lot harder to imagine missing them when you're so mad at him you could kick him. Each deployment I've sworn I'd be more aware of it and not fall into the same patterns and each deployment we've gone through the same thing.

  2. This is so, so normal. We go through 2-3 deployments (patrols) a year. Each lasting several months. It's much easier to say goodbye to them when you are mad at them than when you are happy. It's definitely a defense mechanism.

    It's also a stressful time because you have the countdown looming over you like a black storm cloud that just keeps approaching. You are both on edge and both have emotions running high. I hate pre-deployment. I'd much rather have him go so that he can just get back.

    • I totally understand what you are saying!!!!! Years ago when my husband had to leave for Desert Storm (i said years ago) i had those same feelings. I just thought i must of been a horrible wife. The stress of the weeks leading up to his actual departure, dreading it and at the same time wishing it was here already, made me feel just awful, and yet when he did finally leave, there was a sense of relief. all these years later i find out that i wasn't the only one………..

  3. My husband is just found out he is deploying soon, this is our first deployment. Lately he has been so mean. I know it is because he feels like he needs to push me away to see if I will love him any ways. It is just so hard! I don't always know how to handle his attacks.

    • My husband will also be deploying soon and it is also our first. It's been difficult but I'm the one who gets stressed out and usually starts the arguments. As stated by others, my self-defense mechanism is active and I'm geared up. Last night we got into quite a big argument, which is still unresolved and probably will stay that way until he comes home from pre-deployment training. We are arguing over the instability of pre-deployment trainings and the lack of information made available to families. His infamous response to me: "You need to be more flexible. It's the Military and it's always going to be like this." I wanted to reach through the cell phone and hang him up by his boot straps because he knows I hate that answer. Today, I'm still upset and numb but he's acting like it's all sunshine and rainbows when he called earlier. He's totally checked out. It is hard. I'm trying to deal with his lack of empathy and unwillingness to validate what I'm going through. Luckily, two of my close friends have been great listeners today and let me vent to my heart's content. It's also helped to come on here and find others who offer advice to help process through my fears and feelings.

      • His infamous response that you hate so much is… the Truth. Soldiers, Sailors and Marines (as well as their respective families) spend so much time in the dark, you'd think we were our own species of mushrooms. Getting angry about it only raises your blood pressure and puts stress on your marriage. It's not easy but the sooner you come to accept that – really accept that – the sooner you'll feel better. I'm not unsympathetic. I've been married to a soldier for 15 years and he's been deployed three times in the last five years. At some point during the first one, I just accepted that whatever was going on with him was going to be in limbo and I got on with living.

        Whether he's "validating" your feelings or not, there's nothing he can do to change things and perhaps he's communicating to you in the only way he knows. If you need him to validate something in a way that makes you feel vindicated, tell him. Men don't take hints well. If he has to dance the Superfreak on the roof of your car to empathize with you, you should tell him.

        • You're absolutely right. It is the truth. Admittedly, it is something that I am not use to and learning to deal with limbo. Trust me when I say I tell him how I feel and I tell him what I want. I don't beat around the bush when it comes to our relationship and I know he's communicating with me the only way he know how. I know that with time I will adjust and will move forward. I don't think you're unsympathetic. You're being honest; speaking from lived-experiences, which is something that I greatly appreciate and respect.

          • I'm so glad you are communicating with him. Next to finances, that's the biggest destroyer of relationships. You're a strong woman – don't be afraid to remind yourself of that from time to time. I may be speaking from experience but I do remember that first deployment quite vividly. We'd just PCS'd to Germany, in the tail end of a rough patch for us. I was alone, our things were on the long boat, my car was on a boat. Winter was closing in. I had to walk everywhere on post. I knew two words of German. Hubby had to leave. I cried all the way home from the deployment gathering area, walking in the cold, trying not to look like I was crying to people going by in cars.

            Even if you aren't religious, I'd like to suggest you seek out the post chaplain. They are very good listeners and they've been through this many, many times. Sometimes, you just need a shoulder to cry on that won't try to tell you every well-worn phrase of comfort. *hugs*

  4. Lauramroberts | September 28, 2011 at 8:51 pm |

    Before this last deployment, DH and I got in a huge blowout. Right in the middle of it, I looked at him and said "hon, you know what we are doing here dont you? We are having one of those infamous pre-deployment fights". He looked at me and smiled…and said I was exactly right. We both ended up laughing and the fight was forgotten. The rest of the time before he left, we both kept this in mind and things went well.

    This is not our first deployment, and won't be our last, but through the years we have recognized all the little things that can happen. Learning the triggers and the reasons go a long way to making both pre- deployment and reintegration much easier. That and a ton of communications.

    • It IS kind of funny when you catch yourself doing the textbook stuff that you thought you could avoid just by KNOWING about it :)) Communication is the key to everything, and you're right, learning about it all does help to at least recognize it :)

  5. Ugh. My husband is getting ready to leave on his 2nd deployment shortly. We have been together 9 years and married for only a few weeks now. We will be getting a house when he returns from deployment. As for now, we are living in separately. Me in the town I grew up in and him on base where he is stationed. Anyway, we talk several times a day (phone & Skype) and he has been sooo mean these past several days. Starting with me over the littlest things & then just becoming downright nasty. I know and understand the whole "Pushing away to make good-bye easier" thing, but while he is on deployment he's not the one stressing over the nasty things he's said. I am the one here left to deal & still wanting to smack or choke him!

    • I am in the same boat as you! it sucks DB left for his first deployment and that same day we had one of those stupid fights and he ended up telling me he needed his space. what? I give him his space! at that point I just wanted to reach through the phone and shake him and say "do you see what's happening here? stop and love me before you leave!" he was so down right mean and I had never seen him act like that before! I understand he was going through a lot of stress getting things together before he left but now I am sitting here wondering if I will hear from him when he gets to his destination!

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