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Let’s Be Honest: Intimacy After Deployment

There’s a lot I didn’t know about reintegration.

I didn’t know my husband would be at once desperate for my company and totally needing his own space and that I’d need my own space too.

I didn’t know he’d have no idea what to say to me half the time and I didn’t know I’d have no idea what to say to him, either.

I didn’t know that I was going to feel guilty, no matter what I was doing, that I wasn’t doing it right. That no matter what, I was going to feel like a failure.

And I really didn’t know I wouldn’t know how to be intimate again.

I’ll get the obvious comments out of the way up front: Yes, guys, we love each other very much. Yes, we want each other very much. And yes, we’ve clearly had no problem with the basics (you’ve all seen the proof in my son).

But intimacy after deployment and not seeing you for ages? How can something that’s the cornerstone of your marriage suddenly feel so foreign?

And I’m not talking intimacy in only the physical sense. I’m talking about the stuff that makes your marriage magic. The ability to open up, talk to each other, to with that simple glance make known all those invisible words and life-affirming emotions that make marriage what it is in the first place.

I didn’t know I wouldn’t know how to get back there. And worse, I didn’t know we’d left.

My marriage is a good marriage. I don’t say that in the way that people who are out for your money always say “trust me” or a car salesman says “yeah, it’s a greeeat deal.” I say it in an honest to goodness, you don’t know me personally so to have this discussion and it mean something I’m saying it up front way. We are incredibly blessed to be in each other’s lives. We have the most beautiful child (the old Yiddish saying applies: There’s only one perfect child and every mother has it), we’ve been through thick and thin, through loss and miracles, and here we are.

It’s the kind of marriage where he knows I’ve got his back for anything, and where I can turn to him at dinner one night and ask if I can publicly write about our intimacy and reintegration because it might spark one comment that helps one person and that’s meaningful and he says absolutely.

Like I said: It’s a good marriage. But it took us eight weeks to find our way back to it after this deployment.

Maybe it’s because we had a baby, and that really does throw everything off. Maybe it’s because I had to have that baby in Bethesda, far away from our North Carolina home, and that meant living with his mother-in-law for two weeks until baby was OK to travel. Maybe it’s because I was preoccupied with our child and he was preoccupied with the career designation board. Maybe it’s because we were trying too hard.

Or maybe it’s just because marriage and reintegration are hard.

I read the books. I read the manuals. I read the information sheets, the blog posts, the forums. I listened at the meetings. I took notes. I joined the discussion. And mostly I found other women who were saying how quickly they all got it back on. That it was a little hard at first but in no time was back to normal. Or that it was a second honeymoon. Or a third.

No one was saying they were two months in and it was still hard — except me.

One of the things I love most about SpouseBuzz is that here, we can be honest. Here I don’t have to wear my perfect wife hat and say “oh, it’s great! We’re all just great. We’re fine. Better than fine. We’ve never been better.” Here I can say “y’all, it’s hard. Does anyone have any wisdom?”

Because I know you do. I know you’ve wondered how long it’s going to take to get things back to normal, too. I know you’ve wondered if marriage counseling might help, but worried about your servicemember’s security clearance if anyone ever found out. I know you’ve battled long nights, and stressful conversations, and the feeling that, right now, you’re just doing it all wrong.

Because we’re human, and of all things, that’s the most normal.

So tell me. Tell me what you’ve done to get things back to normal. Tell me what you’ve found worked and what didn’t. Tell me because someday, someone just like us might be googling and looking for help, and she’ll stumble upon this article, and you’ll have said just what it is she needs to hear. That’s what we get to do for each other.

That’s what makes our community so strong.

About Raleigh Duttweiler

Raleigh Duttweiler is a writer, amateur cook, and Marine Corps wife living at Camp Lejeune, NC. She insists on pronouncing Lejeune "luh-jhoon," and defends this mispronunciation by citing the pronunciation of Houston, Texas and Houston Street in New York City, her home for the last decade. When she's not on SpouseBUZZ or Spouse Channel, she can be found at the helm of her tutoring company, Tactical Advantage, which serves military children and their families as they bridge the gap between schools and navigate the college application process, finishing her Ph.D., and writing about food at DesignMom.com. She blogs at www.bunnyvictorious.com.

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