Reuniting is a strange phenomenon. In my case it’s loaded with shaky expectations and lots of unknowns.
Frank is returning from Afghanistan in about four weeks. The past 11 months flew by really fast, but now the last month is going to drag with anticipation. He’s hit the part in his tour where they are transitioning their duties to the replacement unit, so he is feeling very superfluous. This is the worst thing for a soldier in theatre. He now has time to contemplate his situation and think deeply about where they are in their life and where they are going.
In his latest email, Frank wrote, “Being a lame duck now, I have to develop an enthusiasm for the next act in my life. This one is over, and I have to accept it.” This hit me hard!
While I will never be able to sympathize with his particular situation, I have had some serious life-changes (including being fired from a job) which forced me to reevaluate my life. So he’s transitioning, and this requires those of us in his life to be delicate and supportive. However, because I assume that I’m going to be part of the next act in his life – I would hope he would have some enthusiasm for it … i.e. ME!
He talks about coming home to me – snuggling with me – doing the day to day things of life. He closed down his business before he left, so he’s rudderless when it comes to work. I can imagine it’s emasculating to be without one’s work, which has been his life’s focus when he’s not on deployment. He’s made it clear that he wants me to be part of his life when he returns. But I can tell he’s going to be in weird place for a while, and that’s scary for both of us.
Military reunions are filled with all sorts of weirdness. The spouse (or girlfriend) left behind has taken to living a “singleton’s” life – making decisions and doing things without consulting a partner. There’s the concern of, “Will he/she have changed?” “Will he/she still love me?” Even if the soldier returns without a physical injury, there’s the pallor of PTSD that hangs over the head of every veteran. This leaves the significant other and family members wondering when and if the ‘other shoe will drop.’
Many of the tips for reuniting with returning service members deal specifically with a family unit. Nowhere have I found tips for girlfriends coping with the return of their boyfriends whom they only knew for two months before said soldier went to war for a year. I’m soliciting advice — let me know if you have any ides.
To add a layer of complication, Frank is planning to live with me when he returns. It’ll be nice to have him around and will force us into really getting to know each other – to communicate effectively.
He’s decided to go to graduate school when he gets back, so he’s prepping to take the GREs and trying figure out which state university to attend (he gets free tuition as a member of the National Guard). He’s going to be casting about for direction, so hopefully I can be a pillar of stability for him. I’m excited and scared. I’m looking forward to opening up my life to him and becoming part of his life.
Yellow ribbon photo available from Shutterstock
Nickerson, K. (2012). Reunion Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/yfactor/2012/01/reunion-anxiety/