1.0 Returning Home After a Deployment

Now that you’re at home, you may feel and act differently than you did before deployments.  Your family and friends may have changed too.  This is common and normal.  You may find it hard to reconnect with loved ones and wonder if things well ever get back to “normal”. 

Are any of these common post-deployment issues a problem for you?

  • I’m less interested in activities I used to enjoy
  • I’m having a hard time trusting others
  • I need to be in control of my emotions all the time
  • I don’t want to talk about what happened in the war zone
  • I’m having a hard time with face-to-face communications
  • I have less interest in sexual activity
  • I’m confused about my role at home
  • I’m having a hard time talking with my kids

 

1.2 Improving Family Relationships

After a long separation, it’s common to have tensions and disagreements as you get reconnected.  A great way to reconnect with the family is to find out what happened while you were away.  Then you can tell them about the positive things that happened during your deployment. 

Try these tips for reconnecting with family and friends:

  • Go to a sporting event, concert or a movie together
  • Take a walk, hike, or a bike ride together
  • Talk about your experience living in a different country
  • Make a scrapbook of photo album of your lives together, with your deployments as one chapter in a larger story
  • Ask your family what they did while you were gone, you might ask:
    • “What were the best movies you saw?”
    • “What music have you been listening to?”
    • “Anything cool happen at work/school?”
    • “What funny things have the kids done lately?”

 

1.3 Pay Attention to Positives

As you readjust to life with your family, it’s easy to focus on the bad instead of the good.  Do your best to notice the positive things family members do for you.

  • Your partner bringing you a snack while you watch T.V.
  • Your daughter drawing you a picture.
  • Your mom offering to watch the kids so you can spend some “alone” time with your partner.
  • Your son cleaning up his room without being told.

 

Noticing the small positives in life helps you feel better and your loved ones feel appreciated.  It’s also good to tell people you appreciate their behavior: "Thanks, I really appreciate how much you've helped me with this chore."

 

1.4 Talking About Deployment

Some service members just want to put their deployment experiences behind them.  But talking about those experiences with your family helps everyone.  Keep in mind that talking about your experiences doesn’t mean you have to tell people everything.  Here are suggestions for talking about your deployment without going into too much detail:

  • “I saw and did some really intense things that are hard for me to talk about.  Thanks for your patience.”
  • “Sometimes my memories make me space out and I have a hard time concentrating.
  • "I need you to just listen sometimes, and not interrupt me.”
  • “I might need a few minutes to calm down—thanks for giving me some space.”

 

Your family may need support because they may be worried or upset about what happened to you.

  • Telling them what deployment was like for you.
  • Telling them which deployment memories affect you now.
  • Explaining that reminders of your deployment may make you distracted or tense.
  • Reminding them how much you care about them.
  • Enjoying fun activities together.
  • Listening to them with an open mind, even when you have a different opinion.
  • Acknowledging their feelings, “I know that this is hard for you too.”

 

1.5 Handling Conflict

Arguments can make it hard to talk to your partner about deployments.  It’s important to discuss problems in a way that builds up the relationship instead of tearing it down.  Here are some ideas for handling conflicts with a family member:

  • Plan ahead.  Schedule time to discuss the problem.  This gives both of you time to think about what to say.  Find a time when you can talk without distractions.
  • Identify your goal.  If your goal is to "win" the argument, your relationship will suffer.  Seek an outcome that will satisfy you both.  This usually requires compromises from both partners.
  • "I" Statements.  When you bring up an issue, don’t blame the other person.  Blame makes people defensive.  Instead, use “I” statements, telling the other person how you feel.

Instead of saying, "you never listen to me," say, "I feel frustrated when you read the newspaper while I’m talking."

Instead of saying "That's ridiculous!" say, "I don't understand what you mean. Can you explain it again?"

  • Stick to one topic.  Bring up a specific issue that happened.  Tell the other person exactly what happened and why it bothered you.  Focus on resolving the issue, instead of bringing up other things.  Avoid saying "always” or “never”.

Instead of saying "You always nag me!" say, "Sometimes I need a few minutes to unwind after work."

  • Stay calm: When you get upset, you're less likely to think clearly, and you're more likely to say things that don't help the situation.  Stay calm, and you'll be better able to solve the problem.

To stay calm, take breaks during the discussion.  Practice relaxing by counting to 10, breathing slowly, or taking a brief walk to relieve tension.

Be sure to tell your partner if you need a short break from the conversation so it doesn't seem like you're walking away.

  • No "below the belt" shots.  Shouting, name-calling, foul language, threats, and sarcasm usually make arguments worse and make it harder to find common ground.

 

1.6 Approaches That Do “More Harm Than Good”

Avoid criticizing and lashing out in anger during arguments.  Trying to control a conversation by demanding that others respond in a certain way won’t get you good results.  Finally, don’t expect others to solve problems for you.  You need to help find the solution.

 

1.7 Your Communication Plan

  • Develop a "Communication Plan" to talk about deployment with your family. 
  • Decide ahead of time what you want to discuss.
  • Share a little at a time, and then let the other person respond.
  • Learn to endure painful feelings so you don't lash out while sharing.
  • Listen without interrupting or getting defensive.
  • Ask for feedback.
  • Ask the other person to share their own feelings, experiences, and ways of coping.
  • Own up to your feelings and behavior – don't blame others for how you feel.