Have you ever had to fight your in-laws for time with your spouse? If your spouse was out of the country for 6 months or more, would you really want his family to visit during his first week home? For most people, the answer would be a resounding “NO WAY!” Yet military spouses are often faced with this awkward situation after a deployment. Is it right to invite the family to Homecoming? Or can you politely decline? When family members want to come to the Homecoming, drama ensues.
Part of the problem is that military Homecomings are a fairly public event. Even though they generally take place on a base, family members, friends, and guests are allowed to attend. (As long as they first get a pass to visit the base.) There are camera crews from news channels, marching bands, and lots of photographers. So it doesn’t seem like a personal, intimate event. It feels like a big celebration. You can’t blame families for wanting to celebrate their loved ones. I understand that parents are anxious to see their deployed son or daughter and welcome them back to the USA.
My husband’s first Homecoming was in California. Since I lived on the East Coast, along with the rest of his family, we all had to wait until he flew home on leave. Then we gathered together to meet him at the airport. I was “just a girlfriend” at the time, and still felt shy around his boisterous family. We stood together in the terminal, holding signs and laughing nervously. I had planned to hold back and let him greet them first. But when I first saw him, my heart jumped and my feet started running! I almost knocked over my little niece trying to get to him! Thank goodness they understood that I just couldn’t wait any longer to kiss him.
I wish more families treated military wives and girlfriends the way my in-laws do. When a service member marries, they leave their parents’ house and start a new life with their spouse. I’m sure his family would like to see him more often, but they understand that I come first. I believe the relationship with the spouse should always be the main focus of Homecoming.
For married couples, especially those with children, Homecoming Day and the weeks that follow are a time of huge readjustment. The service member and the spouse that stayed behind both need to get used to living with each other again. They need to establish new household routines, share their new hobbies, and form good communication habits all over again. Children need to get used to having 2 parents at home, and a different routine or set of household rules. There are many challenges during the post-deployment period called Reintegration. If there are other house guests around, all of that will be hampered and delayed.
And let’s not even discuss the challenges of re-establishing your sex life together when his parents are sleeping over!
Besides, there are also some important logistics to consider. Homecoming dates change all the time. Nothing is ever set in stone. So if they fly out to see him at Homecoming, then it is delayed for a week, will they extend their visit? Or will it be a frustrating and wasted trip? Then there is the fact that for the first few days after deployment, the service member has to go to work every day. They may be lighter schedule days, but it will be a work routine, not a vacation. Post-deployment leave usually starts a few weeks after Homecoming, so it makes no sense for family to try and visit when he has to go to work every day.
For those important reasons, I firmly believe that family should not plan a long visit during Homecoming. If they are local and can make it to the ceremony, that’s great! They can even spend some time together and share a meal with the service member. But then they should leave, and give the married couple some time and space
to have sex to get used to each other again.
After my husband’s 5th deployment, his best friend was living in our town near base. He expressed an interest in going to the Homecoming. I told him I didn’t mind, and made sure it was ok with my husband too. On that day, I drove him onto base and he waited with me. It was nice to have someone to wait with and help with the kids. He was so proud to give his best bud a welcome home hug. But first, my husband got to meet our new baby that had been born during the deployment and had been waiting his whole life to meet Daddy. And afterwards his friend gave us space, and asked us to let him know when we planned the next get-together.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. I have been blessed with wonderful in-laws who rarely intrude on my time with my husband, and always ask permission to visit. But I have also learned that this is a rarity in military in-laws, and there are so many ways things can get ugly quickly. So if you and your in-laws and spouse are struggling with the Homecoming visit question, here are some ways to handle it.
If the in-laws want to come to Homecoming, but you and the service member both do NOT want them to:
- Talk to your spouse about your main reasons for not wanting the visit. Make sure you agree on the important things.
- The military couple needs to be clear and firm in their wishes. Don’t hesitate or change your mind or give options.
- The military couple is a team, and must support each other. Awkward communication should be handled by the blood relative. (So, if it’s your in-laws, let your husband break the news to them. They will take it better from him.)
- Establish boundaries and stick to them. If you agree to a visit during block leave, or want them to stay in a hotel, let them know those rules up front so there is no miscommunication and blame later.
- Remember to do what is best for you and your spouse, even if some feelings are hurt. You can’t always please everyone, so don’t try to make the impossible happen.
If your husband wants to invite his family to Homecoming, but YOU don’t want them to:
- Ask him why he wants the family to visit. Listen to your husband’s ideas and try to understand his reasons. They may be important to him.
- Communicate your feelings calmly and clearly to your spouse, in case he hasn’t considered your concerns. Don’t yell or blame, just ask questions. Like, “How can we have quiet sex?”
- Suggest some compromises. Could they stay at a hotel? Visit a week or 2 later? Would they baby-sit to give you some time alone? Perhaps you can find a middle ground you all agree on.
- If all else fails, remember it is just for a few days. You will have your spouse forever, so waiting a few extra days to get back into a “normal routine” is not the end of the world. Remember that his family loved him before you did, and they have been waiting just as long to see him. So try to share and play nice during the visit.
I hope that you will get your husband all to yourself at your next Homecoming. I also hope that his family will understand both of your needs and try to cooperate. But if you are struggling with the decision of whether or not to invite family to the Homecoming, I hope these tips will give you the strength to express yourself and stand up for what is best for you both.
Have you ever invited family members to Homecoming? How did it go? Would you do it again?