Let’s talk about Reintegration after deployment homecoming

The cycle of Deployment does not end at the deployment Homecoming. Sure, Homecoming Day is an exciting day to welcome them home, but it is followed by a huge period of adjustment for the service member, the spouse, and their children. That adjustment period is called Reintegration. Just as the months leading up to deployment can be stressful and frustrating, many relationships experience difficulties immediately after deployment.

Both the spouse and the service member change during the deployment. They have unique experiences–good or bad. They develop new habits–good or bad. Afterwards, they have to live together again and resume their marriage, but things don’t ever go back to “the way they were before.” You just have to create a New Normal instead.

Sometimes it goes smoothly, sometimes it doesn’t. For some couples it takes a week or so to get into a routine.

For other couples it can take months after the deployment Homecoming.

It all depends on a bunch of factors that may change from couple to couple, or even from one deployment to the next. A new baby, moving, new orders, family stress, can all make this Reintegration period after deployment Homecoming a lot more challenging.

Everything you need to know about Reintegration after deployment Homecoming for military spouses

The secrets no one wants to discuss about Reintegration

I think one of the hardest parts about Reintegration is that no one talks about it, so no one is prepared for it. Everyone focuses on the deployment Homecoming Day–what to wear, how to design a sign, etc. No one talks about what will happen the next day, or the next week, or how to deepen your marriage with someone you haven’t seen or hardly talked to in six months or more. Sometimes, it can be a huge challenge!

Often we, the spouses, make this period harder because we have had so much time to think and dream and plan while the service members are away. We create our own fairy-tale version of the future. We dream about what we will wear on Homecoming Day, and jumping into their arms at the deployment Homecoming location.

Then they come home, and we wonder what happened to our fairy tale. Our romance did not involve dirty laundry everywhere and a garage full of sandy gear! We did not picture our lover exhausted on the couch, absorbed in video games. We wanted to be happy and feel loved, so we get disappointed and frustrated when things don’t go smoothly.

It seems to me that the stress mostly comes when our expectations do not match the reality.

After Deployment, the stress comes when our Expectations do not match Reality. #milspouse Click To Tweet

Things every military spouse should know about Reintegration after Deployment Homecoming:

  • Service members have to go back to work the next day, and for about a week or so afterwards.
  • When they come home from the deployment Homecoming events, they will be tired. Most don’t want a party. They want a shower, a nap, and a real meal.
  • Don’t worry about getting the house “perfect.” Focus on making room for them before the deployment Homecoming so they feel welcome there.
  • Your service member has probably changed a little. Their language may be rougher. Driving skills may be rusty. Be kind, and give them time to adjust.
  • You have probably changed a little. You don’t need to introduce them to your new hobbies and friends right away. But make sure they know about anything new that is important to you. Invite them to be part of it.
  • Finances are very different for a single service member who deploys vs. a married one. Be open and honest about how the money was spent. They may be expecting the lump sum they received after a previous deployment, and that won’t be present if they were paying for your housing, or a new baby, or a car, etc.
  • You have probably forgotten their bad habits, but they will still be there. Including a love of video games. It’s ok to let your service member indulge their hobbies and hold your tongue for a short time, but talk honestly about expectations of household chores, and time limits for gaming.
  • You are used to being in charge and making your own schedule. Don’t get surprised or offended when they ask what/when/why you are going somewhere. Tell them your routines, and try to include them, too.
  • If you have a new baby, he won’t know what to do with it. Don’t laugh at him! Show him how you change a diaper or give a bath, then step back and let him do it his own way. Your way is not always right or best. Dads are different, and that’s ok!
  • New babies usually warm up to Dad right away. (Both of mine did when they met him at age 6 months and 7 months, and all my friends have said the same.) Just tell him not to grab the baby from your arms. You can prepare the baby by showing them lots of pictures of Daddy, and letting them lay on his t-shirt or uniforms. And if baby does cry at first, don’t worry, there will be plenty of other moments.
  • Kids will want to do everything with their returning parent right away. If your service member is tired, help kids wait or take turns by writing down all the things they want to do, and then drawing out one idea at a time. You could also schedule each activity on a different day. Then they won’t get overwhelmed and frustrated.

Whew, that is a lot to consider! So how can you avoid some of that stressful fighting, and fast forward to the part where you live together happily and comfortably again?

Get more deployment support and a video about Reintegration through the Deployment Masterclass!hese military spouses share their deployment tips in videos during the Deployment Masterclass

5 Skills for reducing stress during Reintegration after deployment Homecoming

  1. Communicate. Make time to sit down and talk. Ask questions. Listen. Have the tough and awkward conversations. You will be glad you did.
  2. Be patient. Both of you need to remember this, again and again. It will take a while to adjust.
  3. Realistic expectations. Sometimes you have to lower your expectations. Military life is no dream.
  4. Laugh together. When things don’t feel fun, remember why you fell in love in the first place! Do something together you both enjoy, and just let yourselves relax and laugh.
  5. Talk to a counselor. There is nothing wrong with professional help! Military One Source offers 12 free sessions a year to military members. Their services are confidential and don’t affect the service member’s job at all.

These sound very simple, but sometimes they can be hard to remember and practice. A friend gave me a wonderful idea to help. She keeps a journal during deployment where she writes down wishes/dreams/expectations. Things like “I wish we had dinner together every night.” Or “I hope we can go to _____ for a date.”

Then on the page beside each wish, she writes down some harsh realities: “He will sometimes work late or be in the field for dinner. ” Or “We need to save $x and find a babysitter before we can go on that date.” This simple exercise can keep some of the more starry-eyed dreams in check. It is also a great way to have meaningful communication with your spouse during deployment.

If you aren’t sure what else to talk about in letters and emails, share some of your dreams and ideas. Being open and honest with your spouse before the deployment Homecoming can help you both get on the same page more quickly. If you both have similar expectations, things are going to go more smoothly. If you know your partner’s expectations, it will be a lot easier to make them happy.

Keep a journal of your post-deployment expectations, and share them with your spouse! Click To Tweet

What are your Reintegration questions?

It’s normal to feel nervous or anxious as deployment comes to an end. But most spouses eventually get over the awkwardness and adjust to each other within a few days or a week. It’s also normal to have an easy “Honeymoon” experience for the first week, and then deal with bigger issues and head-butting as time goes on.

I am so passionate about the topic of Reintegration and preparing for deployment Homecoming that I hosted a question-and-answer session for the spouses in our unit before our deployment ended! I worked with our FRO (Family Readiness Officer, like an Army FRG) to plan an event that was run BY the spouses, FOR the spouses.

We gathered some of the “Seasoned Spouses” from the unit who have been through a few deployments to share their experiences– things they did right, things they did wrong, things they would do differently. It was a casual and comfortable environment where anyone could ask questions about what to expect. Then someone who has “been there/done that” reassured them or helped them be prepared. Some of our topics were:

If you were coming to our panel, what questions would you ask? Have you had a difficult or successful Reintegration after deployment Homecoming? Please share!


  1. Annabelle

    Hi, what was said about the topic of feeling a need for space? My boyfriend came home from deployment recently and has expressed this need and I don’t know what to do or if this is normal.

    • Lizann

      Great question! Yes, this is fairly common. Even after a non-combat deployment, there is a period of time where they need to adjust and unpack– emotionally and mentally. Service members sometimes describe deployment as “another world” and when they return to normal life, they experience a kind of culture shock. They need a few days to rest, relax, figure out new routines, and have some time to themselves. Often, they spend months living in a group environment where every day is planned out for them and there is no personal space. So it’s common for them to want a little time and space to themselves as they adjust. Just be patient, be a good listener, and let him know you love him. He will be back to normal soon.

      • Tara

        My husband just returned from two months out in the field “playing” war. While it wasn’t the real thing, the group mentality high adrenaline rush, etc was all very real. He usually needs a few days to rest up and switch back to husband mode but I lost my job three weeks before the rotation was over and have been struggling. He’s expressing his need for space and time, but my need is I need my loving supportive husband back, pronto. Any tips? Do I need to just hang in there the few days? He became pretty frustrated with me that I “didn’t understand”, when in fact I clearly understand but this time coming home the situation is a bit different

        • Lizann

          It can be challenging even when it’s not a “real” deployment experience. His emotional and mental struggles are similar. Yes, I would recommend being patient and giving him a few more days. If things don’t start to resolve then, gently remind him that you have honored his need for space, and now you have your own needs for support too. The book Sacred Spaces by Corie Weathers is a good read on this topic.

          • Tara

            This lifestyle is sometimes just not awesome. Did i mention that due to Covid we’ve also been apart for 9 months. 6 months longer than originally intended 🤦🏼‍♀️ I will definitely check out the book recommendation. Thanks

          • Lizann

            That is… miserable. Big hugs to you! I know it feels frustrating, but this too shall pass and you will soon be looking back on it, together.

  2. Lauren

    Help! Planning vacation and family visits!

  3. Sari

    Hi! I’m just curious.. how much notice do you usually get for homecoming dates? I know to expect changes but I’m anxiously waiting for the “tentative” time!

    • Lizann

      It depends on the military branch and type of deployment. Things can always change and dates get pushed back for a variety of reason. We usually knew the approximate month around the time he left, but they wouldn’t get flight details until a few weeks in advance. And even then, planes would break down or there would be weather delays. Sometimes part of the unit came back ahead of the rest, etc. Your family Readiness contact or military unit representative will be the best source of info.

  4. Ally

    My partner just got home a week ago from a 6 month training exercise (not deployment). He’s finding it really hard to adjust being home and is finding it hard to show me affection. Is this normal? We haven’t been intimate since he’s been home. To add onto this, I’m 34 weeks pregnant with our first so my body has changed a great deal as well! We also moved houses while he was away. I know I need to be patient and he’s been very good at communicating but I can’t help feel like he doesn’t love or lust for me anymore 🙁 defence life is hard!

    • Lizann

      I’m not sure it’s normal, but it is somewhat common, especially with so many major changes all at once. When our bodies experience stress, it affects all the hormones, which can lead to a lower sex drive. Many men are also hesitant to have sex at the end of pregnancy because they fear hurting the baby (not really possible) or you. Sounds like you need to have some honest, open conversations. Try to help him relax and feel welcome at home. Tell him what you would like to do, and how he makes you feel.
      And remind him that after the baby is born the doctor will recommend several weeks without sex, so this is the opportunity for you both to be intimate before baby comes.

    • Tara

      Give him a week for every month he was gone. That was the advice we got and it was pretty accurate. They need time to readjust and get in to new routines – especially when their surroundings are totally new. When my husband came back after a year being stationed overseas – we too lived in a whole new place. Try to keep up with your routines, making room for him to join in when/ if he wants but also give him some space to figure his stuff out. 💜💜

  5. Sam

    My husband just came back from his second deployment as a couple, first one married. This was a very difficult one, he was in Afghanistan. I really adjusted well while he was gone, I thrive on very strict routine. I have been quite anxious since his homecoming though, I feel very out of sorts and I feel horrible that I feel this way. Something I did truly not expect

    • Lizann

      What you’re feeling is unfortunately common and somewhat normal. Changing routines is a type of stress, and takes you through all the stages of anxiety, even when the change is for a good reason. Seek ways to reduce your stress, discuss routines with your husband, and make sure you have people to talk to during this time of adjustment. Be patient with your husband and yourself, you’ll get into a more comfortable mental state soon,but it doesn’t happen the next day.

  6. Anonymous

    My fiancé has been gone for months and will be home for a short two week break for Christmas before leaving again for months. My future mother in law wants him to spend a good amount of this time with her, including Christmas. I think it’s unfair and unrealistic for her to ask for so much of his time when he has so little and when I’ve gone so long without seeing him. I’ve tried to set boundaries with her and have also tried to compromise, but she feels entitled to this and shoots down every idea I suggest and says I’m controlling and selfish. I can’t win. I’m just going to let my fiancé decide how he wants to spend his time when he’s home. But I can see this being a pattern in the future that I would not be okay with. Any advice or similar experiences would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Tara

      Honestly if he’s on break- I would let him decided what he wants to do and not force anything or cause any drama (whether his mom is in the right or wrong). He definitely doesn’t want to deal with any of that while he’s supposed to be decompressing. I would try to go with the flow- and steal 30 min- hour away by yourselves each day. Whether it’s a walk around his parents neighborhood/ property, running an errand together and stopping for coffee and maybe plan one date type thing and let him know you want to do that and pick a day together. Once you’re married – and he’s not in the middle of a deployment- then I would bring up boundaries with in laws. Enjoy the time together!

  7. Becky

    Why won’t things ever be the same again? I don’t think he will change permanently be forever changed. I don’t want a new normal.
    Why can’t he be who he was? Sitting at a computer in the desert is supposed to forever change him?
    No one ever explains why.

    • Lizann

      Hi Becky, some people change more than others, so it isn’t automatic and service members often don’t realize it right away.
      It’s not just about the location. It’s a completely immersive experience–leaving family, friends, country, and everything familiar behind. Being away from all that causes some people to change, others to reflect on things more, and still others to be angry. Plus, being surrounded by another culture and numerous injustices can leave a lasting impression on someone–for better or worse.
      I did not understand or expect this during my husband’s first few deployments to Iraq, and the military wasn’t discussing PTSD at that time. But now we know and understand much more, so I wish there was more of this discussion with family and loved ones.

  8. HelpingFriend

    I’m trying to help a young man who got a Dear John text after he deployed. She left and took everything including their 4 year old. She claims to have a new man who she’s been intimate with. She’s filing for divorce and running home across the US to her parents who will support her financially. Any suggestions to uplift him until he gets home?

    • Lizann

      That sounds very sad and difficult for him. Legally, I don’t believe she can file divorce while he is deployed, so he has this time to think it through, make a plan, organize accounts, and talk to lawyers at the base legal office. (May need to contact the office where he was stationed, not the deployment location.) He can also talk to a chaplain to discuss some of this frustration and disappointment.

  9. HelpingFriend

    Things are so different now with social media, texting and technologies. No more waiting for letters by mail.



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