Reading time: 5min.

by Jenny Byron

Why the homecoming isn’t always easy

Even if you aren’t part of a military family, you will have seen footage of a homecoming.  A ship returning to families cheering and waving on the shore, waiting to be reunited. It seems like a joyous day, right?

Mostly, yes.  You might not know that the homecoming isn’t always plain sailing after that showy reunion.

There isn’t always that sort of fanfare about a homecoming either.  Sometimes the reunion is at an airport. Sometimes our partners just appear on the doorstep in the middle of the night after six months away – I’m speaking from experience on that one.  Those reunions are less newsworthy but still mark a significant change.

A homecoming comes at the end of a long separation, usually between four and six months.  During that time, the partners of military personnel find their own routine.  If there are kids in the family who are missing a parent, this is especially important.  Routine gives some comfort and consistency where life might otherwise feel uncertain and scary.

In my experience, adjusting to the change can often be harder for the people left at home.  They have to adjust to the absence of their partner from their ‘normal’ life.  The person who goes away experiences new things, which their partner has never been a part of, so they don’t feel the absence so acutely.

If there is one thing a military partner knows how to do, it is how to get on with life while their partner is away.  We often find better (in our opinion!) ways of doing things around the house and we get used to being the ones to make decisions.  We have full control over the TV and all of the household admin is our responsibility.  Our only choice is to get on with it.

The issue comes when we suddenly have our partners back.  Yes, we are usually happy to have them, but they don’t know the new routines. They don’t know where we keep the toilet paper now, what we watch on Tuesday nights, or what brand of tea we buy these days.

Although these all seem like small things, they can build up and lead to disagreements.  You know that feeling when you have a house guest?  After a while, it can feel like they are in the way, or like you don’t have as much space as you did. Often the aftermath of homecoming is just like that. 

It can really put a strain on a relationship.  Especially as there is an expectation that everything will be wonderful now that you are reunited.  In the past, I have felt guilt for not enjoying the homecoming as much as it feels like I should have.

Thankfully, that is only a small part of it. Over time I have learned not to overthink it and just allow myself to feel what I feel.  I know that we will find our routine as a family again, it might just take a little time.

Even if the toilet paper gets moved, a much bigger part of me is happy to have my partner at home!