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A service member’s first military deployment often leaves military spouses feeling overwhelmed and anxious about what to expect. Navigating emotions, shifting responsibilities, and preparing for a large lifestyle change can undoubtedly feel overwhelming. Thankfully, there are many resources available to military spouses and service members to help prepare for this new chapter in life.
Preparation for these changes helps alleviate some of the stress associated with deployment and therefore sets up a more successful transition for everyone involved.
Read below to learn about the different emotional stages spouses of service members tend to experience during military deployment.
Emotional Cycle of Military Deployment
Military OneSource from the U.S. Department of Defense identifies seven stages of emotions before, during, and after deployment for military families. It is essential to be prepared for this cycle and understand that it is common amongst military families. Knowing what to expect will help you and your partner communicate more effectively and work through these turbulent times. The emotional cycle of deployment includes the following stages:
Anticipation of Departure
Stress and anxiety created by the upcoming deployment is the first stage in this emotional cycle of deployment. When anticipating the hardships that are expected to arise once your spouse is given orders for deployment, you and your spouse are likely to be high-tension. Additionally, service members are likely to be stressed from long workdays that can be both physically and mentally exhausting, thus causing additional friction at home.
Detachment and Withdrawal
Around the final week leading up to departure, it is normal to experience a period of withdrawal from your partner. While service members are spending an increased time with the unit and preparing for deployment, spouses may start to feel distant while their service members are dedicating increasing amounts of time away from home. Sometimes, this tension and detachment help temporarily lessen the impact of a loved one deploying.
This stage occurs after your spouse has been deployed. During this stage, you may feel a sense of disorganization while your routine is thrown off. With the household, family, and social responsibilities shifted to one person from two. It is easy to feel burnt out while learning how to balance everything. This transition can be difficult alone, so be sure to seek support from family and friends to help settle into a new routine.
Recovery and Stabilization
At this stage, you are likely to have found your flow and routine in your life. Having a support system in place during your spouse’s military deployment helps you reach this stage sooner rather than later. Stabilization comes with a sense of confidence and independence. This is also the time when you have been able to settle, or recover, emotionally from the stress of pre-deployment.
Anticipation of Return
When the end of your spouse’s military deployment draws near, military spouses often feel a mix of excitement and concern. Of course, the return of your loved one is something you have been waiting for and look forward to, but just as there was anxiety about starting a new chapter of independence, there will be anxiety about returning to a shared life. At this phase, take time to set expectations with your spouse and prepare for how roles may shift upon their homecoming.
Return Adjustment and Renegotiation
Once your spouse has returned from their deployment, you will find yourself adjusting back to real life after the initial excitement of their return. Just as this stage implies, it is time to change back to life together and renegotiate roles and responsibilities that may have shifted during deployment. This transition back can cause tension as you learn how to integrate back into a new routine - and as your spouse navigates any combat stress or trauma.
Reintegration and Stabilization
Finally, the last stage in the military deployment emotional cycle is stabilizing your relationship. You and your spouse will find a new normal that both works with the changes made during deployment and prepares for future deployments. This stage may take some time to achieve, but with open communication, a support system, and the help of service members and military spouse counseling services, if need be, life will find a new balance.
Your spouse’s first deployment will truly be a new chapter in your life filled with ups and downs. While this time may be difficult, with the right amount of preparation, support, and communication, the experience will become easier. At LMH, we strive to make military life as comfortable and enjoyable as possible for service members and their families before, during, and after deployment by providing a strong community and military housing that genuinely feels like home.