Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Reintegration, PCSing, and the Start of a New Season - ACS

When my husband returned from his third deployment, we were overjoyed to see each other. Since he came home late at night, our daughter was already asleep in bed. The next morning was filled with excitement, as I watched her reunite with him for the first time since R&R...7 months ago! It was precious.

However, since DH returned just prior to a PCS, we never really got back to “normal” in the Army world. He did his 10 days of reintegration, a few days of work, block leave, and then we moved. It was a lot of change all at once.

DH (if you remember from previous posts) was selected for ACS (Advanced Civil Schooling), which basically means the Army would pay for him to get his master's degree as a full-time student. Accepted into a graduate program at a prestigious engineering school in the south, we relocated there just one month after his homecoming.

Despite the trials and hardships of moving across county, we were so excited to be together again with the promise of much family time – nothing like what it would have been like had we stayed where we were or moved to another post. No, this new season (graduate school) would be almost pure relaxation. After all, I married a brilliant man so it's not like he would have to study or anything. He would just go to class, do a little homework, and spend the rest of the time with DD and I making fun memories. Or so I thought...

I had a rude awakening about a month into the semester. DH was working late into the night and on weekends, coding or talking to group members about the latest project. It was terrible! There were no boundaries on when work began and when it ended. It just seemed to take over! My emotions did the same.

I was not happy. This is not what we signed up for, not what we expected. I knew my husband wasn't a workaholic, but I was beginning to wonder if he was turning into one.  Was this a side effect of deployment?  I knew he always worked hard and did his best, but this seemed all-consuming. I knew he wasn't trying to neglect us, but that is exactly how I felt – neglected.

I had just spent the last year alone, single-parenting our 2 year old. Was this just going to continue? Him leading his life and me leading mine? What about our marriage? What about working together? What about living life together?

I talked with DH and tried to express my frustration. He, of course, did not enjoy working these long hours but insisted it was what was required. 4 graduate level classes that were essentially all project-based required more time than he was even currently giving. He was already sacrificing to spend time with us.  And here I was the needy wife, constantly asking for more. Poor guy!

DH did the best he could, trying to do as much work during the week and saving weekends for family time. There were some weekends, however, when work had to come first, and I sulked. (I don't recommend that). It was a very trying time, but a breakthrough finally came when I talked with one of my dearest friends about the struggle.

She reminded me that my husband was in the Army and had just returned from a year-long deployment, where for all intents and purposes, he just had to take care of himself and do his job. Now he was home with not just a wife but a toddler as well. Not to mention the fact that his identity as an officer in the Army was essentially non-existent. He was a full-time student, fully immersed in a foreign world and one he did not fully enjoy or understand. Talk about light bulbs going on in my head! Of course! I needed to stop being selfish, take a step back, see things from his perspective, and give him GRACE! Was it ok to tell him I missed spending time with him and hoped we could do something together soon? Yes. But I did not need to complain or pout, even if it meant not getting a break from the endless “why” questions of a two year old.

How I am grateful for honest friends who hold me accountable and give me an outside perspective. Thanks be to God for not letting me continue in my sin but providing a way out (1 Cor. 10:13) and showing me how to build up and encourage my husband instead.

As a result of all this, I began praying more for my husband, specifically in the area of time management. I found a babysitter we could schedule weekly so we could attend a small group at our church and/or go on dates. That combined with changing my expectations and re-framing the situation made a world of difference. I still messed up from time to time, but my conscience was seared and I was quicker to amend the grievance. Our relationship as husband and wife began to deepen, once again, and I began to see things more clearly instead of constantly taking them personally. By Christmas, though we were both exhausted and spent, we had a renewed attitude for the upcoming semester.

I truly believe I might not have come to the same conclusion without the timely wisdom of my friend's gentle rebuke. And what a waste of time and what destruction I could have caused. I am so thankful that did not happen. The Lord knows we need community – people to live life with us and point us to Him. For me, community sometimes has to cross countries or oceans, phone lines or data plans, but no matter how it comes, it is powerful. God is so faithful. How I pray that you have at least one person in your life who you can share your heart with and who can provide you with insight and exhortation to do the right thing. I don't know how you could survive without it!