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Fighting Fair: How to Win the War by Sometimes Losing the Battle

By: LIFELines

Most military couples agree that homecoming is the best part of a deployment. Whether you have completed one deployment or five, they don't seem to get any easier.

When your spouse leaves, it seems like an eternity until he or she comes home. But the days turn into weeks and the weeks into months. You make adjustments, and before you know it, your honey is back home again.

Home Is Where the Adjustment Is

Now that your Sailor or Marine is home, you plan to happily adjust to living together again. But you may discover that's easier said than done. Those who are able to gladly share household duties without criticizing the way the other half executes them are wise indeed. Most of us like things done the right way - which is our way, of course.

When spouses return, they reintroduce all the little things that irritate us - things we forgot about while they were gone. He loads the dishwasher wrong. She folds the towels inside out. He uses the wrong pan to boil eggs. She puts the toilet paper on the roller backward. He doesn't replace it at all. Then there are all the things left around the house for you to pick up.

Fortunately, life usually settles back down after a few months. But you should expect a period of adjustment. It's normal. The length of the adjustment period varies for each couple and for each deployment.

Coping Strategies

Janese, a Marine wife, says that since her husband returned from a six-month deployment, she has experienced some frustration. It appears that her husband brought home some new bad habits, probably due to living on his own for so long. She had to explain why she expected him to do things a certain way now that he was home - like taking his dirty work boots off in the garage instead of the living room, and how she would really appreciate it if he would throw away his empty soda cans instead of leaving them around the house. It's taking a while, but "he's improving daily," she says.

Janese reports that choosing her battles is a major way to eliminate conflicts over small household issues. She reluctantly admits that allowing her husband to do some things his way, even while biting her tongue, helps tremendously. Through this experience she has even learned that his way is sometimes better. Especially when it comes to the backyard grill. She's glad things are getting back to normal.

It's Okay to Disagree

Conflict in marriage is normal and should be expected. After all, two people living in the same household are bound to have strong feelings about how things ought to be done. The key is to handle the conflict constructively.

It's important to remember to fight fair when working through conflicts. When you disagree, it's essential to immediately state what the problem is and stick to the issue at hand. Bringing up past conflicts only adds fuel to the fire and might make resolution more difficult. Listen to your spouse, and try to communicate your feelings clearly.

It is also important to leave everyone else out of your argument. Dragging your mother or best friend into the mix can make the problem bigger and force them to take sides. People who care about you may hold a grudge against anyone who makes you unhappy.

More Words to the Wise

It is very helpful to know what to expect through a deployment. Preparing for the emotional cycle of deployment can give you insight into how you might feel before, during, and even after your spouse returns.

For a more extensive explanation of issues on returning home from deployment, read "Easy Does It: Your Spouse's Return from Deployment."

Being married in the military is often difficult, but it's also a very rewarding and exciting adventure. If you keep in mind that readjustment is something that all military couples go through, it may help you keep your perspective when you're losing your mind.