This is a difficult topic for me, explaining for my absence while I sort through it all. My husband returned from Afghanistan nearly two months ago and it hasn’t been like you see on TV. It’s not been like the other wives talk about. That running across the room, jumping into each others arms, crying real tears of joy and not letting go. That pure, ecstatic joy that you just can’t control. I want one thing clear before I go any further:
I love my husband. I do now, and always have, love him with all that I am. The thought of not having him in my life everyday kills me.
I just don’t always feel it. When my daughter was born, she was a complete stranger. I didn’t know her, so I couldn’t love her in that mystical way mother’s often describe. There was no instant bond. I had to learn to love her and who she was (and is) growing to become. The way she sucks her finger when she’s nervous. The way she takes showers so she doesn’t have to sit in the bath water. The height of her laughter and her ability to make checks with stripes work magnificently. I had to learn to love her. Taking this pressure off myself when my son was born, knowing I wouldn’t feel that “magical bond” with him, actually made bonding with him a lot easier. I put too much pressure on myself and I always fail.
This is what I did at homecoming. Every homecoming is different. You’ve got the couples that can’t wait to run down the stairs and jump into each others arms and kiss like nobody else exists and the world has stopped spinning just for them. You’ve got the couples who are quietly holding each other in the middle of the chaos, just standing there, silently thankful for answered prayers. You’ve got the couples who are loudly screaming and yelling and jumping around like tailgaters at the Super Bowl after a touchdown, and they don’t care who is around. You’ve got the wives who brought large signs. Babies who’ve never met their father. Children and parents running to their family member, their soldier, their hero. It’s very overwhelming for people like me…
It puts a lot of pressure to feel what they feel, to express those feelings the way that they do, try to find balance and not fall.
I chose to stand at the top of the bleachers waving my arms like a mad woman with the kids on the steps in front of me doing the same. It still took him a minute to find us, but it was worth it. The hard part is that I felt very little for my husband in that moment. There was no “heart knowledge” of the love we have shared for the past seven and a half years. I know in my head that I love him very much, but in that moment, he was a stranger. I was more excited to see him with the kids. Holding them, kissing them, just talking to them. I didn’t care to talk to him myself. Holding him, kissing his face, none of that mattered to me. My children had their father and that is all that mattered. I put pressure on myself and I failed. I expected something different than I had experienced before and I shouldn’t have.
To put this into perspective, since I got married in November 2005, I have seen my mother for a total of 14 days. Three days when my daughter was born in 2006. One week when my sister graduated high school in May 2006. Four days when Little Brother was nearly two, in 2011. I feel very little love towards my mother. In fact, if not for her being my mother, I’m not sure I’d ever have contact with her. When I don’t have constant contact with someone in a meaningful way, I lose my ability to genuinely care for them. This is what happened during the deployment. Nine months of my breath catching when the doorbell rang. Nine months of my blood going cold when an unfamiliar car appeared in my driveway. Nine months of stealing myself for the worst, remaining brave for the kids and putting on a happy face… Nine months of building a wall around my heart to protect myself from the worst outcome possible…
That’s not an easy thing to tear down.
We’ve been working on it since he got home, but in those first few days it was like living with a stranger. We had both changed so much and neither of us knew what to really expect. Nothing seemed to be going right. In the past few weeks, there have been long nights, intimate discussions, and a lot of tears. Old hurts are finally starting to heal and we are coming together as a couple again. It should be romantic. The idea of “falling in love” all over again. In truth, it sucks and it hurts. This is my husband. He is the father of my children. I should have the heart knowledge of love for him. I should feel it after having him gone for so long, but I think I’m expecting too much of myself at this point. The “head knowledge” is there. I know there is no one else I would rather be with. There will never be anyone else. I’ve just got to take the time for my heart to catch up.
Hopefully, with old hurts beginning to heal, this will allow us to come together more fully and allow us to become more vulnerable with each other and that will help bridge that gap between the head and the heart. Some days are easier than others. He’ll do something or say something and all I feel is love. Other days, I truly struggle with the man beside me. The man that has promised to always stand beside me. The man that I promised to always stand beside.
We aren’t standing still anymore. We’ve moved. The ground beneath us has shifted and we are struggling to find where that leaves us once the ground goes still again.
For nine months, the ground shifted, twisted, and turned under our feet. For nine months, we were on different planets, shifting and twisting and turning in different ways. We’ve had two months to work on us. We’ve had some really horrible moments… We’ve had some really great times…
It’s called Marriage.