It was a tough decision but you made it.You and your spouse are on the same page and have finally settled on a private homecoming.
No friends, no extended family, no parties, no visitors or guests- just a few days of down time to reconnect, sleep it off, and settle into new routines.
It sounds beautiful. But…
Who gets to tell the family?
Real life: even though my husband and I were completely sure we needed a private homecoming, neither of us were particularly excited to break the news to the family members who would not be invited.
We were totally clear that to thrive in those first days after deployment we would need alone time. We needed to feel comfortable being ourselves without the added stress of making conversation or hosting others. But we also needed to honor and respect the family that had supported and cared for both of us throughout this journey.
Homecoming is just one day.
Friends & family are forever.
So how do we balance our love for that forever family with our need for one day of privacy and reconnection?
GET IN FRONT OF IT
Wanna know what NOT to do?
Don’t wait until your loved one asks if they can attend homecoming to share the news that you’re not opening the invitation for them.
Sharing your choice before the question arises helps let those you love most to know that you are not saying “no” to them- but that you’re making a general decision that you feel is best for your marriage and family.Those that love you may already be wondering what your homecoming plans are, so plan ahead and let them know as soon as this decision is made. Consider finding time to call with your spouse if possible so that you can share this news together.
You know your family and friends best, so be sure to take some time to make a list of those that you need to have this conversation with, and what their investment level may be when it comes to homecoming. Depending on the situation, some parents may not be concerned about missing homecoming while a cousin or best friend may be really struggle with the news. With your spouse, try to decide who might need a heads up about this choice and make intentional time to bring them up to speed.
BE HONEST AND OPEN
I’ve heard stories about couples “hiding a homecoming” from friends and family just so that they could have a few private days together. My take on this? Sounds like a LOT more work than being honest and open.Unless you’re hiding the news because you want to surprise others later, honesty is the best policy- and saves you from the potential of way more hurt and frustration which could truly put a damper on your homecoming experience.Instead of making excuses or being secretive- tryn being incredibly honest and blunt about your reasoning for choosing a private homecoming. Go beyond simply telling your loved ones that this is what you want- take the time to explain why this is what you need. Remember- most of your extended family has not experienced a deployment or homecoming before.
They don’t understand that jet-lag makes your spouse exhausted.
They don’t understand that you’ll be doing laundry for 4 days straight.They don’t understand that your spouse may have to report to work. They don’t understand (and probably haven’t even thought about the fact) that you haven’t had sex in many, many months- and may not want to with them there.Give them the reasons and be honest about them. Remind your family that you have real, human needs and that reintegration is more complicated than they may know. Choose your comfort level of what to share, but share what you need to help them understand your decision if they’re struggling with disappointment.
MEET A NEED
You’ve shared what you need- so, let’s ask what your now not-invited family or friends need to feel good about homecoming. Even if they’re not physically there with you, they’ll likely feel excited about this important day and want to play a special part.
After you’ve broken the news and explained your reasoning, remind your loved one that they are valued and that you want to make sure they have a special moment too on the very day your service member arrives home. Ask if there is anything that would be important for them other than joining you physically at homecoming. Brainstorm with your spouse and come up with a few suggestions to share with your loved ones- especially if they are feeling disappointed with being unable to attend. For instance:
Offer to video chat with them as soon as you get in the car.
Invite them to send a “welcome home” care package to open together on video
Tell someone special they’ll be the first phone call when you’re ready
Ask them to create a video collage of friends & family saying “welcome home”
Whatever you decide to do, taking the time to make your loved ones feel included can be an important way to make sure that they feel cared for and valued in the midst of this transition (without sacrificing your needs!)
PLAN TWO HOMECOMINGS
Remember- in the same way that you want to see your spouse as soon as possible, so do their extended family and friends. One of the struggles they may have with being unable to attend homecoming is that this leaves them without any date that they can expect to see the service member you all love. You can give extended family their own homecoming date to look forward to by planning a “second homecoming” as a follow up to the first welcome home moments.
This is a great way to phrase the news that you’ll be welcoming your spouse home privately.
Instead of saying “you’re not invited to homecoming” simply say “we’ve decided to have two homecomings- one for us, and another celebration with family”.
Plan something exciting for your extended family as they celebrate their own reunion with your service member. Together on your call, offer a few dates that would work for a second-homecoming and decide whether you and your spouse will visit family in their home or invite them to yours. You can let your family know that you want this second-homecoming to be special for them too by planning an activity that helps them feel included in your spouse’s military service. A few ideas include:
A family photo session with your spouse in uniform
Touring your spouse’s work area if permitted
Visiting a military-related museum on-post
Attending a community event at your duty station
DON’T GET TOO WORKED UP
Remember, homecoming is just one day and it’s never perfect.
Plans leading up to your reunion may change- and the day itself may look different than you had dreamed. You and your spouse may be tired or overwhelmed, and your outfit may not be picture perfect (gasp!). Don’t get too worked up about what you’ve planned or how it goes.
Even with all of the inevitable hiccups, this moment is sacred.
As you plan and prepare, keep in mind that those relationships and memories that you share with your extended family and friends are sacred too. As you dream of homecoming, communicate intentionally with your spouse and commit to finding creative ways to honor and include extended family without sacrificing what’s best for your marriage.