As the days go by after that glorious day of reunion, life slowly begins to find a new equilibrium. Those first few days together have nothing to do with reintegration. Everything is so new and both of us are just thrilled to be reunited again. No thought is given to how our roles will change or stay the same. All we care about is how glad we are to see each other. But, inevitably, we all have to start the long trek down from the mountaintop and begin our journey down to the plains of every day life. And, sooner or later, we begin to understand that reintegration is every bit as challenging as we're told it will be.
It is important to remember, first and foremost, that each of us has been the unquestioned authority in our little realms. My wife, as a brigade S2 was in charge of her shop and was used to everyone doing as she instructed. For my part, my household was run exactly as I wanted, and, while my "shop" consisted of myself and 4 kids, things were done the way I wanted them done without anyone else's approval.
So what you arrive at is two people in one house who are used to being in charge. And no matter how great the reunion is or how special those first few nights together can be, eventually you're going to have an issue where there is a difference of opinion that can easily escalate into something bigger. This is when you begin to realize that both of you have changed and the effort of finding a path back together again will take time. What is most amazing about this realization is the fact that something very small, almost trivial can lead to a larger disagreement where both of you begin to dig in your heels. The spouse who has finally come home from a deployment believes their way is right because they said so. An order is an order and that's the way it is. The spouse who's been home all along believes their way is right because they've been in charge of the house and everything about it and around it for a year or more. This is how we've done things for the last year and it has worked for us... so it will work for you!
Ultimately, while this is the first disagreement since he/she came home, it certainly won't be the last. Redeployment/Reintegration is a no-joke process that takes time and effort to get through. There's a reason why so many military marriages fail AFTER the soldier comes home. As hard as it may be to believe, it is easy to stay committed to your marriage when the soldier is deployed. During the year away there are almost no arguments or disagreements. We who are back home do our very best to remain supportive and encouraging to our soldier who is down range. We send pictures and make a huge effort to help them feel connected to our family life back home. They tell us how thankful they are that we are holding it all together, how grateful they are that they can concentrate on their job and not have to worry about things back home. When they come home, though, things are different. We have changed and so have they. They have certain beliefs or expectations in mind, as do we. And so, while never intending it to happen, you encounter tests of will, differences of opinion that can quickly grow into full blown arguments. Suddenly, where no discord has been experienced for a year or more, there is trouble. And now you realize how one crossroad after another can be reached, some paths leading in a direction that leads to a place you never wanted to go.
Ultimately, both of us have to find a middle ground. A compromise has to be reached. This requires give and take from both. My wife will have to swallow her pride and give in to what I want part of the time. She will have to realize that we aren't soldiers who take orders. And I will have to let go of the control and sole authority I have maintained for a year and allow her to become more than just a guest in this house. She has to be an equal with me. Slowly, we must find common ground and relearn what it is like to live together, to exist as a union of a man and a woman, more than just a husband and wife who communicate over the phone. Just loving each other isn't enough. We both have to work and strive for a marriage that will stand the test of time and deployments. And so... once the honeymoon ends, compromise begins. Communication much increase. And we both must decide to walk this path hand in hand, realizing that it isn't MY WAY any more. It's now and forever more OUR WAY.