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Private or Public Homecoming

By: LIFELines

A number of military spouses and parents, including those who themselves were military spouses, prefer private homecoming reunions, others welcome the presence of in-laws and even their own parents who may feel very close to their son or datughter-in-law.  This often is determined by how close a military couple is to their parents and in-laws, as well as how well things are going in their own relationship.

Most marriage books fail to address and appreciate certain unique aspects of military married life (i.e., multiple long-term deployments). People who were never military spouses may not appreciate how intimate homecomings are for some military couples, particularly after long deployments in a combat environment where service members’ lives may daily be threatened.

When both you and your spouse would prefer not to have a homecoming on the scale of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” your spouse should communicate with his or her parents how very much you both are looking forward to seeing them, but only after you have had some quality time together.  The fact that the parents were present at previous homecomings leads to the question of whether or not they have hung around too long instead of giving your spouse a “welcome home” hug and a kiss, and then left you alone to reconnect.

Military couples, like all couples, need the support of family and friends in their lives.  Because of our home and work schedules, we have to establish certain priorities as to how we divide up our time amongst our spouses, children, parents, siblings and close friends.   It is unfair to put a spouse in a position of having to choose between parents and the person they are married too.

This particular issue arises more often when a deployed person may be the only child, the “baby” of the family, or the child of divorced parents who was raised by one spouse.  Nevertheless, parents need to be willing to recognize that a child’s first priority is to his spouse and children. On the other hand, if there are exceptional circumstances (e.g., a parent has been diagnosed with a terminal disease), then most military couples, regardless of past bad in-law experiences, would not hesitate to make an exception and invite the parent of the service member to be present.  

For further exploration of this topic, you may wish to read one of the chapters of Survival Guide for Marriage in the Military entitled, “In-laws, Outlaws and Others,” in the section that says, “A couple and their children need the love and support of their parents and grandparents just as much as the couple’s parents need the love of their children and grandchildren.  Diplomacy is key in maintaining a healthy balance in the way each partner relates to his or her parents and in-laws.”