Real Love After Deployment

Cheryl McClary, PH.D, J.D.

Dear Friend,

You have received the emotional news that he is coming home after being deployed for a number of months, perhaps even years. I am excited for you. We are all proud of a job well done by our patriotic heroes that are returning home after their tour of duty. Happiness would not begin to explain the emotions you are now feeling. 

But in the back of your mind the uneasy feeling that things have or will change overshadows your happiness.  High levels of stress, low levels of energy and mood swings are about to come to an end, you hope! He has seen and experienced situations that have changed him, and you have had the sole care and responsibilities of the home and children.

You have become used to a routine that has not included him.  Anxiety starts to eat away at the happiness that you first felt at the news that he was coming home at last.  Which comes first, the important preparations or the trivia: buying those new nighties or finding a salon to touch up the highlights in your new hairstyle.

What do you need to do to prepare yourself for his return?  What can or should you expect?  How can you prepare yourself to be supportive to him, but at the same time have your needs honored and respected in return by him?  These are some of the issues that we will be discussed.

What should you expect?

The first week home expect sex, home cooking, TV, catching up on the changes in the children. Being the center of attention will keep him in a pretty good mood. He will even be glad to be home.

By week two, expect him to start becoming bored with the civilian lifestyle and begin slipping back into the combative and battle mode.

By week three expect him to start barking orders, but before he finishes you need to be ready look at him and ask, “What about what I need and expect?”   At this point, you have given him his space to wind down, now you want intimacy to accompany the sex. You have updated him on all the happenings in your world, now you would like to hear about what is happening in his world. You want communications to be a two way street, the heart to heart and mind-to-mind kind of talk that your heart has longed for since his deployment. 

You have been imagining what life would be like once he returns.  You envision scenes that include midnight strolls and special, romantic candlelight dinners. You are expecting help with the children and help with the household chores, if nothing else the outside chores.  The more your expectations of him go awry, the more he will wish for his military buddies and to be re-enlisted again.  Now it’s time for your training to launch you into an active duty wife armed with the determination to once again become a couple who is committed to being happily married to each other.  Both of you have changed, so expect some tensions until the marriage regains its stable “happy and content to be in love with you” status.

This is not the time to panic. Before he returns is the perfect time to start understanding yourself and to put into plan those ideas that will HONOR the marriage as well as you once he returns. 


  1. Be who YOU are.
  2. Walk forward and not backwards.
  3. Self-doubt is the enemy of self-acceptance.
  4. Know your boundaries.
  5. Believe in yourself and what is important to you.
  6. Be honest with yourself and the emotional, physical and mental needs that you have.
  7. Accept your body and your image.  Over time everyone changes.
  8. Don't play the "I had it worse" game. No one wins at this match, so avoid it altogether.
  9. Remember or learn effective communication times and moods.

He is on his way home and you are prepared with love and a proud heart. Above all remember that both of you have changed and the role that you both played in the marriage and to each other may have altered significantly. A honeyoon attitude and real love will survive if it is nurtured by two people willing to commit to being happy and content with each other: for better or for worse. For more information on how to rediscover Real Love in your relationship read chapters 7 & 8 in book The Commitment Chronicles which can be purchased at

Real Love after deployment,




Military Wives: The Next 'Great Generation'

Cheryl McClary, PH.D, J.D.

Dear Friend,

I just received the following letter. It touched my heart so deeply that I asked and received permission from the sender to share her letter and my response with you.

Everyone tells me to "be strong! How can I be strong when I just want to run and continue running until I no longer remember why I was running in the first place?
“NO, no, no! Not again. He can't really be gone again.” This cannot be happening to me. How can I be giving in to my emotions again? Why can't I control myself? I am afraid the children will find out, then how am I going to explain this without shame or frightening them. The more I think about it, the more I cry. The more I cry the more I despise this situation and myself.

It rarely happens during the day, but after a stressful and overwhelming day, it always happens in the lonely hours of the night.

There are nights when I try to avoid going to bed until I am exhausted beyond thinking about anything. Then maybe it won't happen again. Whenever it does, I fall deeper into self-disgust, and a feeling of utter helplessness. This is a vicious cycle of emotions I have succumbed to without any hope of ever breaking.

Have I sought professional help? YES, I have. What reasoning can they give me when it is MY emotions and therefore a personal matter? All they can offer are words. I am tired of words! I am tired of hearing "be strong''.

If I hear someone else tell me that they understand, I will not be responsible for their outcome. Does anyone really understand that to act "normal” is acting in front of my children? Is that even being honest and fair to myself, or to them?

As twilight approaches dawn I must start acting again. Realities, fears and emotions have no place in my daytime world. I too must put on a different face like the sky. I must put away these dark emotions and I must become a bright and sunshiny woman of the day. The things of the night must be hidden. I must become the professional “mask changer” that I have perfected since my husband was deployed four months ago.

I turn off my alarm; feeling the emotional changes taking place within me. The woman of the night must become the professional mother and female of the day. I must come out of the reality world that “affords” me the comforts of feeling and dealing with only ME. If I put what I truthfully feel above what I am suppose to be feeling, I will have another “emotional night” like I had last night, and worse, maybe even an emotional day.

How can or do I face another day?

Professional Mask Changer


Dear Professional Mask Changer,

Yes, it has finally happened. Everything he has trained for, worked for, and maybe even hoped for, has finally come to fruitation. He has going off to War. This is his job. He is needed, wanted, and ready for action. Half of military personnel are now married, compared to only 1/4 during the Vietnam War. Current deployment is taking a grueling toll on families as you can personally attest to.

Where does this leave you? It leaves you scared, worried, and once again a single parent. You are responsible again for all the diaper changing, child rearing, home repairs, lawn maintenance, homework, and the list goes on and on. Your typical military marriage is in full swing. Hardest of all you have to keep your head held high in his honor and your country's honor. Yet, YOU need to be" honored also. My response to your letter today's is to help you learn to give yourself that honor, without emotional regrets.

I want to help you with becoming committed, loving, and empowered enough to NOT lose your emotional wellness, wholeness and happiness as he crosses the border from the war zone to the demilitarized zone called home. But, most importantly, I want to help you through the toughest of emotional times. Those times when you're exhausted scared of losing him, When the uncertainty of war has beaten you down, and all you want to do is run away from the reality of coping another day without your spouse.All right, are you ready to love, cherish, and honor yourself? Let's get going. How? There is only one way, the way of self-empowerment.

While he is deployed is a perfect time for you to take your journey towards self wellness, wholeness and love for yourself. Do not spend your time concentrating on what HE is, doing or not doing. This does not honor you and it makes your life too emotionally scary, difficult, dishonest and crazy. When you are like that, you are not helping anyone. Be yourself with you and your children. Love and pray for him; but concentrate on your journey while he's gone. By doing this, you change the whole dynamic of your home. You lessen the feelings of fearfulness and build the feeling of love. You and all those around you will feel the emotional shift.
Somewhere deep inside, you know he is coming back. You hope and pray for his safe return every day. But, also you know that when he backs, your entire relationship, and family dynamic will change. It always does! Somehow during all these emotions, you have to be emotionally present for your children and family. Furthermore, you have no earthly idea how to pull this off, I know!

I also live with what military life can do to a man and a marriage. I have talked with many wives whose husbands are in the military. I have learned that the highest price of a military marriage is not that he is gone for long periods of time. Rather, it is that a military marriage often causes a woman to lose herself in the relationship, and the many tasks that she must handle all by herself. You are married to a "military husband," and he is married to the military.
Now is the perfect time for you to change the entire dynamic of your marriage.

This new, real love is the love you develop for youSELF, to be used as a foundation for finding and developing a new, more real love for him while he's gone, while you worry about his life, and when he comes home.

Here’s how to beginning a journey of wellness that will serve you for the rest of your life.


Do not sabotage yourself by going back to old patterns that were not working for you. Don’t look back; only look forward. Take action to change.
This, of course, is a glorious opportunity to find YOU. Now is the time to implement the positive side of loving, knowing and honoring yourself. You have the power to change. In emotional words, LOVE YOURSELF.

Honoring ourselves as woman,
Cheryl McClary
, Women’s Health Professor