The Pre-Deployment State of Mind: Fight Club


There are two particularly sensitive times in the lives of military families when everyone should be harmonious and as loving as possible; pre-deployment and reintegration. With pre-deployment, you’re getting ready to say good-bye to your loved one and you want those last days together to be as wonderful as possible. With reintegration, you’ve made it to the finish line and life is good. Everyone’s on their best behavior during these periods. It’s all Peaches-and-Creme, right?


From the Mailbag comes this question from DB:

Why is it that right before a deployment you hate your soldier and fight all the time? Just the sheer sight of him right now makes me want to punch him square in the nose! LOL. I wouldn’t but some things he is doing right now are very annoying. Why is that?

Before experiencing my first deployment, I would have thought DB was from Mars. How could she ask such a question? Her husband is about to leave and she’s complaining that he’s annoying? Shame on you, DB. Shame…..

But whoa boy, after going through three deployments and various other lengthy separations, when I read DB’s question, I raised my glass, nodded in agreement and said, “I hear ya sista.

Pre-deployment is an emotional time. It’s often hard to face the fact that your spouse is leaving in 8,7,6,5…. days. The countdown can take a toll on the best of relationships. You’re more irritated than usual, but it’s not really because his gear is strewn all over the house. It’s what that gear represents. It’s not because he has packed, unpacked and repacked a zillion times. It’s because he has to pack at all. I’ve often said that this is a period of time when you want to push them out the door so the clock can start ticking, but you also want to hold onto them for dear life and never let go. It’s tough.

The same is true for them; they don’t want to leave us at home, but they do want to get on with their assignment. Our spouses, though present physically, may have already “checked out” mentally. Their body is home but their mind is already in the sandbox. I’ve heard many milspouses say that a wall of separation is erected at home. During pre-deployment, both parties are dressing in armor and preparing to live the next few months (or year) without one another. Spouses may pick fights and push each other away because they think it’ll make the good-bye and/or separation easier.

DB’s situation is far from uncommon. We’ve heard this over and over again. Pre-deployment brings all sorts of tension with it as this Emotional Stages of Deployment article references:

Pre-Deployment Phase (6-8 weeks prior to deployment): Feelings in this stage may include fear, anger, denial, resentment, excitement, and guilt. Common thoughts include “What will I do without him/her?” “I can’t believe he/she is actually leaving me!” “How in the world will I cope with the kids?” and “I wish the ship would leave so I could get on with my life!” Reactions during this phase may vary between “honeymoon” like behavior to severe arguments.

Knowing that other military families spar and spat during this time is a big relief. One of the best lessons I’ve learned over the years, whether we’re talking about pre-deployment or moving, is to remind myself that these things will occur, and it’s a normal part of the emotional cycle. At least for my family.

Do you find pre-deployment to be a less than harmonious time at your house?

About the Author


Andi is married to an active-duty soldier and is the founder and former editor of SpouseBUZZ.

She is the founder of the Annual MilBlog Conference. The MilBlog Conference is the premiere event of the year for military bloggers. President George W. Bush, U.S. Representative Adam Smith, GEN David Petraeus, LTG Mike Oates, LTG William Caldwell, RADM Mark Fox, MG Kevin Bergner, MG David Hogg and The Honorable Pete Geren have addressed previous conferences.

While living in Washington, DC, Andi was the Ambassador to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for Sew Much Comfort, a non-profit organization which makes and delivers, free of charge, special adaptive clothing for wounded service members. Andi has worked with several non-profits to help our wounded heroes and their families. She finds that work to be the most rewarding and meaningful of all.

Andi strives to find humor in the good, bad and ugly of life and is a firm believer that laughter has the ability to cure most ills.

5 Comments on "The Pre-Deployment State of Mind: Fight Club"

  1. I think it's part of a self-defense mechanism too. It's a lot harder to imagine missing them when you're so mad at him you could kick him. Each deployment I've sworn I'd be more aware of it and not fall into the same patterns and each deployment we've gone through the same thing.

  2. This is so, so normal. We go through 2-3 deployments (patrols) a year. Each lasting several months. It's much easier to say goodbye to them when you are mad at them than when you are happy. It's definitely a defense mechanism.

    It's also a stressful time because you have the countdown looming over you like a black storm cloud that just keeps approaching. You are both on edge and both have emotions running high. I hate pre-deployment. I'd much rather have him go so that he can just get back.

  3. My husband is just found out he is deploying soon, this is our first deployment. Lately he has been so mean. I know it is because he feels like he needs to push me away to see if I will love him any ways. It is just so hard! I don't always know how to handle his attacks.

  4. Lauramroberts | September 28, 2011 at 8:51 pm |

    Before this last deployment, DH and I got in a huge blowout. Right in the middle of it, I looked at him and said "hon, you know what we are doing here dont you? We are having one of those infamous pre-deployment fights". He looked at me and smiled…and said I was exactly right. We both ended up laughing and the fight was forgotten. The rest of the time before he left, we both kept this in mind and things went well.

    This is not our first deployment, and won't be our last, but through the years we have recognized all the little things that can happen. Learning the triggers and the reasons go a long way to making both pre- deployment and reintegration much easier. That and a ton of communications.

  5. Ugh. My husband is getting ready to leave on his 2nd deployment shortly. We have been together 9 years and married for only a few weeks now. We will be getting a house when he returns from deployment. As for now, we are living in separately. Me in the town I grew up in and him on base where he is stationed. Anyway, we talk several times a day (phone & Skype) and he has been sooo mean these past several days. Starting with me over the littlest things & then just becoming downright nasty. I know and understand the whole "Pushing away to make good-bye easier" thing, but while he is on deployment he's not the one stressing over the nasty things he's said. I am the one here left to deal & still wanting to smack or choke him!

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