Handling An Awkward Night Together

I knew we couldn’t be the only military couple to experience it. You know, that last night before he leaves or the first night reunited, when you want everything to go smoothly but it often doesn’t. Between stress, emotions, and expectations, I was too unhappy to enjoy our last big overnight date before deployment. What went wrong?

It all started off well and good. My incredible friend and fellow Army wife took my children overnight for a sleepover so that my husband and I could leave town for a romantic getaway. Instead of enjoying a meal at a tavern, hitting bars and exploring the historic downtown, we ended up driving around unsuccessfully finding parking, eating mediocre food at a chain restaurant, and then retiring to our hotel early with college football and deployment talk. Needless to say, the fun, carefree evening we planned was going to have to happen another night. This one felt riddled with pressure and frustration.

Fortunately, it wasn’t all a bust. We sipped some wine, took a dip in the hot tub and savored a delicious breakfast the following morning at the diner across the street. I was relieved because I didn’t want to look back on this opportunity months down the road and feel like we wasted it, but even that thought put pressure on me.

The real question is this: Why, oh why, did I feel the evening had to be perfect? Why couldn’t I just focus on the positives instead of what “should have” been? Why did my expectations get the better of me?

These Wives Have Been There

I went to some military spouse friends and asked if they ever had less-than-perfect farewell/reunion dates. Here’s what they experienced:

  • “My husband came home on Christmas break during basic, and my parents offered to babysit our toddler so that we could enjoy a hotel date. I’ll set the stage by saying that we both had colds, I was pregnant, tired and emotional. Dinner went well, but then but IT came — the expectation of sex. I broke down in tears and told him that I was not only NOT in the mood, but that I doubted our choice of him joining the Army. There we were in that fancy hotel, all alone, and he held me while I cried. I rallied the next morning and we shared a little fun before we went to breakfast. Looking back, the stress definitely detracted from our night away.”
  • “My husband was about to deploy for the first time and a neighbor took my kids for the night. We went out to dinner and I was too stressed to eat. When we returned home to an empty house, he suggested we drink some wine. I didn’t want my mood to affect the night and thought that if I drank a little, he might even get lucky! In hindsight, drinking on an empty stomach is a horrible idea! Instead of sexy time, he ended up holding my hair and rubbing my back while I threw up. I had the right idea, I just went too big.”
  • “My husband is in the Navy and goes away a lot for short periods of time. When he gets home, he wants just jump right in bed with me. Meanwhile, I’ve been the single parent to a toddler and all I want is a good night’s sleep, some quiet and to pee alone — ha! Meltdowns and potty training don’t really get me in the mood, yet my man is ready to go. It’s an issue every time, but we are trying to understand the other’s point of view so we can act like a couple when we need to. So many awkward hellos and goodbyes!”
  • “My husband is deployed and we fantasize about what will happen when he gets back. Already I’ve built it up in my mind because I’ve been working out, plan to get a new outfit, and want our first night together to be right out of a movie. Instead, we’ll probably feel like strangers, be awkward, and need to get to know each other again. Heck, we may end up ONLY watching a movie that first night! I find that sex is weird on those first and last nights together, and the middle is where it’s at! Way less stress in between!”

Managing Expectations

Looking back at my own experience, I realize that my husband’s needs and wants are so much simpler than mine. He doesn’t need the perfect meal, the right outfit, the ideal setting, mood music, etc., for our time together to be special. I feel that by adding in extra layers of conditions that need to be met, I am just setting myself up for disappointment when something goes awry. This is easier said than done, but it can be done.

I think the best thing any of us can do in the situation is to feel close, connected, happy, relaxed and have fun. We need to prepare ourselves for the fact that something will most likely go wrong, and it’s okay. Perhaps that means not doing something big and out of the ordinary, but instead doing a familiar favorite that is low-key. Perhaps it’s snuggling on the couch while watching a comedy, holding hands while taking a walk, or going to our favorite watering hole.

If you feel like you are truly enjoying quality time with your best friend, the rest will follow. Strive for togetherness, not perfection. Enjoy and good luck!

A self-described “Jackie of All Trades,” Army wife Jackie Toops is a mother of two and enjoys writing, travel, art, languages, slow cooking and peaceful parenting. She studied Interdisciplinary Humanities, Museum Studies and Nonprofit Management, and has overseen public relations for museums, galleries and universities. She is a contributing author for Wall Street International Magazine and has discussed her articles on-air with AFN Wiesbaden. She’s usually seen adventuring with her Canon, a coffee and two small children. Follow her on Twitter.

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