Home From Sea: How to Balance Expectation vs. Reality

With the dread of every underway comes the excitement and anticipation of homecoming. Whether it was a short underway or an extensive deployment, you might have spent days, weeks or months dreaming of what that reunion might look like. Your expectations vs. reality might not always match up, and that’s okay. 

For the spouses who have endured countless underways and deployments, we know some of those realities:

Expectation: You will have a dramatic reunion at the pier.

For longer deployments, yes. And you might wait an epic amount of time (and potentially in hazardous weather), but that first hug and kiss will be worth it. For routine underways, not usually. Depending on your spouse’s job, they may not be able to get off the boat right away – usually for hours. And sometimes he or she might even have duty, and have to spend another night on the boat.

Expectation: Your partner will be so excited to see you.

Yes, of course. But be prepared for the exhaustion that comes from weeks of shift work and limited time to recharge on board. Your partner may not match the same level of energy you possess, and that’s okay. Be prepared for a relax that evening or lay low that first weekend. Every person is different, but your sailor may or may not want to paint the town red or go out. Simmer your expectations and give them the time and space they may need. 

Expectation: We are going to pick up right where we left off.

In due time, yes. Without a doubt, your partner will be so happy to be home and get back to life with you. But keep in mind they will need transition time, maybe a few hours or even a few days.  Your partner is guaranteed to come home with massive laundry and full of “boat smell” we know and love (tip: vinegar and baking soda). He or she might suddenly have a strong desire to take no less than a 30 minute hot shower, since they’re of course limited on board. 

My best advice for balancing expectations? 

Set up your own fun traditions you can control.  Underways are a way of life here, so you can find your own way to balance the realities of it . 

Here are some of my mine:

Bring him a soda on the pier.

I always bring my husband a soda when I meet him on the pier, it’s something he doesn’t get underway so even if he has to go back to work after I see him he has his favorite drink. It’s a small gesture that allows me to feel like I’ve done something.

Make a home cooked meal.

I always try to cook one of his favorite meals like lasagna or chicken parm as the food on board is not the same.

Stock the fridge with his favorites.

I swear the commissary had to know his arrival was imminent with the changes in my grocery shopping. I always try to have the house stocked with his favorite snacks and drinks when he arrives home.

Pick up where we left off.

My husband and I typically are able to pick up where we left off. He and I were both raised submarine kids, so I feel this was a skill we both learned young to be able to quickly reconnect with friends and family upon reuniting. With email and in port video calls we were able to discuss the “big” events or happenings missed enough that it wasn’t too big of a shock when he arrived home. These niceties of communication are not always available to everyone or even for every time out to sea.

Do you have any fun traditions when your partner comes home? Comment below! 

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