Emotional Cycle of Deployment - Stages 1 to 4
Stage One - Anticipation of Loss
This stage occurs four to six weeks before deployment. During this time, it is hard for a woman to accept the fact that her husband is going to leave her. She may find herself crying unexpectedly at "silly things" (songs, TV shows etc.) that would normally not affect her. These incidents allow her to release some her pent-up emotions. There is a lot of tension in this period, as both husband and wife try to cram in multitude of projects and activities (visiting families, various DIY duties etc.).
The wife may find she has some unexpressed anger, and the couple may bicker even though they usually don't. This can be upsetting if taken out of context. Although not enjoyable, these arguments can be functional: they provide one way in which the couple can put some distance between themselves in their preparation for living apart; one wife said feeling "mad" at her husband made it "easier to let him go". Other frequent symptoms of this stage include restlessness, depression and irritability. While wives feel angry or resentful ("he's really going to leave me alone with all this"), husbands tend to feel guilty ("there's no way I can get everything done that I should before I leave").
Stage Two - Detachment and Withdrawal
During this time, the wife may experience some ambivalence about sexual relations. The brain says "we've got to have sex: this is it for six months" while the heart may rebel "but I don't want to be that close". Intercourse represents the ultimate intimacy - it is hard to be intimate when you are separating from each other emotionally. This can be especially difficult if it is seen as a rejection rather than a perfectly natural reaction to trying circumstances. The couple may find, too, that they stop sharing their thoughts and feelings with each other. This stage is most evident when departure is delayed for some reason. When asked whether they enjoyed the extra time together, wives invariably respond, "It was awful!" The detachment and withdrawal stage is an uncomfortable time: though both are physically in the same house, emotionally they are separated. Wives think, "If you have to go, go" and husbands think, "let's get on with it!"
Stage Three - Emotional Disorganisation
No matter how prepared Naval wives think they are, the actual deployment still comes as a shock. An initial sense of relief that the pain of saying goodbye is over, may be followed by guilt. They worry "if I do love him, why am I relieved that he's gone?" They may feel numb, aimless and without purpose. Old routines have been disrupted and new ones not yet established. Many women are depressed and withdraw from friends and neighbours, especially if the neighbours' husbands are home. They often feel overwhelmed as they face total responsibility for family affairs.
Many women have difficulty sleeping, suddenly aware that they are the "security officer"; others sleep excessively. A wife may feel some anger at her husband because he did not, for instance, provide other physical security by installing a burglar alarm.
Wives often report feeling restless, concerned, disorganised, indecisive and irritable. The unspoken question is "what am I going to do with this "hole" in my life?" Many wives experience a sense of being overwhelmed, husbands report feeling "lonely and frustrated".
Stage Four - Recovery and Stabilisation
At some point, wives realise "I'm doing well!" They have established new family concerns and settled into a routine. They have begun to feel more comfortable with the reorganisation of roles and responsibilities, and each successful experience adds to their self-confidence. Wives cultivate new sources of support through friends, work, wives' groups etc. They may run up higher long-distance phone bills and contact old friends. Being separated from their husbands brings freedom as well as responsibilities. As a group, wives are more mature and more outwardly independent. This stage is one of the benefits of being a Naval wife: each woman has the opportunity to initiate new activities, accept more responsibilities - all while still "secure" in being married.
Nevertheless, all the responsibility can be stressful, and wives may find that they are sick more frequently. Many women continue to feel mildly depressed and anxious. Isolation from their husbands can leave them feeling vulnerable. There is not much contact with men - by choice or design - and women may begin to feel asexual. On the whole, though, most women have a new sense of independence and freedom and take pride in their ability to cope alone.
More Information: Emotional Cycle of Deployment - Stages 5 to 7