Jill: This week I’m on the road speaking. While Mark travels with me much of the time, it didn’t work for this trip. So we’re already looking ahead to a re-entry plan.
Mark: Military families are schooled on the concept of re-entry after dealing with lengthy deployments and times of separation. Re-entry simply means that there is a plan in place to reconnect intentionally.
When Jill and I first learned about re-entry, we started putting a date on the calendar for us to talk without interruption within 24 hours of our return. We couldn’t believe the difference this made for us.
Jill: One day a friend of mine found herself torn between two feelings as she faced her husband coming home from yet another business trip. His job required him to travel a lot. She always looked forward to him coming home but she also dreaded it, too. When I asked her why she said that one of the first things he wanted was physical intimacy and that was furthest from her mind because she felt emotionally disconnected from him.
I challenged her to do something different when he arrived home this time. I suggested that she meet him at the airport so that the two of them could go get a cup of coffee or dinner together before he was immersed back into the demands of parenting and the chaos at home.
She decided to give it a try and reported back several days later that it had made a HUGE difference for them. They connected emotionally as a couple over coffee hearing all about the things that had happened while they were apart. Because they first connected emotionally, there were no issues connecting physically later that weekend.
Mark: I’ve always appreciated our re-entry dates. When the kids were younger, sometimes we’d go out and sometimes we’d just sit on the porch and talk after the kids are in bed. Either way worked, as long as we planned it!
Jill: When one of us was gone, it was important to debrief as parents. If Mark was gone, he needed to know who was grounded, what homework projects were on the radar screen, and anything else that happened in his absence. And if I was gone, I needed to know the same.
Mark: When our kids were small and having meaningful conversations was difficult, Jill and I even used this concept daily. We would take 15 minutes after I got home from work to sit on the porch (in the summer) and talk or sit at the dining room table and talk (in the winter). This allowed us to intentionally reconnect before we headed into the chaos of the evening.
Jill: Even though we no longer have kids at home, a re-entry plan is still important. This allows us to make emotional connection our first priority.
Mark: So the next time you and your spouse are going to apart for whatever reason, put a re-entry date on the calendar!
What about you? What strategies have you found helpful for reconnecting after being apart from each other?