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He wants to run our home like a military unit

By Deacon Tom Fogle and JoAnne Fogle | May 2009

He wants to run our home like a military unit

She says: He wants to run our home like a military unit

He says: I just want respect and order

Cara says: I was so happy when Michael was finally discharged from the Army and came home. I thought everything would be fun again, and that we could settle down to raising our two children together. But Michael seems to be angry all the time, and he takes it out on the kids. He doesn’t understand that we’ve established our own way of doing things while he’s been gone – he just wants to be in charge and have the kids jump to obey when he issues an order. They’re confused, and I’m at my wit’s end keeping the peace. Help.

Michael says: Cara doesn’t understand what it was like in Iraq. I saw things I can’t ever talk about to her – or to anyone. I just want to forget and get on with my real life again. But I came home to kids who don’t seem to have any respect for me as their father – they always go running to Cara with their complaints about my discipline, and she backs them up. It’s causing chaos, and I can’t live this way.

Tom and Jo say: It is sad, but this real-life situation is a common occurrence in a lot of military families serving our country during this time of conflict and war. As a retired military family, Jo Anne and I can relate rather well with Michael and Cara. For Jo and me, it was the Vietnam era. For Michael and Cara, it is Iraq and Afghanistan. Regardless of the named conflict or war, returning veterans and their families face a troublesome time returning from a deployment in a combat zone. To adequately separate life in a combat zone from family life back home takes tremendous amount of forgiveness, flexibility and love. Adjustments are needed by all members of the family, and not by just the returning military member. All members of the family want to be together again. This is what all members of the family have been praying for, longing for and hoping for since the family separation started. Usually, with time and patience, the family can regain their cohesiveness again.

In some cases however, professional assistance (counselors, pastor, or even a family systems therapist) will be needed to integrate the returning spouse back into the family unit. Michael wasn’t out of a family; he was just part of a different type of family. It was a family consisting of all adults who all behaved in a mature and disciplined manner. Integrating back into the family unit with Cara and the children can be equated with the integration of two families into a step-family. Michael and Cara should consider developing a process of intentional dialog with each other. Yes there may be events that Michael cannot yet share (or may never be able to share) and Cara should respect that aspect of a returning war veteran. Michael, on the other hand, would do best to accept the fact that “life at home continued” in his absence and it will take time to re-introduce him back into the role of father and family co-leader. There will need to be a lot of give-and-take between Michael and Cara, yet it will be extremely important to the success of the entire family for them to find a common ground of mutuality where both are comfortable. Michael and Cara are reminded that God is always close when you need him. During this time of reentry into a family unit is one of those times. Jesus has promised us assistance if we will just let him share our load. When an obstacle to a marriage or family relationship begins to take shape, call in the most expert of mediators – Jesus himself. He held off the demons before, he will be there for you to do it again, should you just ask for his assistance. Through prayer and patience the family unit will function smoothly again.