Wednesday, June 29, 2011 • 5:02 PM Comments (4)

Tips for Smooth(er) Reentry

posted by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Truthfully, reentry—the dear spouse returned from his week traveling for work—hasn’t been going terribly well. After putting the little gal to bed—she was excited to see him so it took him a while to get her settled—he did not leap up at 6:30 the next morning when her chipper chatty banter began. He said, “Can you take her for a little while and call me when you need me?”

Excuse me?

I put on my chipper, chatty voice and went downstairs with our munchkin. Needless to say, it felt like the week of mornings before it: me, with the children.

Except that he was upstairs, horizontal and I was still dealing with kids. So, I was dealing with kids and seething. Be clear, seething.

Suffice to say that reentry is not always very good for a marriage short-term.


It takes two to tango and I shouldered the rest of the morning still seething. A better choice might have been to hand the small child over, like, immediately. I get into I’ve-been-dealing-I’ll-keep-dealing mode. I must stop doing that.


Later that afternoon, describing morningfail to a friend in the parking lot to the grocery store, we were talking about how one friend had counseled him: “With the eye and the week solo, jewelry is called for.” I explained that I did not require jewelry but this idea—do something extra nice for me—was a good one. In fact, I told my friend, I could tell him a few ways to make reentry better, including gifts or kind deeds, like one per reentry. Keep the list, check one off, and then do another one next time. That’d be easy peasy, right?

What’s the bottom line? I’ve been doing for others and I want someone to do for me. I don’t want to ask, really.

But, I decided I’d ask. Here are a few highlights from my reentry suggestion list.

1) Ask often--"What can I do?" During those first 48 hours, hammer home that can-I-help message until it seems boring for being so oft repeated.

2) Assume that you will do things like get up with early riser, even though your dear spouse usually does so.

Oh, this is important:

3) Thank your dear spouse again and again, especially after you've been helping. Thanks are no substitutes for helping.

4) Signal in writing via email while you're away what you have committed to for emotional planning purposes (and logistical planning purposes).

5) While you are away, maybe send an email or leave a phone message that says, “When I'm back I'd like to do ____ for you.

6) Then do ___ for me.

I also reminded him and me that when he’s away the kids rely on me—and miss him. Yet, because they’ve been relying upon me, he has to woo them a bit, win back their oh-I-need-you-too trust.

A couple of items on my list of thank you gestures:

1) Go through your stuff (mail, for example)—and surprise me with things looking nicer.

2) I may not be interested in a bouquet of flowers, but I'd take a fruit bush or big pot with herbs or cherry tomatoes.

As I was thinking about this post and titles, my friend’s most poignant—and often yummy—blog Recipes to Save a Marriage By sprung to mind. Their eldest daughter has a severe seizure disorder and attendant medical issues. Our life, in comparison, is free of heart-stopping stress. I remain grateful for things that are easy to neglect. The (relatively) small issue of helping one another out and feeling compassion for the other partner is one we’ll continue to work on.

Since I’m in list mode, I’m adding three things that made me happy today:

Riding bikes to the camp pick-up and drop-off site, salad for breakfast, that people noticing my eye now remark it’s getting better rather than what happened to your eye?

Comments (4)
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I am terrible at re-entry/transition . Once I've been doing it alone then I start to feel like who needs him? (don't tellhim that please) I guess that's similar to keep on doing it mode? It's the little things for sure. I try to give him 24 hours to adjust and then take a day to myself and leave the child, dishes and laundry for him! Glad the eye is improving- that was quite a rattling thing wasn't it?

Posted by starrlife on 6.29.11 at 19:23

Ha ha. My spouse is coming home after nearly three weeks out of the country (I have just the one self-sufficient going to college-age son, but also two dogs who require two hours of walking per day). If things go per usual, he will dump a mishmash of freebies they gave out at his hotels and conferences gifts on the dining room table, comment that the house looks "neat," unpack, throw in a load of HIS wash, and go to sleep.

Tomorrow he may or may not be available for dog walking, lawn mowing or anything else he hasn't done for 19 days. He may or may not be available for conversation. And he may or may not have come home sick.

Re-entry is really tough!

Posted by jzzy55 on 6.29.11 at 21:06

hmmm, looks like the cross out feature on your blog doesn't work. that phrase "freebies...conferences" is supposed to be crossed out...

Posted by jzzy55 on 6.29.11 at 21:07

This is so helpful and true. Now how to get the hubs to read it without being too obvious....hmmm.

Our biggest arguments seem to happen during re-entry. Sigh.

Posted by gina on 6.30.11 at 1:03



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