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A Lesson From Space

by on February 16, 2012

On the morning of February 1, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia broke up during reentry, more than 200,000 feet above Texas. The subsequent investigation revealed the cause of the accident. During liftoff, pieces of foam insulation fell off the external fuel tank and struck the left wing.

The insulation damaged the heat protection tiles on the wing. When Columbia reentered the atmosphere, hot gases entered the wing through the damaged area and melted the airframe. The shuttle lost control and broke up.

Reentry is also a critical time for military families. Even stable marriages experience stress after a spouse has had frequent or long periods of deployment. Communication and understanding these potential problems appear to be the best remedy against a meltdown.

Karen is married to a military officer who frequently travels throughout the world. I spoke with her about reentry and how she navigated her husband’s return to family life.

Karen has observed two things that happen after her husband’s initially happy reunion. First, her children continue to come to her for anything and everything, leaving her husband the odd man out. Second, she finds that her kids tend to play one parent off another, especially when they aren’t getting what they want.

Karen found that reentry happens when Dad tries to regain his position as leader and the kids don’t like what they hear. His control is challenged, and conflict results. For Karen, the helpmate of her husband, this moment is critical. She can either build her husband up, giving him back his position as head of the home, or she can undercut his authority.

Karen said she has to choose wisely by supporting him in front of the kids, encouraging him, and making him look good as the leader of the family. She found that sometimes her husband had incomplete information at the time of reentry. She would need to speak with her husband, out of the children’s hearing, to fill him in on the details that happened during his absence. Karen found she needed to consciously elevate her husband and his opinion. She realized that she held the power to restore order to the home upon her husband’s return. With her words and actions, she could either celebrate his return to his rightful place or insert herself and upset the balance.


*Excerpt from Dancing with the One You Love (Moody Publishers, 2008). Used with permission


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