Sometimes You Just Have To Be Brave
The laughter was deafening. Emily found herself laughing along; although because she didn’t really know these people, she felt a touch uncomfortable. Clara had just opened her white-elephant gift: a set of five condoms. It was definitely appropriate for the crowd. They were all recently married, and everyone’s husband or wife was present. That is, everyone’s spouse but Emily’s. Emily’s husband was on duty.
It was her turn. She looked over the gifts that were beautifully wrapped underneath the tree. She chose a gorgeous red box tied with a silver bow. As she started to poke at the ribbon, she thought she heard a guy whisper, “Oh, no.” Too late! At first when Emily opened the box, she had no idea what it was. She lifted it out, and, of course, everyone howled. “What is this?” she asked. Her face flushed crimson as she heard someone shout, “Edible underwear!”
Sometimes you just have to be brave. When events come up, and your husband is working, go. You never know what that event may hold! There will be times when your loneliness will increase because you really wish he was there. But, more often than not, you’ll make a memory. Or laugh trying. Sometimes you’ll even gain a new friend.
When Brent was a cadet in the academy, I drove home after visiting him in Sacramento. It was very dark, and I was on a stretch of rural highway in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly my car sputtered, coughed, jerked a few times, and I found myself rolling, powerless, to the side of the road. Annoyed, I got out of the car, went around to the front, and froze. I saw small flames flickering underneath. In a panic I lost all sense of safety and waved my arms at a few cars that came by. Finally a young man stopped, put out the fire with some water he had in his car, and assured me everything was okay. There was a spooky-looking house several yards away, and about that time, a flashlight approached. “Do ya need to use a phone?” the creepy resident asked. I flashed a look of fear to the young man, and he accompanied me into the house while I called a tow truck and family. An hour later I was on my way home.
This was the first time I had to solve a problem like this all by myself. It was scary! Brent was unavailable, my dad was out of town, and I had to grow up and deal. It was good for me. Since that night I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to take care of problems on my own: hospital visits, car repairs, issues with teachers, landlords, and tenants, you name it. Brent helps me when he can, but, for the most part, I’ve learned I can hold down the fort quite well.
It would be easy to resent situations like these. It would be easy to resent him for not being there. But a sense of survival or duty can take over if you allow it. In fact, you can even choose to gain a sense of accomplishment from learning new skills. This is the kind of strength we can use to build our new normal.
A word of caution here: We married rescuers. Our guys want to be needed. We must keep this in mind, making sure that we don’t become so independent that we cease to need them. I’m talking about balance here, and there is no formula. We have to figure this out with our spouses. Interdependence is the goal, but when our cops aren’t able to do something, we have to pick up the slack.
Make It Work!
Christmas doesn’t have to be celebrated Christmas morning. The Fourth of July picnic can be on the third, and you’ll enjoy it more with less people around! Vacations don’t have to be in the summer months. And days off don’t have to be on Saturday and Sunday. Vacations, holidays, and schedules are yours to tweak to make it work. Each season of your life will have additional considerations. But if you’re willing to think outside the box, you’ll be surprised how well events turn out. Brent always liked to work Christmas Eve. It was generally quiet, so he’d have the guys who didn’t have families nearby come to the house even if we had other guests. He asked me to “work my magic” in the kitchen and spoil them with flavor. I loved every minute of it. We have very fond memories of candles from the table casting a warm glow on their badges. And there was always laughter with a cop at the table.
If you expect that your life is supposed to look like your dad’s office job, you will be disappointed. If you expect your husband to make every single event you plan and on time, you will be disappointed. If you don’t try to be creative in making memories that include your husband, you will be disappointed. If you refuse to solve some of the problems that arise when he’s on duty, you’ll have trouble.
The attitude of strength here is flexibility. Creating your own normal and recreating normal are an integral part of a long-lasting law-enforcement marriage. Choosing to be flexible and optimistic in the face of unmet expectations is tough at times but necessary. Managing those expectations with flexibility and optimism ahead of time is even better. Communicating those expectations is another matter altogether.