Perhaps the biggest impact on your marriage will be the stress of your hubby’s job. There are so many pressures on policemen. There’s the hatred from criminals, office politics, accusations from the media, a lack of justice in the court systems, armchair second guessing, the heartbreaking injuries and deaths of innocent people, and even uneasiness of law-abiding citizens. It will, at times, affect him in his off time.
Your husband also undergoes physical stress. Not only does he need to rely on his training to get him out of some tight spots, but he also is required to work different shifts that aren’t conducive to good sleep. On top of that, he may have trouble eating well, as many times they buy fat-laden fast food to sustain them during long hours (we’ve heard the donut jokes ad nauseum). Our guys can also be susceptible to injuries or illnesses related to the job, and, of course, this will affect you.
Lastly, there are strong emotions that come with his job. He’s been trained to be in control, to bring calm to stormy situations. Most will obey his orders, and the ones who don’t may only respond to force. Sometimes it’s hard to turn that off when he gets home. What if you and the kids don’t adhere to something he wants or asks you to do? When your cop has strong emotions, both in control and out of control, that can affect your relationship and home.
Perhaps one of the most obvious things that set us apart from other marriages is the hours our guys work. Their jobs are driven by emergencies, and we never know what will happen and when. No matter what agency he works for, the hours can be long and unpredictable.
Crime and accidents happen twenty-four-seven. Brenna’s husband, Scott, is on the SWAT team for the sheriff ’s department. He constantly gets calls to report for potential situations. At the onset of one recent incident, he kissed his family goodbye, saying he’d probably be home within the hour. It became a three-day hostage showdown. Scott came home a couple times to get some sleep and then returned. For Brenna and her children, it was the most difficult ordeal they’d experienced thus far. Their lives revolved around the situation. Family and friends called constantly for updates, Scott was in high gear the entire time, and it was covered in full-color detail on television.
In addition to long hours, in recent history we have endured something else – deployment. Natural disasters, 9/11, riots, and fires have taken our men to other places to help out local law enforcement in crisis situations. Many policemen are former military, so some cop wives have experience with this. It doesn’t make it any easier – and we’re left to hold down the fort.
I remember the news footage from September 11, 2001. There were people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors fleeing a wall of dusty debris, leaving shoes, purses, and hats behind. My stomach curdled when I realized what happened. I thought about all the emergency personnel who were in the thick of where that debris was coming from. We lost many good men and women that day. September 11 serves as a vivid reminder that what our husbands do is dangerous. When everyone else is running from danger, they run to it. And we know full well the risk that they may not be the same when they return, if they return.
Over the years I’ve been to my share of law enforcement funerals. I’ve had widows and family members cry on my shoulder. We have a fallen officer who is buried within a mile of our home, and we visit his grave every year around Thanksgiving, the time of year he died. The risks are real. And the fear that this could happen to us can wreak havoc if not dealt with. If you’ve been married to a cop for very long, I’m not telling you anything new. You’ve already come up with coping mechanisms and solutions to all of these issues. Sometimes all we need is to know that there are others who are experiencing the same thing, and we are bonded through the experience. But whatever stage you are in, dealing with these obstacles begins and ends in your mind.