Saturday, September 26, 2009

Married to Law Enforcement - Healthy Relationships?

Recently a wife has been reported missing. Her husband was a police sergeant for 29 years. He is under suspicion for her disappearance. His prior wife was found dead in a bathtub. There were 18 domestic violence calls made to the house within a two-year period with the prior wife. Is this a typical marriage for those in law enforcement?

It is well known that the stress of police work takes its toll on family life. The stress this job produces can certainly disrupt the normal flow of any marriage. However, it would be a mistake to write that police officers have more problems than people in other professions. Because of the nature of police work, the amount of unresolved stress from wherever it came from is a critical matter. Unrelenting, excessive stress has a deteriorating effect upon judgment, emotional control, logical thinking ability, and accuracy of perception. In most jobs, the deterioration of these faculties in a worker will have no great consequences. For a police officer, such a situation could become a matter of life and death.

A police officers marriage, like any other marriage, needs a strong foundation, trust, commitment, honesty, and a lot of patience for the spouse. A typical marriage is work in itself to keep strong and healthy. Add in strange hours, working on holidays and birthdays, court time, and being called-in at all hours, increases the stress level exponentially. The spouse needs to understand they will be working with prostitutes, drug addicts, murderers, etc., and don’t forget the possibility of those drive-by shootings. Oh yes, and of course, the domestic disputes are well known to be the most dangerous calls for the police to respond to. If you feel you can handle this and much more, and be the supportive spouse, you have a chance at having a healthy marriage with a law enforcement individual.

There can be numerous effects from being married to law enforcement. Often time’s partners will argue about the long hours one is working. Because of those long hours, the spouse needs to be caught up on their sleep, so in turn doesn’t have much time with the family. This adds a lot of pressure to the other spouse and can cause resentment and could also lead into depression. Resentment could also be caused from not spending quality time with one another. They married the law enforcement spouse because they wanted to be with that person, not be continually waiting at home. Being in charge of everything for that person instead of being with that person is not what they had planned on when they said, “I do.”

If you have children, these effects can trickle down to them, if not handled appropriately. I have seen this happen all too frequently. It is up to the adults to handle these situations properly. The children of these marriages did not ask to be brought into that environment. It is up to the parents to provide safe, nurturing homes.

Your spouse choose law enforcement for their life’s work. Law enforcement will be the family mistress until retirement. The spouse who is in law enforcement, however, should also recognize the fact that since they have chosen this profession, it places large demands on the family. The family sacrifices a lot of their time and activities with that parent. Additionally, the demands that are placed on the other spouse also grow. They must take over additional household chores, be ready to change plans immediately, etc.

Chances are the police sergeant mentioned at the beginning of this essay would have had the same kind of relationship with his spouse no matter what type of profession he choose. It seems to this author that he is a controlling, manipulative, and over confident individual. When the stresses of the job are thrown into the relationship, it probably didn’t help any situation in their marriages.

We (the spouses) are the ones the men and women talk to every night after a long shift. We are the ones they tell of their fears, feats, and frustrations. We work hard to create a strong foundation at home for our families. Moreover, we must keep it all together with a smile, when all we want to do is smother them in a protective hug, just as we do to our children when they get hurt.

Prior to any marriage, communication is key. Know what you are getting into if you are going to get married into law enforcement. My years as a law enforcement wife have been the best years of my life. Not because my husband was a detective. But because my husband is who he is inside, not for what he did for a living. If two individuals do not love one another, do not have faith, commitment, and the desires for the relationship, it will not be healthy. Just like any other relationship in any other profession. My husband gave to the community every day wearing his badge as he walked out the door. There isn’t anyone more proud of my husband than his wife. But ask me if I am happy that he retired after 30 years! (this last paragraph - updated - my husband recently retired from LE!!)

No comments: