Ten Things I've Learned About Law Enforcement Life
If someone would have told me when I was a teenager that as an adult I'd learn a whole new language starting with the number 10; that my laundry would consist of darks - dark blue, dark black, and dark whatever, due to mud, grass and a whole host of unidentifiable stains; that my Christmas decorations would contain ornaments made out of uniform patches, police Santas, blue lights, and crime scene tape; or that I would not only be married to one - a cop that is, but would produce one as well, sending him off with a gun in hand to keep peace and corral the bad guys, I would have said, "THERE AIN'T NO WAY!" (Yes, the slang was meant to be there. Gives it more presence, don't you think?)
Yet, this life has somewhat taken a hold of me...I guess you could say I'm quite fond of it from the outside in. It has become my life - our life, and along this crazy journey I have learned some things. More than ten, I can assure you, but for respect of space, I've limited them to the most important.
1. He or she will change. Yes, girlfriends...guy friends, these men/women of ours in blue will change. It's inevitable. Their personalities must take on a certain cover in order to shield their hearts and minds from the negative, the destructive, and the ugly they continually see. Without this covering or guard around their emotions, the job would consume them and leave a less-than-human, empty shell. Instead of fight against it, embrace it for what it is, but never forget that there still beats a heart of flesh underneath that needs love, acceptance and understanding. Your warmth towards them means the world.
2. You will change. I am definitely not the same person I was at 18 when we got married (thank goodness for Rick's sake). I've grown as a person. I have a deep faith now, something I didn't have back then. I know who I am as a wife, mother, Mimi, woman. I have new interests and have honed some mad skills like making my favorite guacamole recipe....cooking in general, writing, painting, etc. I have sometimes allowed myself to become jaded or calloused by all the negativity, but I still try and find the good in folks. With all the changes taking place in me, I have had to remember to include my husband within those changes. We are a team and a team works together. So, when I learn something new about myself that is good, it is not only for my benefit, but also for pleasing my husband and ultimately pleasing God. If I realize something not so good within me (and husbands and children have a great way of letting you know about such things), I include my husband in on the changing process. For us, he prays for me...continually, and I like that. :)
3. Storms will come and storms will go. Being married to a cop is not easy. Not only do they deal with outside conflict on the job, but often their stresses follow them home. It's up to you and I to decide how committed we are ever before these storms rock our world. Will we bend under pressure and take the easy way out of the relationship, or will we ride it out and give time for the storm to pass? I've learned over the years that storms always blow over with time. We may not come out of them without wounds, but nevertheless, we are stronger because of them. Hang in there.
4. Don't go it alone. Rick and I tried for many years to do this thing without God as our anchor. It was like beating our head against a brick wall. I felt isolated, alone and unloved. He felt overwhelmed, unappreciated and disrespected. Finally, we discovered the "glue" that could hold our two very different lives together and on the same track. Instead of rubbing against each other and creating more friction, we were now in unison going the same direction. God...He's what's for marriage.
5. You must incorporate fun into your marriage equation. I wouldn't describe myself as an extremely fun person, but I do like to laugh and act silly...to lighten things up when life gets overwhelming. In a law enforcement relationship, there must be fun! Everything can take on such a dark overtone, so we must make it a priority to find ways to relax and enjoy life and each other. So what is it that you like to do? Do you have a hobby? Like to play games or sports? Whatever it may be, find something the two of you and even the whole family can enjoy. Fun and laughter definitely helps relieve the stress.
6. Communication is key. It's never enjoyable to be on the receiving end of silence. A marriage takes two individuals giving themselves completely to the other, and one way is through communication. Oftentimes in an LE relationship officers come home and shut down leaving wives or spouses feeling empty and disconnected. Two things must happen in order to repair the situation. First, the spouse must give the officer time to de-fragment from his or her shift before engaging in conversation which often includes a laundry list of things that need to be addressed or curtailed. Secondly, the officer must realize that he or she will need to at some point re-engage with the family unit. Both have needs which need to be met, and it takes both to respect the other. Communication is a necessity to a healthy marriage.
7. Anxiety is normal. If I told you that I've never felt fear or anxiety within my years of marriage to an officer, I'd be lying. I believe I felt it just last week...yes, yes, I did! Tensions have been running high in a lot of law enforcement households over the past several weeks and will probably max out again and again depending on the situation your officer finds himself/herself in. It's normal response to tense circumstances. Though I don't dwell on the "what ifs," I have had multiple opportunities to think about or focus on the potential bad outcomes of law enforcement life. Yet let me tell you something....God is still in control. Isn't that a novel idea? I love it! Even though my worries may or may not come to pass, I can stand on the promise that He is with me and will not leave me no matter what we may go through as a family. So, though anxiety may taunt me, ultimately God is the sustainer of my peace.
8. Not everyone is your friend. That's a hard statement to make, but even as Jesus once said "the world will hate you because of me," we know that the world will not always be kind towards our law enforcement officers because of the position of authority they hold. Simple fact. And...unfortunately, there will even be times within our "own" that disagreements will arise and opinions will escalate with a fury. Let it go! (Should I break into song, here?) My momma always told me, you will never please everyone all of the time. Though we would love to have everyone like us, naturally, it doesn't work that way, so let your response/my response in return be kindness and respect. As the Bible says in Proverbs 25:22, "You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the LORD will reward you."
9. Arrows of destruction will be aimed at your marriage. Unfortunately, it's true. Marriage is being attacked mercilessly in this day and age. The enemy has waged war against mine and your union and wants to see the family unit as a whole destroyed. Don't let him defeat. Be on guard. Arrows in the form of busyness, preoccupation, temptations, blame, distrust, resentment and discouragement will come at us with full force. Keep your shield up and your sword drawn. This is a battle and we can be victorious, but we must not let our guard down. This is another reason we need to keep God in the forefront. I've witnessed one too many LE marriages fail because they tried to fight the enemy in their own strength. It can't be done successfully. The Word is our weapon with God as the guide. Do not go unarmed.
10. Overlook the little things. Somehow I've always had a flair for making little things seem ginormous. Whether I found dirty underwear on the bathroom floor...again, or I happened to wash a thousand toothpick flossers (you know the ones with a handle and floss) that came out of a uniform pocket and are now fastened all over my new sweater, or his handwritten license plate numbers distributed around the bathroom in dazzling display, I must overlook. If nothing else because if we got right down to it, I do tend to leave hair care products in bulk near the sink, keep a supply of socks next to the bed, and stash away articles, pictures, and useless musings in endless supply all because I might use them someday. None of us have it perfectly together, or at least the Neace's do not. I have learned...well....am still learning, that I need to overlook. Why ruin a perfectly blissful atmosphere with a snide remark about toothpick flossers? Sigh.
Well, friends....these are just ten of the things I've learned. Nothing fancy. Nothing profound. Just some lessons I've had to learn and am still trying to conquer.
May your lessons be easily learned and quietly stored.