Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Stress and a Police Officer's Marriage: 5 Main Stresses and Ways to Help
Let's just be honest, marriage can be stressful at times. Two people from two different backgrounds coming together to build one life. Inevitably, there will be hiccups along the way. Add to that mix the craziness of law enforcement life, and the stress level rises to a whole new level.
So what are some of the issues law enforcement couple's face, and what can we do about them? Below, I have comprised five of the most challenging hurdles along with steps that can be taken to help ease the pressures. Keep in mind, however, that both parties have to be willing to take a step toward resolving these issues in order for them to work.
Here we go:
1. Lack of Communication. Number one complaint I hear from LE couples. First, spouses must realize that officers have to have time to process all they have dealt with over their shift. Part of that process is to shut down emotionally and physically when they come home. Instead, they may mindlessly scroll their phone, flip through channels on the television, or play games on their gaming system. Allow them this time for awhile. It helps them to be able to mentally change out of "police mode" and back into "family mode."
With that said, officers must realize that their spouse needs re-engagement after there has been that separation period during the shift. In order for wives especially to feel loved and secure, the officer must process then rejoin the family unit through communication and healthy activity.
Find ways to have face time. Never go to bed or leave the house without saying, "I love you" and sending them off with a smile. Make time to sit down to discuss not only important matters such as financial issues, kid issues, etc., but just normal every day conversation. It will make a world of difference in your relationship.
2. Anxiety and fears. Whether they want to admit it or not, cops have fears just as much as the average person, though they are conditioned to stuff it in order to do their job without hesitation.
On the same token, spouses deal with their own set of anxiety and fears, especially with the upswing of police officer deaths, ambushes, and general hatred towards law enforcement.
The best thing to do is talk it out. The more either partner tries to stuff it down, shut it out or diminish it, the more damage it can do to a relationship. Officers need to be willing to open up to their spouse; to show their vulnerability and seek that loving support that they need. Spouses, especially wives, need information. If an officer can provide her with more information to help her better understand what he does or faces, she is better prepared to handle the fear of the unknown. I guess it all goes back to communication, doesn't it?
3. Lack of Date Nights and Feelings of Loss. Isn't it funny how when we are dating, we put our best foot forward? We want to spend every waking moment with that person, do kind things for that one we love, and show them how much they mean to us. Yet, after several years of marriage, somehow that often falls to the wayside.
Never stop dating. Both of you must make it a priority. Even after there are kids in the mix, you have to find a way to date your spouse. Sit on the couch together with a bucket of popcorn and movie after the kids go to bed, if nothing else. This will give you time to reconnect as a couple.
Find creative ways to continually show your spouse how much they mean to you. Yes, life somehow gets in the way. That's why both of you must fight the mundane.
Send flowers. Leave love notes. Text a sexy message, but make sure it goes to your spouse! Lol. Pick him or her up after work unannounced and take them to dinner. Write them a poem. Scrawl "I LOVE YOU" on the bathroom mirror in lipstick. Be creative. They will thank you for it.
4. Financial Woes. This is a big problem amongst law enforcement officers. Many departments simply do not pay squat, and many law enforcement families are stretched to the limit.
I wish there was a magic wand I could wave to help with this situation. However, the reality is that officers often find themselves having to work two and three extra jobs in order to make ends meet. Rick and I have been there and done that. It's not fun and can cause many heated arguments when it comes to finances and the lack of money to pay incoming bills.
So what can you do? First and foremost, live within your means. You don't have to have that huge house or that brand new car. The latest fashion can be on the back burner for awhile until all outstanding debt is paid. Vacations are great, but can definitely be downsized and the kids will still love you, I promise.
For those already over their heads in debt, make a plan. Sit down and draw up a budget then stick to it. Make for yourself cash envelopes and only spend what you have and nothing more. Cut out Dish or Internet if it comes down to paying the electric bill or getting a shut off notice. And finally, I would highly recommend talking with a financial coach or checking out Dave Ramsey's financial plan. He helped us, so I know he can help others.
5. Parasites at the Walls. What do I mean by that? There are so many things that can attack your marriage. Some are even considered "good" things, but can cause harm just the same. You must be vigilant about guarding the walls that surround you.
For instance, "good" things can be hobbies, school activities, church activities and even family or friends. Though these things or people can bring fullness to your life, they can also get in the way of your relationship with your spouse. When you or your spouse are spending more time doing, participating in, or talking to others, your marriage can suffer. Marriage comes before all of these. Something to remember.
There are also parasites like alcoholism, drug addictions, pornography addictions and/or unhealthy relationships with folks of the opposite sex. Guard your walls. These things can not only ruin your career, but can wreck your home life and cause a lifetime of pain for many.
Protect your walls by always resolving to talk with your spouse, not about them. Eliminate all unnecessary contact with folks of the opposite sex unless your spouse is present. Get rid of the television, Internet or any other temptation if it has become a stumbling block. Recruit an accountability partner who will ask the tough questions and hold you to a higher standard. And finally, place boundaries around your time with your family and spouse.
Though there are many other issues a law enforcement couples faces, these are some of the major ones Rick and I see and have personally dealt with in our own marriage.
After almost 27 years and many, many hurdles, we have found that the key to success is God first and prayer above all other options. With these things in place, success is around the corner.