I’ve learned that being the wife of a law enforcement officer is anything but easy and normal. If it says anything, being an Army wife with a husband who frequently deployed or was gone for training was easier than being a cop’s wife. I’ve been through so many stages of feelings and emotions when it comes to my husband’s career, and I’m still figuring things out. If you’re doing what I did a year ago and Googling how to survive or how to make your marriage survive when your spouse is a cop, I hope this helps you.
MYTH: You will always feel safe because your spouse is a cop.
Every time I pull in my driveway, I check my rear-view mirror ten times before even turning on my blinker. If there’s a car behind me, I drive around until they’re gone. When someone glances at me too long (someone who just looks criminal to me), it scares me. I think they know who I am and they’re planning retaliation. If you live in the city where your spouse is a cop (like I currently do), it’s even worse. However, as I tell my husband, “I refuse to live in fear.” It is especially important that our son does not learn to live in fear. Although these fears often cross my mind, and I’m extra careful in public, I never let these fears control me.
FACT: The profession is terrible for marriages. Terrible.
Between cops of the opposite sex, firefighters of the opposite sex, speeders trying to get out of tickets, dispatchers, and “badge bunnies”, temptation in the LEO line of work is intense. Even other cops will try to hit on their colleagues wives. I constantly am fending off other women and hearing stories about officers cheating. Female cops have been some of the worst. When your spouse first becomes an officer, they will enjoy the attention. I had to tell my husband that I no longer wanted to hear the shift stories about women coming on to him. That honest discussion made him stop bringing it up, and that made me feel better. It’s worth the talk; if it doesn’t happen, jealousy will grow, and jealousy destroys marriages just as bad as another woman does. The only way to get around this fact is trust. If you let the temptations and jealousy eat at you, things will not end well. Make your marriage a fortress, and remove any temptation. You nor your spouse should ever put yourself in a situation that could lead to infidelity–whether it’s a text message sent, a winky-face Emoji, or riding in a car with a co-worker of the opposite sex (alone, of course).
MYTH: Night shift is 100% awful.
This has been an on-going battle for me. I started off in a dream-like state of being the LEO wife that was 100% behind her husband and supported him working nights. Then he started working nights. I lost it. Now I’m in the acceptance phase where I try my best to make it work. Often, it actually works better for our family that he works nights. When it comes to doctor’s appointments and the fact that I am a teacher, he is often available to take our son when I can’t (although he has to lose a couple hours of sleep). If the sitter falls through and I can’t take off (which is pretty much always as a teacher), he can sacrifice sleep versus taking a day off to watch him.
FACT: Cops need support from their spouses–not complaining.
This was my biggest mistake as an LEO wife. Although I still slip on occasion, I have gotten so much better at this. When my husband started night shift, it was tough on our family. I was just coming out of post-partum depression and was starting my first year of teaching. The last thing I needed was for my husband to be gone all of the time. But the last thing my husband needed was to feel guilty for saving lives, protecting citizens, and supporting his family. Men feel so much pressure to support their families, and even though being an LEO is more than just a paycheck for my husband, it’s still inevitably a paycheck. The last thing any man needs–in any line of work–is his wife complaining about him doing his job. Instead of continuing to complain or take little jabs at night shift, my husband and I had a serious conversation about how to make night shift work for our family. That involved him watching our son once a week or so while I was at work, me making dinner earlier so he could eat at home, and so forth. When your husband works night shift, you will feel like you live in two different worlds (because in a way you do), so communication is important to maintain a connection. Most importantly, support your LEO. They need to step foot onto the battlefield that is their jurisdiction knowing they have the full support and faith from their loved ones. One day, that support and motivation may be the difference between life and death.
MYTH: Police departments are a tight family.
At least not ours. I remember watching the movie “Courageous” (a fantastic movie about being in an LEO family) when my husband was still in the military. We knew he was going to the police academy when he ETS’d, so I soaked in all of the ins and outs via this movie, especially its tips for keeping faith as an LEO couple. In the movie (and in countless other television PD families), the department is cooking out together and all of the wives are BFF’s. We’ve been to two functions where much of the department was there, and at both of them, most of the officers were drowning in beer and acting like morons. The cops actually got called on the cops at the last one. Now that’s just plain ridiculous. And at the others we’ve been to, there was a sense of tension and competition in the room. At retirement parties we’ve been to, most of the cops don’t even acknowledge me. I also don’t talk to many of the cops wives–not because I don’t like them–but because cop wives don’t actually hang out as much as they do on TV. If you are a Christian, you will find it especially hard to make close friends within the department. The alcohol, infidelity, vulgarity, foul mouths–it’s unavoidable. The best thing you can do is be a light in the darkness…be an example of an LEO couple that can have fun but maintain morals and a strong marriage.
FACT: Your spouse probably won’t want to tell you everything, and probably shouldn’t.
I began this realization during my husband’s deployment to Afghanistan, but his nights as a cop have rendered the same. When he was deployed, I thought that asking how he was doing and how he was feeling was helpful. It often ended with him being irritated with me. I learned that my husband didn’t keep things from me to be secretive, but he kept them from me to protect me–a civilian who should never have to experience what he experienced. The cop world is very similar. While they may not be faced with IED’s or RPG’s (my least two favorite military acronyms), they still experience so much violence, danger, and negativity. When my husband wants to talk, I’m always there to actively listen and support him, but I learned to not force his work experiences out of him. I don’t even ask about calls from the night unless he initiates the discussion.
FACT: Your children will idolize their hero, and it’s the cutest thing ever.
It began with my son loving the shiny badge at a few months old, and went to him trying to put his work boots on and wearing his “thin blue line” bracelet. I have been able to watch my one-year-old already look up to his Dad and love his cop gear. He is mesmerized by the blue lights and sirens that my husband lights up in front of the house when he stops by. He rocks his “Future Sheepdog” shirt (from LEOW Clothing on Etsy), and it’s precious. Although I honestly wish for my son to grow up and go to college and work a normal, safe, 9-5 job, I love watching him look up to his father and wish to be just like him.
The life is not easy, and it requires sacrifice on so many ends. I grew up not having to sacrifice much, and I never had to go without or live according to someone else’s wants and needs, so it was a wake-up call for me. Even though I pray for the day my husband can work days, and I pray my son doesn’t decide to take on such a dangerous career, my experience as an LEO wife has been life-changing. It has shown me how I tough I am, how tough my husband is, and how tough our bond is, and I could never be more thankful for that.