The 800lb gorilla in the room of a lot of Police homes; Marriage, family, and "the job".
Touching on something often written about, but rarely discussed among other officers, between officers and their spouses, etc...
We hear it every day, "I respect you guys", "I appreciate what you do", or "I understand you and your job".
But do they? Does the Dv suspect you arrest for fighting their spouse in front of their kids, all the while screaming obscenities at you and your partners really get it? Of course not, they're playing us. Now defeated by being in cuffs, and the reality setting in, they're coming to the realization (if even for a brief moment) that there is nothing they can do at this particular moment to help themselves, so why not buddy up to the Officer doing his job and try to show they're not that bad of a person?
But how about those who are supposed to support you, supposed to stand by you, and have taken vows with you? Do they really support you? Or do they say they do all the while wishing their loved one would just find a safer job, with more money, and 'normal' hours? Do they discuss this with you? Or wait until an argument ensues and throw it in your face? How many times have you heard that you love the job more than you love your family?
Very few of us are lucky enough to have that wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend that truly understands why we do what we do, and understands that while we are called to this job, it doesn't entirely consume us. It's no secret that our proffesion has one of, if not the highest divorce rate of any other occupation. Those of you married or in a long term relationship, what extra efforts do you put forth for the sake of your spouse and family?
From what I've seen from others, I've found that I'm not alone when I say that Marriage in this career is tough. My wife and I met when I was working two part time jobs for full time hours. On one side I was working steady 24's every week at the Fire Department, and then regular shifts at the PD. While I loved (and still do) the Fire Service, I knew this is where I would end up full time. She did too, but I think she secretly wished I would've gone to the FD side of things for many reasons. We met, dated, lived together, married, and had kids all while I was a cop. So it'd been a suprise when I'd hear, "I hate your f*cking job". The first time I heard it, I was floored. I thought, "but I was doing this when we met, we had long talks about it when our relationship became serious". After some time, I became almost immune to it, and realized she doesn't hate my job or me for doing it, she hates the hours I'm away, the cynical outlook that develops after seeing the negative, and the fact that it can take so much of one's mental wellbeing, that it's nearly impossible to simply switch from "work mode" to "home mode" on the drive home. Special care is needed to address these things within ourselves.
It's a tough line to walk between keeping work obligations fulfilled and maintaining a happy and healthy marriage and family environment. Sacrifices have to be made, sometimes to the loss of the other party. OT details may wreck family plans or Holiday dinners may have to be reheated and eaten alone at 4am. On the flipside, as much as it's drilled into your head that you answer and go when work calls you to pick up that last minute shift, sometimes you just have to say "No, sorry I'm not available". Unless ordered in and having no choice, turning down that shift or detail won't be the end of the world at work, and will do wonders at home. A lot of us say family is first, and we know it, but sometimes we just have to show them that they still are.
In my house, we've found a new common ground. She understands that I don't like being away from them, but the job is what I do to make a dent in the bills. We make uncommon times for 'normal' families, family time. Whether it's just getting off of a midnight shift and fixing everyone a big breakfast to share at the table before going to bed, making Tuesday night Pizza night, or having Ice Cream with the kids at 9am after a long night. We've found new hobbies that we enjoy together, whether it's photography, Family Wii time, or simply going for a drive, we make it ours, and enjoy what we have.
I'm not ashamed to say that a lot of understanding of each other has come through the assistance of many counseling sessions. (And what Insurance company covering Cops thinks 6 sessions a year is REALLY enough sometimes, really?!) I'm sure there will be more as life ebbs and flows and things get a bit tough, but it's cool. It's a nice refresher sometimes. If you're in that tough spot, keep an open mind. Don't be a hardass and swear it off, it works.
We're all creative guys and gals that learn how to work with what we've got. It's suprising how strong you are, when it's the only option you have. It's worked well here, but what works for all of you other married cops? What troubles have you run into? Single coppers, don't sit on the wall, offer your input as well.
Having some rough times? Had some rough times you're still trying to understand? Discuss.
You'll definitely find you're not alone. Frankly, I'd bet a few spouses could also benefit from reading the discussion over your shoulders and seeing that they're not alone.