Marriage to a police officer poses more challenges than the average marriage. Police work isn’t your average 9 to 5 job; it involves odd hours, extra hours, dangerous situations and many other demands that can cause stress on relationships. You can manage and succeed in marriage to a police officer by keeping a few things in mind.
When surveyed, both officers and their spouses cited either shift work or time away from family as primary concerns in a project titled, “Law Enforcement Healthy Marriage and Family Project,” by the Mesquite Police Department and two professors from Texas A&M. Your spouse might never have regular hours or he might only have regular hours for a few months out of the year. During his career, he’ll work day shifts, midnight shifts and even graveyard shifts. He’s likely to have to work weekends and holidays at some point and even when he’s not doing regular shift work, he might be called in for overtime or a court appearance. These odd hours and extra commitments mean your police officer spouse is likely to miss important school events, birthdays, holidays and other family gatherings. As his partner, you have to be flexible to his schedule. You might have to celebrate holidays on a different date, attend family gatherings without him, or plan vacations during the off season.
With all the demands and stresses of your spouse's job, it’s important to keep a positive attitude at home. Often a partner’s anger about the demands of a police officer spouse’s job is transferred to the police officer points out police wife Michelle Perin in the article, “Taking Back Our Relationships,” on Officer.com. It’s important to keep negative comments about the job to yourself and choose to have a positive attitude instead. Remember your spouse probably doesn't want to miss a family birthday or dinner for a court appearance any more than you.
It’s important to set guidelines for communicating with your police officer spouse. Another primary concern cited by spouses in the Mesquite Police Department study was “changes in personality or callousness and lack of joy.” After the stresses of work, your spouse might choose to shut off his emotions at home or he might switch into work authority mode to deal with conflict at home. Communicating involves listening and expressing yourself according to Marriage and Family Therapist Penny Foreman. Foreman suggests writing out your concerns ahead of time and picking an appropriate time to talk about them. She also encourages using “I” statements such as “I feel like X when this happens,” rather than using blame.
Expect that there will be days when your spouse comes home and cannot talk about his day at work. Throughout the police career, you will see a range of emotions from your spouse including anger, impatience, distrust and grief based on what the officer saw during the shift. Listen when he wants to talk, but be understanding when he doesn’t want to talk. Perin also suggests watching for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as excessive drinking or depressed behavior. If you’re worried about your spouse, call the department chaplain.
Find a source of support for days when you need it suggests police chaplain and wife, Allison Uribe. It might be another police spouse who understands the struggles you face or a support group with a number of other spouse's facing similar challenges. A number of national groups exist including the National Police Wives Association and PoliceWives.org. Many departments also have support for spouses through the department.