Saturday, July 21, 2012

Married to a Cop


Married to a Cop

I've never heard of a trash collector's wife listening as her stone-faced husband tells the story of pulling a 4 year old out of the mud after being run over by her father's tractor, her mother standing wailing beside him. A trash collector's wife does... 

It is just a job.
Since I've had a police officer as a significant other, I've often heard this from people outside law enforcement. Many of my friends and family misunderstand some of the stress and complications that come with loving an officer. What surprises me most is sometimes I hear this same sentiment from those who do love an officer. We all have different experiences and there are no blanket statements when it comes to loving someone who has made the oath to protect and serve. All I know is my experience and what it means to me to love a policeman. How I feel it differs from loving a file clerk, a lawyer, or a trash collector.
If a trash collector went out on his truck every day poised to potentially face a life threatening situation, would his loved ones consider it just a job? His body rigid for 10 hours, hyper-alert to everyone and everything around him waiting, watching for a sign something deadly is happening. Along with this, wearing equipment that stresses his body and continues to remind him of his purpose and his potential for the power to take a life. The trash collector would have to go to every house not knowing what was really happening and having to have the mental alertness and acuity to sort through piles of human deception, horror and pain. He does his rounds, which include seeing the depth of human evil, possibly the body of a baby or a family wiped out, the pain of a mother's face who’s lost her son to death or drugs, a drunk driver wrapped around a tree, or a 13 y/o runaway with a baby face but hollow eyes prostituting herself. After he finishes carrying the weight of mediator, law enforcer, bearer of death, protector, mental health worker and devil, he returns to the station where the real fun begins.
I've never heard of a trash collector's wife listening as her stone-faced husband tells the story of pulling a 4 y/o out of the mud after being run over by her father's tractor. Her mother standing wailing beside him. A trash collector's wife does don't hold his head in her lap when the numbness cracks and the sobs begin. In my experience, here are a few things that make loving a police officer different.
One of the biggest complaints I have is the hours. They were erratic, long and make planning things a nightmare. Even though he had a set shift (I was lucky because my husband's department did not have mandatory rotations every 2 or 3 or 6 months), that didn't mean he would be home when he wasn't on duty. He might not be on patrol, but he would have training or most likely court. When he was home, he could be on stand-by which I felt was worse. We couldn't plan anything and we'd go into any activity with apprehension as to when he would abruptly be pulled away for his job. After we had kids, I felt like a single parent. He allowed me to make most of the day-to-day decisions because he felt he wouldn't be there to execute the plans so he didn't need to make the plans. When I needed to switch out due to frustration, often there was no one to switch out with. There wasn't the hope, which lingers when you don't have a partner, that someday it might be different. As long as he wore a badge, I would be the primary parent.
Communication Style
This was another struggle for me especially when I continued to study communication style, command presence and police technique. In the beginning, I didn't recognize his training in those things that bugged me about how he would handle conflict in our home. It seemed every argument was a challenge to him. He would flip to an authority in his voice and in his stance. It wasn't aggressive, just commanding. In time, I realized we both had to adjust our communication style because neither of us had been taught how to talk to our significant other or how to express our needs in a healthy manner. He reverted back to the only communication training he had which was designed to control situations and people in a law enforcement situation, not one with his wife.
Living in a Fishbowl
Another hard thing to take is living in a fishbowl. To each law enforcement officer and his or her family this can look very different. My husband and I lived in a large metropolitan area and many of our neighbors did not know what he did for a living. He worked in an area away from our home and didn't have to mediate conflicts with people he had grown up with. Many officers and their families struggle with separating the personal from the professional. What we faced most often were the constant questions or requests for advice from people when they learned he was an officer. I would stand quietly by his side waiting to go mix and mingle at a party as he would explain why the officer had a right to give this friend a ticket, how a civil case was different from a criminal case or why a recent police shooting across the country was or was not justified in his opinion. I doubt a trash collector's wife has to listen to queries about the best way to get out of putting their can at the curb at the right time of morning.
The biggest difference in being married to a law enforcement officer, in my opinion, is being connected to the pain that comes with the job. No human could be out in the world seeing, feeling, hearing and experiencing the amount of chaos and turmoil that exists in a police world and not be affected. This affect comes home with them. It gets reflected to those this officer loves in many different ways. It comes out as frustration, anger, impatience, distrust, and the hardest for me to handle, grief. Words cannot express the fear and sorrow that entered my heart when my strong, well trained, composed, stoic husband cried. The ache it caused in me is indescribable. I faced those tears after he witnessed the death of a child, after a violent sexual predator who he had spent hours meticulously building a case against went free on a court blunder and after losses of his brothers in blue; three to gunfire, one to a fight that ended up under a semi and one to a car wreck on his way home from shift. The ache still haunts me.
Being married to a police officer is not like being married to someone who does any other occupation. Yes, it is just a job, but within this job comes a lifestyle, a way of thinking and a social atmosphere. For these reasons, and those I've described, we have been given books such as, I Love a Cop and Cops Don't Cry. These manuals, along with support groups, online forums and informal get-togethers, help us survive in our world affected by our LEO's world. As long as we love a cop, we get to enjoy the whirlwind of emotion that comes with pride when he, or any other officer, does well or shame, when someone in blue messes up. We want to defend and justify when they or just their badge is attacked. We know most of them are good, honorable men and women. Because of this, we fight for them in public and in our hearts. This is what makes it different.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Kitchen Table

                    Anyone elses kitchen table look the same way when thier husbands get home?! :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

You Might Be a Cops Wife If...

*You talk more in code than English sometimes. "10-4, hon."
*Your husband seems to hang up his brain with his badge/gun at the end of the day.
*He shouts at the TV "That's not proper police procedure!" Every time you watch NYPD Blue . *You have ammo in you bedside table instead of, well whatever normal people put in there. *Your husband bought you a bullet proof vest for your birthday, "just in case"
*You have more paper targets up than wall paper.
*Your bathroom material and the secret stash of mags under the bed are both "Guns and Ammo"
*At work your husband can remember a suspect's name, DOB, drivers license number and AKAs but at home he can't remember to take out the trash on Mondays.
*Your husband asks to see the ID of everyone who comes to the door including the mail man. *You have ever been at a mall/grocery store/video store/restaurant/children's birthday party and suddenly had to leave because your husband saw someone he arrested.
*He drives like he is in Nascar when in his own personal vehicle, forgetting he is not in a patrol car.
*When you go out to dinner, your husband, points out which waiter, customer or cook is on meth, vicodin etc.
*Your husband can't figure out why everyone isn't getting out of his way, in traffic, like they do when he is at work.
And finally:
*That is a gun in his pocket, even if he is happy to see you.

Marital and Family Issues

The topsy-turvy lifestyle of law enforcement officers can place unusual stresses on families and spouses. Police wives must often assume the roles of their absentee mate, rearrange agendas to fit offbeat duty schedules, or simply learn to function independently. Job commitments and pressures sometimes foster breakdowns in communication between spouses, often locking police wives out of the picture. Faced with these stressed, feelings of isolation and frustration often mount and set the stage for marital discord as police wives live the lifestyle of "married singles!"
Divorce rates among law enforcement personnel parallel those of other high-stress professions such as doctors and lawyers. Surveys of police officers continually reflect estimates of divorce rates as high as 75%!
"There's no question about it, this is a very difficult lifestyle", says police wife Irene Schreiber whose husband Paul is a detective in the Suffolk County Police Department. Mrs. Schreiber joined the Suffolk County Police Wives Association in 1979 and served as the group's president for three years, gaining insight into the problems that police wives face.
"There are a lot of stressed involved that families of non police officers are not exposed to. But, in general, shifts, overtime and holidays are amount the ones that bother wives the most", she has found. "In out house we refer to the 5-1 shift as the 5-whenever! And, I remember a friend whose husband had been working a lot of overtime. When asked how his wife Charlene was, he replied, 'Charlene who?' When my husband first went on the job, I had to learn quickly how to cope with his hours, or be alone!"
As the world around them functions "normally, " police families often find themselves unable to participate. Invitations must be declined, holidays are postponed, and family's divide when one member must work while the rest of the world plays. Child care, home and social obligations, and recreation may become solo activities for the police spouse, as she attends functions and makes household decisions while her mate sleeps off the effects of a midnight shift. Police wives learn to handle everything from childcare to auto repair�alone.
"When the kids were young I had to be both parents to them," says the wife of a recent retiree. "I even learned to play soccer and pitch a baseball."
"Special occasions are what really bug me," confides another police wife. "I hate sitting down to a Thanksgiving dinner or the kids' birthday parties without him. Sometimes I feel like I'm raising this family alone."
A third wife complains, "there are times when my kids don't get to see their father all week. He's home while they're in school and when they get home he's working a 4-12. By the time he's home again, they're sleeping. And so it goes, the next day and the next. They start to forget what their father looks like!"
Intimacy suffers, too. Warm embraces are replaced with a cold and empty bed when he's working through the night. Interludes traditionally reserved for moonlit eves, shift gears as shifts change and turn his circadian clock upside down.
"This week he's a 'morning man'," She complains, "but, there's just no privacy with the kids around and I really don't have time in the middle of the day. Then, when I'm ready, he's too tired or on his way to work! I know it's difficult for him, but I get lonely too."
The void can go beyond the physical, as well. Emotional distance is often a side effect of the stress he encounters on the job. While dealing with trauma, danger and violence on a daily basis, he must uphold his professional demeanor and stifle feelings of anxiety, anger and frustration, a technique that often trickles into his off-duty personality. Further, in an effort to protect his loved ones from graphic reality, he may shut down certain lines of communication, excluding his spouse from a large and important part of his life.
"After going through a difficult situation at work they may get very quiet and go off into a world of their own," Mrs. Schreiber says. "Or, they become super busy around the house to work off that nervous energy. I guess it's kind of therapy for them, but some wives don't realize that and start to feel left out."
On duty, the police officer, as guardian of the public, commands respect due his powerful position. However, that "hero" image may be hard to tone down when he returns home and is expected to take out the garbage, causing psychological adgita for his spouse. Additionally, overtime and extra-duty demands may monopolize the police officer's time and attention, giving his mate a sense of low priority or abandonment.
"They have to handle everyone else's major problems," mentions Mrs. Schreiber, "then when they come home ours seem so minor. It's hard for them to change from one world to another so quickly. I know they try, but some wives feel like the last one on the totem pole."
Additionally, with an escalating number of females joining the police ranks over the last several years, "some police wives were initially 'uneasy' about the possibility of infidelity on those long night shifts. However, fears of chivalrous behaviors possibly compromising their husbands safety or interfering with the execution of duties took priority over those concerns" recalls Mrs. Schreiber. She is quick to emphasize, also, that the outstanding performance and record of the Suffolk County Policewoman have allayed those anxieties.
Most police wives agree that though benefits are abundant, the stresses are profound. "There are proven coping strategies, however, that help alleviate the feelings of 'single parenthood' for police wives," Mrs. Schreiber says. "If we spend to little time working on our relationships, it takes it's toll," she cautions, "so it's important to keep at it."
Her Suggestions:
  • MAKE TIME; MAKE DATES TO BE TOGETHER. You did it before you were married, so just do it again. Reserve special times to be together. It could be exciting. And set aside a 'family day', even once a month, so that the kids can spend quality time with both parents.
  • KEEP BUSY WHEN HE'S NOT AVAILABLE. Clubs, school, hobbies, exercise, rap sessions, visits, anything that interests you, can turn empty hours into positive time.
  • TURN OFF THE BEDROOM PHONE AND TURN ON THE AIR CONDITIONER. White noise (the soft steady drone of an air conditioner for example) can serve to drown out daytime sounds while he sleeps, making you're job as keeper to the silence easier. Also, uninterrupted sleep makes him a happier mate, a benefit for you.
  • HAVE SATURDAY NIGHT ON WEDNESDAY. Invite friends for supper or early evening coffee and cake midweek so you'll have a chance to socialize together.
  • KEEP THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN BUT RESPECT HIS SOLITUDE. Remember that both may be therapy that helps to keep the marriage healthy.
  • CELEBRATE SPECIAL OCCASIONS ON ALTERNATE DATES. Make arrangements to coincide with his schedule. Friends and relatives are often quite cooperative and supportive.
  • JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP. Sharing concerns and ideas helps reduce feelings of isolation, increases coping skills, and can provide companionship at needed times.

What is a Cops Wife?

A cop's wife is a woman who is married to a man who is "married" to his job, his partner and his badge. A cop's wife can usually be found cooking breakfast at midnight, picking up his uniforms at the cleaners and spending nights alone.

A cop's wife must be a good listener, not questioning him. She must be understanding when he goes out for a beer with his buddies, doesn't feel like taking her to the movies, or has an exam to study for.

A cop's wife must live with shift work, lonely holidays, bad jokes, ulcers and alcohol, bulletproof vests and fixed incomes. She is used to words like rape, robbery, assault and child abuse. She is familiar with night school, stakeouts, overtime and being on her own.

Most women are not born or raised to be a cop's wife; it is something that they have chosen to do. Some can and others cannot. She will spend each day learning, listening to and loving a man that few people respect and most others often hate.

A cop's wife makes beds, breakfasts and love to a man who spends more time with junkies, hookers, informants, pimps and partners than he does with her. She attends dinners, meetings and sometimes funerals.

A cop's wife watches the man she loves grow old before his time, watches him become cold and unfeeling, but she will remain his friend, wife and lover. She will always be these things to him, but she also knows that he will always be first, A Cop.

When a cop's wife kisses him as he leaves for work, she will make a silent wish that he will return to her. And every time there is a knock at the door, she will pray that it is not the Chief of Police and her husband's partner coming to say kind things about her husband, how brave he was, how dedicated he was.

Being a cop's wife means lots of trust, love and worry, but when he says "I love you", it makes it all worthwhile.