Any police spouse reading the headline will likely say, "You only came up with three? Please." However, most "micro" challenges stem from these three trials. Each, in its own right, can harm or even devastate a relationship. So what are they, and what can police couples do about them?
Let's start with loneliness.
One of the most common lament from police wives and girlfriends of LEOs is:
This is so much harder than I expected. Does being alone so much ever get easier?
Many police spouses can readily attest: cop wife life can be an extremely lonely existence. From shift work, to overtime jobs, training, and being ordered in, it's common for LE partners to spend a significant amount of time solo. That means attending holidays and events sans spouse/partner. It means often being the primary parent day and night. Sleeping alone. Feeling emotionally isolated from others (because most don't understand the lifestyle of LEOFs, and some outright despise it).
The obvious result of the above is feelings of sadness, disappointment, and even resentment. This naturally leads to arguments. Your LEO's response is likely to be one of frustration. He can't be in two places at once. He's in the process of building a career, providing for his family, and achieving what might have been a lifelong goal. He's also well aware he's missing out on precious time with his loved ones. So, does it get easier?
The answer is yes... if you can do these two things. Step one, show compassion for each other. This is the one thing we forget in times of stress and difficulty, and will go further than you can imagine. Step two, you choose. Every day, you choose to embrace what's good. And when you can't find the good, create it. How to apply that to combatting the loneliness? Make the conscious decision to turn being lonely into simply being alone. Mindset matters. That's not to say you can't ever feel lonely. Feel it, own it, allow yourself a little pity party. Then, put it in perspective & channel it into something positive.
Make this your time for self-care. Whether working out, having a spa day (or an at home spa day/night) goal setting, project doing, book reading… anything that you find fulfilling or enjoyable. Take an online course. Connect with others similarly situated.
There are upsides to being alone, if you choose to see them. Binge watch that show he's been rolling his eyes at. Eat the midnight slice of cheesecake. No one's there to judge you... or ask you to share. Take up the whole. damn. bed. See? Not so bad.
The second challenge for LEOFs is fear.
That one word encompasses so much. Fear for them, fear for ourselves, for the children, the country. Despite its inherently overwhelming nature, you must not let fear consume you, just as your spouse mustn’t. It will paralyze you. Channel your fear into constructive outlets, ones that empower and uplift you.
It doesn’t matter if it means getting your CCL or joining a prayer group… or both. You have to look for and focus on the good. Turn off the news. Get involved in something that makes you feel connected or useful. It’s the helplessness that fear instills that defeats us. Get your warrior mentality on.
One of the ways we can manage the fear is by compartmentalizing it. This is a skill most police officers and military servicemen and women are expert in. When done constructively, it's a useful tool in categorizing and processing fear, trauma, and stress. By isolating a situation or event or, in this case - an emotion, and putting it in a virtual "drawer" we deny it permission to dominate our headspace. In turn, achieving some sense of control psychologically empowers us and allows us to function.
This is not to say these virtual drawers should remain closed for all time, but rather pulled out and addressed as needed. As a couple, you can do this together. Have a weekly vent session where you both can open the drawers that need to be opened, shake out the contents, and inspect them in the light.
If there is an upside to fear, it's that it makes us live more presently. We, better than many, know the value of goodbyes and the importance of quality time. We learn faster to not sweat the small stuff. We hug tighter and forgive quicker. So, really, our fear stems from our understanding of the fragility of life. We know it is a gift, so we cherish it.
The last of the big challenges LEOWs face... jealousy.
Ah, yes. The green-eyed monster lives large in LEOW world. From "badge bunnies" to flirtatious co-workers, to those annoying but well-meaning friends who insist that, "cops are notorious cheaters." Insert eye-roll.
First, are cops really notorious cheaters? It's complicated.
Men and women in law enforcement, much like anyone in high power, high stress occupations, are subject of a greater degree of, shall we say, carnal interest. Women unabashedly love a man in uniform. Some - those unaffectionately named "badge bunnies" in some circles - pursue them with almost aggressive intent. To put it bluntly, a lot of opportunity is thrown their way. Whether they resist the temptation or encourage it depends on a variety of factors - work environment, home environment, personal history, and more.
Unjustified jealousy, if not managed, can destroy a relationship as easily as an actual affair. Unwarranted suspicion, accusations, or snooping can and possibly will push your partner away. Seeing every woman (or man) as a threat will have the same effect. Instead, address the root of your fears and insecurities with your partner. If they've given you no cause to doubt them, then stop.
Foster and create home life as the haven from the rest of the world - a place to leave all the negative of the outside world at the door, and you relationship will thrive.
In healthy relationships, expectations and allowances are set early. Call it a code of conduct of sorts. Partners who have self-respect, self-confidence, and self-contentment set that standard by their very actions. The byproduct of that mentality allows for the couple to put their marriage first, acts as a team, and always have one another's back without worry. After all, a strong couple cannot be divided by the attentions of another. That includes the attentions of the aforementioned badge bunnies.
Jealousy rooted in just cause is entirely different. A relationship with a cheater rarely succeeds. There's a difference between your friends saying, "cops are notorious cheaters," and "he's a notorious cheater." Choosing a reputed cheater as a partner and expecting they'll change is one recipe for potential heartbreak. The naïve belief that "he'll change because he loves me" is the other. The advice here is about understanding one simple truth.
People don’t change for other people, they change for themselves.
Believe it or not, in committed relationships, there is such thing as healthy jealousy. Seeing the value of your partner and making it clear to others that yours is an unbreakable bond, shows you are protective of the life you've created. In moderation, it provides the small reassurances we all crave that our loved one cares.
Ultimately, all three challenges can be worked to the advantage of your relationship with your LEO and strengthen your relationship. Concentrating on turning loneliness into alone time, compartmentalizing fear, and recognizing the root of jealousy through open lines of communication can only build and/or reinforce the foundation of a successful LEO relationship.
Defunding the police ironically requires more police officers to work overtime, which costs taxpayers more money… and leads to decreased officer morale, increased burnout, and unfortunately more mistakes.
Defunding the police strips our officers of much-needed training and resources, such as de-escalation, use of force, and cultural awareness training. Furthermore, the scheme to remove less-lethal options will simply result in more fatal police shootings.
Fight back against defunding the police
Politicians want to slash police, tell them NO
Do your part to support police, show you care
Development of a national media advertising blitz to rally Americans who are sick and tired of the attacks on law enforcement and focus on the negative impact the defund the police movement is having on our country.
The establishment of a “strike team” of researchers and reporters to highlight the devastating impact of defunding the police in our communities.
We will work within our communities to highlight both the positive stories of law enforcement… and bring you the stories that are ignored by the mainstream media.
Elsa Kurt is a multi-genre author, speaker & brand creator of Blue Family Apparel & Igoodhuman, as well as the producer & host of the Blue Family Unity Show on Right America Media. Her book, Welcome to the Family (Life Behind the Thin Blue Line) has been called the "must have survival guide for new LEO spouses."