While contemplating ideas for new blogs/stories I wanted to make sure I wrote about a topic which would help others and which I felt I had enough experience in. Observing a recent co-worker going through a divorce inspired me to chose the topic. For obvious reasons he will remain unnamed but they began having trouble about a year into his career. I have been married for 10 years and we have been together for a total of 15. I realize that may pale in comparison to some of our readers, but I think I can bring a unique perspective to this as we will be co-writing this article and the fact that I was not an officer when we met so we went through the change together. It was a challenging change to say the least.
I will admit when I decide to make the change to being Sheepdog, I really had no idea what that entailed. I suppose I thought it was much like you see on TV. I would save a lot of people, have some car chases, and be the hero to all my friends and family. They would look up to me and all the children in the neighborhood would think i was cool. A statement that actually made me laugh out loud while thinking about it. All I really knew at the time was it was something I had always wanted to do since I was a little boy. It’s a desire that many of the wives probably don’t understand initially. We of course discussed the decision before I entered the academy but who could possibly know exactly what was in store. The first problem that popped up was the change she immediately noticed in me. Not that it was bad, it was just different. I suppose us old timers now know it as the blue-flame.
I was learning all sorts of things which I would of course I would come home and practice on her or one of my boys. Iron wrist-lock take down anyone? Who wants to feel the mandible pressure point? No takers? I was also gaining confidence and loads of it. Suddenly not only did I feel I could protect myself, but my family and others as well. Sometimes confidence can come off as being cocky. I am the type of person who does not do something half-way. I am either all in or not at all. For me “all in” was looking and acting the part. I wasn’t a big drinker before, but now, its maybe a beer on 4th of July. I will not be a hypocrite. If I am going to be a leader in my community then I intend to act like one. Within the span of a few years I went from having a few drinks with the wife now and then to, “Come over here and let me check your Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus.”
Another issue which became immediately apparent is what us Officers call being prepared, others might see as being paranoid or hyper vigilance. We heard all the stories and saw all the photos in the academy. Now suddenly I have to obtain that certain seat in a restaurant and watch everybody for the slightest thing out of place. Off duty carry was also a must and for a girl that’s not fond of firearms to begin with, it was another point of contention with the wife.
So at this point you have a career change, attitude change, the crappy seats at the cafe, always being armed and now throw in the dreaded schedule changes and you can see how things can go downhill so fast. Our schedule was awful. There were three shifts, day center and night. You stayed on one shift for 4 weeks and then moved to the next one. You cannot get used to a shift because it changes all the time. Sleep patterns were non-existent. we all know just because you are off work at ____pm it does not mean you will be off anywhere close to that. “You made dinner? Sorry honey, not gonna make it tonight.” Even as I write this I can see why after about two years of all this, she decided this Police life might not have been the best idea. It really is a life that both of you have to agree to. In fact I think in many ways the spouse sacrifices more than the officer.
As I stated about two years in, things were not good. A dirty little secret about the thin blue line is that it isn’t as close knit as you think when it comes to marital problems. We really had no one to turn to who we though could help us through the difficult time. We tried counseling, which neither of us felt like it helped. What really helped us was following the teachings of the bible. Once we started reading together, praying together, most everything worked itself out. I don’t want to come off as preaching to the other readers, so I will leave it at that. If you have questions I am happy to speak with you.
We also sat down and went over ever detail and decided what was acceptable and what wasn’t. How long I would stay in police work and what I could do if we decided this was not going to work. It really boils down to the old cliché of communication. Her having an out was most important. If 5 years down the road she decided she had enough, I would agree to find a different career. You have to love her more than you love the job.
The effect of all this was that she was more open the sacrifices of the job, and I was more open to her concerns. I try and make a conscious effort to be attentive when I am home, which means putting the phone down and leaving work at work. She does the same for me, by not nagging or complaining when I am late. If she has questions I will answer them, but if its “one of those” calls, she understands not to push me until I want to talk about it. It really is a give and take. Without effort you won’t see results, much like when you go to the gym.
Trust is another huge component to having a successful marriage as an officer. For that I have this to say, stop f*ing cheating. It really blows my mind how many marriages I have seen fall apart because of cheating. Don’t even start an inappropriate conversation with the opposite sex. If you wouldn’t want your wife to read the text message or overhear the conversation, then you shouldn’t be having it. That goes for all marriages! If you are going to be “one” then you can’t be acting like two. There are a hundred badge bunnies and if they were worth keeping, someone would have already married them!
Hope this helps the rookies a bit. Always here to help if you need it. Contact my by PM via the Facebook page.