Given the enormity of stress heaped on the shoulders of law enforcement officers, how they cope and keep on keepin’ on is awe-inspiring. Cops’ stamina, persistence, and dedication to duty is surreal. LEOs confront society’s woes, evils, sinister elements, and cray-cray individuals…and still manage a chuckle. There is the other side of the coin, too. Spouses or significant others of LEOs endure much of the process and experience, albeit vicariously. The dimensions of being a cop’s loved one and dealing with police culture are unique.
Let’s examine seven ways police spouses and loved ones deal with the police lifestyle and navigate their relationship with a law enforcer:
Omnipresence of peril: Every police spouse knows that when their loved one departs the homestead to combat crime, they are bravely marching into an array of potential danger. With the current climate in America, this fact is illustrated too often by the ambush-style attacks against law enforcement officials. Via both media reports and first-hand from their cop’s police blotter revelations, police spouses are privy to such events. This segues into a closely-related and significant concern for police spouses…
No guarantees: The preamble above relates to this one, and is equally important. We all acknowledge there is no guarantee in this profession other than that danger will come your way, and that the Police Officers Oath stipulates the potential of self-sacrifice. Cops know this reality. So do police spouses and loved ones. It is an infinite wonder for which there is no settlement. Personally, it was a repetitively gut-wrenching facet of reporting for duty. I’d hug/kiss my spouse and children goodbye, glide my police cruiser from our driveway and, before I changed gears, witnessed the facial expressions change from familial glee to dread. Within minutes, the family tempo altered, always. Emotionally challenging for all parties…
Emotional/physical tolls: Pervasively in law enforcement, emotional reserves drain and leave near-depleted wells. Reports of PTSD persist. Consequently, abysmal self-destruction increases. Physiologically, chronic emotional sway often translates to physical ailments. Science delineates the interconnection of emotional burdens transcending into poor physical stature. Essentially, police spouses are poised to watch the gradual decline of either mode. By that virtue, law enforcement partners (husband/wife) are astute observers of how “The Job” can steal pieces at a time. Being an acute listener and lovingly avid supporter, while instilling healthy lifestyle tenets, is one feature of a police spouse. “In sickness and in health” via oath or vows.
Media-distorted views of police: Freedom of the Press and Constitutional guarantees to speak freely can sometimes go awry. Unrelentingly, law enforcement gets brow-beaten by media outlets which, seemingly hell-bent on sensationalizing police activities, operations, and protocols, distort reality and mischaracterize the police profession. Propaganda seems to be the name of the game. Police spouses watch such drivel from the sidelines at home, work, or among a group who are chatting up the latest evils orchestrated by the police. Husbands and wives of cops know well the truths and, with the patience of Mother Teresa, safeguard the nobility and honor of their respective loved one in uniform. Pesky reporters and police spouses are like oil and water.
Exercising patience: The depth of what police officers experience throughout any given shift, further taxing their endurance levels, requires compassion from spouses and significant others. Surely, it may summon delicate and provisional attributes. Akin to police professionals immersed in sustained hostage negotiations, waiting it out may be the best ingredient to yield peaceful dividends. Patience is surely a virtue. As is often most effective for LEOs, listening instead of talking garners optimal results. The complexity of human nature invites deep insights, the best brand of which may be supplied not by a police partner but from a marital partner.
Coping with hyper-vigilance: Albeit with a snicker or jeer or sideways glance, a police spouse recognizes when and why their uniformed husband/wife exhibits some (ahem) behavior reminiscent of a constipated Rottweiler. Police spouses know certain seating arrangements are, well…reserved for the police. Back to the door? Not in law enforcement households! Children of cops permitted to play far afield of the front door or driveway? Nope! Nada. Zilch. Zero occasions. Perhaps by virtue of a cop’s reality and bearing witness to how innocence can be stolen, a police spouse knows best the hypervigilant nature of his/her marital partner. Hypervigilance may seem over the top…but coppers know from real-life incidents how pleasant storybooks can turn into “Nightmare on Elm Street.”
Respectfully, I always considered police spouses deputized individuals and their children junior police officers. Members of a police family comprise a tightly-woven tapestry. After all, it’s a team thing, right?
Credit: By Stephen Owsinski