5 Elements of a Bulletproof Law Enforcement Marriage

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I remember the first time I saw my husband in his uniform.  It blew my mind.

I mean, not only did he look super handsome (there’s something to be said about a man in uniform, after all ;)) and he’d shaved his face completely for the first time since I’d known him, but it reminded me of the new person he was becoming.

That uniform signified the new power and responsibility he had.  It signified the commitment he’d made to protect and serve, no matter what it cost.  Whether the cost was just a much-needed day off, or his safety, or even his life.

But that uniform also reminded me that with that commitment, I was now second in his life.  Don’t get me wrong – when it’s his choice, I come first.  But when it’s not?  The job always comes first.  No matter whether I’m sick, no matter if we have a newborn… if the world needs him, he’s there.

It’s a lot like being married to Batman, I swear, and there’s nothing more frustrating than when I need my husband and that bat signal shows up and takes him away.

Because of all the sacrifices he has to make for the job, the statistic that we only have a 25% chance of making it is ever-present in my mind.  With every frustration I experience because of the job, I remember how important my marriage is to me.  Being one of the 75% of law enforcement marriages that doesn’t make it is not good enough for me.

Because you know what?  I’m determined.  I’m not one to just give up in the face of adversity.  In fact, the harder things get, the more determined I get to be successful.  I want to beat the odds, and whatever it takes, my marriage is worth it – especially now that we have kids.

At times, the statistics about law enforcement marriage have scared me.  Overall, though, they’ve been a catalyst to make me more careful, more intentional about caring for my marriage.  It forces me to realize that the marriage of my dreams isn’t going to happen by chance.  It’s going to happen because we worked for it.

If you want to divorce-proof your marriage, these 5 things are what you’ll want to focus on.

5 Elements of a Bulletproof Law Enforcement Marriage

Communication

Communication is hard to begin with – but combine it with long shifts, days without seeing each other, and a spouse who often doesn’t want to talk about his day?  It’s a recipe for trouble.

What it really comes down to is communicating efficiently.  That sounds sort of clinical, but seriously.  Knowing how best to communicate with your spouse is way better than just doing what you think is best.

When we were first married, we took the free Love Languages test and it’s made all the difference.  It’s easier to bridge any issues in communication if I know my husband thrives on physical touch versus, say, acts of service.  It means if he’s bummed out, I know he’d prefer a hug and a kiss over me cleaning his uniform (which might be how I’d try to communicate love otherwise.)

We actually bought the book, which I’m sure is super useful… but the test itself was eye-opening enough (and we never got around to actually reading it – whoops!)

One aspect of communication that’s pretty unique to law enforcement marriage is the fact that you sometimes have to be okay with a lack of communication.  There are times my husband doesn’t want to tell me about his day… and I’m sure I don’t actually want to know about his day.  I have to be okay with not knowing every single thing about my husband and feel close to him still.

If you’re new to this life, just remember that everyone struggles with this, and it just takes time to get used to.  You’ll eventually know by the way your husband walks in the door whether you’re going to know about his day or not, and how to help him through it.  You’ll know how to feel close to him even if you’ll get silence if you ask, “How was your day?”

Regardless of how you struggle in this area, remember that it gets easier with practice 🙂

 

Trust

Trust and communication go hand in hand.  Especially because your husband isn’t always going to tell you about his day – it’s one of the many things that might make you doubt him, and question whether he’s being forthright with you.

The other thing that can strain the trust you have in your husband is the demanding nature of his job.  At first, it might be easy to commiserate with one another about how your date night got taken away because of a drunk driver.  After a while, though, it might feel like it’s just you, that your husband would actually prefer to be out in his patrol car than alone with you.

Don’t let yourself feel that way.

Sure, the job is exciting.  It’s fun.  He does it because he loves it.  But you know what he loves more?  You.  Your kids.  Your family.

He wants to be there.  He wants to take you on dates and attend family events.  He wants to attend functions for the kids.

If you ever doubt it, ask him for the reassurance you need.  I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to oblige.

On the flipside, your husband also needs to be able to trust you.  I have issues with saying I’m fine at times when I’m really not – but even a lie this small can be super bad for your marriage.  Be honest with him, even when it’s hard.

Most of all, be a wife he can rely on.  He faces enough uncertainty in his job: the best thing you can do for your marriage is to be his rock, his safe place, the thing that’s consistent when everything else is falling apart.  Trust me, he’ll love you for it.

 

Flexibility

I am not a flexible person – by any means.  I freak out when things don’t go according to plan and I hate when things aren’t in my control.

Which means my husband being a police officer is the worst perfect opportunity to practice being more flexible.  I mean, he’s basically on call 24/7, even when he’s not, and sometimes he’ll be supposed to be off at the perfect time to be home for dinner, but a parolee with paraphernalia ruins all our plans.  It’s, um, exciting. 

I spend a lot of time forcing myself to look for the silver lining, even when it’s razor thin.  I remind myself of extra overtime pay that we can use to pay down debt or save for a house.  I find a show on Netflix I get to binge watch because there’s no way in heck he’d have watched it with me.  I remind myself how proud I am of him, even when it sucks at times.

Most of all, the unpredictable nature of his job is a great reminder to make the good times count.  When you’re together, be together and enjoy each other.  Don’t hold grudges! It ain’t worth it.

Speaking of which…

 

Forgiveness

You and your husband are going to come up short… a lot.  There are times you’ll both be short-tempered, grumpy, and unpleasant to be around.  It happens in all marriages, not just law enforcement marriages, so don’t be too put out by it.  Just learn how to be more forgiving.

The thing is, it’s not possible for each of you to be perfect.  It’s just not.  So the better you are at forgiving one another and the faster you’re able to do so, the stronger your marriage is going to be.

If, instead, you focus on each other’s faults and shortcomings, you’re going to slowly chip away at your marriage’s foundation.  No disagreement is worth that.

Find ways to communicate with one another when you’re disappointed with one another, try not to make the same mistake multiple times (and show yourself grace when you do), and always, always leave each other with a hug and a kiss.

 

 

Independence

It’s a good thing I’m pretty independent by nature, because I spend a lot of time alone.  I think there are some people who think “husband” is really a euphemism for “my imaginary friend”, but no! I swear he’s real.  He’s just not around all that often.

Even with my natural independence, though, it can be hard.  Sometimes I get irritated that I’m wrangling my son alone at church or that I have to go to (another!) family function without him.  But it’s just part of the life.

The best thing I can do is to make plans for fun activities, even if he can’t join me.  I take my son to the park or the zoo a lot, and go for a lot of walks.  I take him to things even if it’s going to be hard to wrangle him.  And the time I have completely to myself?  I make the most of it.

Night shifts are the best time to watch guilty pleasure shows with nobody around to judge me, and even enjoy a pint of ice cream like nobody’s watching. (I guess I could dance like nobody’s watching, but the ice cream is more fun ;))

But seriously – the more self-reliant you can learn to be, the better you (and your marriage) will thrive. 

 

Marriage is hard, but it’s totally worth it.  Remember that a good marriage won’t happen by accident – so be intentional about building the best marriage possible.  It’s not about the difficulties you face – it’s about how you choose to respond to them.

What are some ways you’ve learned to thrive in your law enforcement marriage?

This is spot on... I agree with every single point! THIS is what it takes to make a police marriage work.

 

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About The Author

Leah

I’m a twenty-something LEO wife and stay-at-home mom to a one-year-old little boy. I enjoy writing, reading, taking my son for walks and runs in the stroller, and crafting. My goal is for Love and Blues to be a resource for first responders and their families. I write about marriage and family topics, as well as about the quirks that come with being married to a man in law enforcement, firefighting, or emergency medical services.

  • Melinda Reay

    I really love this piece that you did. Probably my favorite out of your entire blog. The first ride along my husband went on, the officer told him within a few minutes of the ride along: “just prepare now for divorce, it’s going to happen, probably a few times.” Yikes. Ever since, we’ve made it a big point to strengthen our marriage now so that when the going gets tough, we have enough “money in the account” as you would say to get through the difficult stuff. For us, we plan a weekly date night and switch off. I know that as an LEOW it won’t be as consistent, but again, starting now to bank for later. A few great books that I’ve read are: “I Love a Cop, Revised Edition: What Police Families Need to Know” by Ellen Kirschman, and The “Crazy Lives of Police Wives” by Carolyn Whiting. Both books provide great insight on tips and tricks of being an LEO wife. Another suggestion would be to expand on your love language thoughts. My husband and I received the CD “For All Eternity: A Four-Talk Set to Strengthen Your Marriage” by John Lund. We listened to the CD on our honeymoon to Yellowstone. It’s long, but so incredibly good! It expands on the Love Language thing, and includes a sample test to do so. The ideas on this CD are so good and are well worth it. (he also wrote a book called “For All Eternity”. I haven’t read it, but the talks were incredible so I’m sure that book is as well)

    • I’m so glad you liked it! It’s by far my longest post, and the one I put the most time into so far. I actually haven’t read any of those books, but they all sound good! I’ll have to look into them. Thank you for your nice comment: I definitely appreciate you reading my blog! 🙂

  • Melinda Reay

    If you want any of the books, you can borrow them from me too. Just ask your husband to ask my husband at work to give them to you. I’ve already them through twice.

    • Thank you! I’ll be sure to let you know 🙂

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  • Sarah

    I agree with most of what you wrote. My husband and I are in our mid-thirties and have been at with his department for the last ten years. However, one things bothers me. The independence section. I can’t tell you how many times other police wives have named the ability to do outings and events solo as a marking of “good police wives”. Sadly, not every police wife can be as independent. I have been a midnight wife of two kids for years and I homeschool them both, but we don’t do outings without my husband much. I’m chronically ill, one of my children is learning disabled, and our family owns one car (which my husband takes to work). God allows me to feel self confidence that I’m doing my best despite my circumstances. I hope other LEOW’s know that they’re allowed to be imperfect too.

    • I’m so glad you’ve found what works for you! I definitely hope the post didn’t come off as me saying what it takes to be a “perfect” LEO wife because, well, such a thing doesn’t exist! Every relationship has its own rhythm and requirements. No judgment here 🙂

  • I love this! I am a firefighter’s wife, not a law enforcement wife, but all of these things apply just the same 🙂 The “flexibility” is especially hard for me too. My husband sometimes gets called away at a moments notice to fight a forest fire for up to two weeks and I find it hard not to get annoyed, even though he has no choice. Thanks!

    • Oh man, that sounds rough! I know LEOs and firefighters give each other a hard time sometimes, but solidarity sister ✊????

  • Mrs G

    To Sarah, we all have things we are good at and things that are really hard for us. For me I was pretty good at being independent except attending church. I dreaded going alone and hated sitting in the pew when everyone else sat with their spouse. I felt judged, lonely and was always on the verge of tears. As a LEOW it can be the loneliest place of all, and it shouldn’t be that way. Find a friend you can call on that can help you bear this burden.
    One other piece of advice, make your marriage top priority right behind Jesus. Your kids will feel loved as long as they see how much you love your spouse. Don’t let your kids replace your love for your spouse.
    Our marriage is still a work in progress, but we’re nearing 29 years of marriage and 27 years in LE. It can be done!

    • Thank you so much for sharing – I totally agree with you. Church is a super lonely place to go alone! Especially when you’re wrangling a child or two (or more!) – it’s rough.
      Congratulations on almost 29 years!!