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 (so strange), 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 was a lot like being married to Batman, I swear, and there was nothing more frustrating than when I need my husband and that bat signal showed up and took him away.
Because of all the sacrifices he had to make for the job, the statistic that we only have a 25% chance of making it was ever-present in my mind. With every frustration I experienced because of the job, I had to remember how important my marriage is to me. Being one of the 75% of law enforcement marriages that doesn’t make it was 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. Even now, the odds aren’t in our favor as a result of his chronic pain and our financial stress. The harder things get, though, 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 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 up around the house (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 didn’t want to tell me about his day… and I’m sure I don’t actually want to know what that day entailed. I’ve had to learn 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 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.
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 being a law enforcement wife gave me lots of opportunity to practice being more flexible. I mean, that meant he was basically on call 24/7, even when he wasn’t, and sometimes he’d 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 spent a lot of time forcing myself to look for the silver lining, even when it’s razor thin. I reminded myself of extra overtime pay that we can use to pay down debt or save for a house. I’d 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 reminded myself how proud I was of him, even when it sucked at times.
Most of all, the unpredictable nature of your husband’s 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…
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.
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 thought “husband” was really a euphemism for “my imaginary friend”, but no! I swear he’s always been real. He just wasn’t always around that often.
Truly, it’s still a struggle, because I never know when his pain is going to peak and leave me to go to family/friend events alone.
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? They were always 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?