FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
My husband Mike and I met at our first real job out of college back in 1990 where we worked in residential care with behavior disordered teenagers. On our second date Mike revealed his dream job was to become a police officer. It had been his boyhood dream. He knew in his soul this was who he was to be, but because he was legally blind without corrected vision, he would never be hired. Unfortunately in my insensitivity, I was relieved. I told him I could never be involved with anyone in that career. I wanted someone who would be home on holidays, weekends, and would work nine to five. Also at that time all of my interactions with police officers had been negative so it was not a profession I respected plus I believed all the stereotypes which were shaped by movies, television, and my friends who had been arrested.
In the next few years Mike underwent corrective eye surgery which restored his vision from legally blind to better than perfect. He began talking about testing for police departments. As he began to look into it I became very conflicted. I knew I could never live with a cop. I was afraid of being alone; being a single wife, never having a plus one for wedding invitations, sleeping by myself, and raising a family with little help. I knew my limitations with one of them being I do not do well with too much alone time. I get depressed and my self-esteem plummets. I need to be in relationships with others or a part of me feels like I am dying. I also knew this was a part of my personality I could not change for it is the way I am designed. Being around people for me is as crucial as air. I believed I would go nuts if I was married to a cop.
As Mike became more excited about becoming a police officer, I became more unsettled and more fearful. By this point we had been dating three years and I was deeply in love. We were talking about marriage and looking at rings. I could not imagine living a life without Mike, but I also could not face a life of being a police officer's wife. That seemed more painful than living with him. I did not believe I had the strength to kiss my husband good-bye as he went off to work and wonder all day if that would be the last kiss we would ever share. I knew all the statistics of cops being in the highest divorce, suicide, and alcoholism rates. I had already come from a home that had an alcoholic father, and I knew I did not want to repeat my parents' marriage. I also knew police officers are exposed to an evil most people never see in this world and I feared evil would steal my husband's soul.
All of my fears led us to a very difficult conversation. Many may view this as selfish and manipulative, but it was really one of the most selfless things I have ever done. I told Mike I could not support him as a police officer, but I also knew this was a lifetime dream and a calling. He was going to be an asset to the profession and I did not want to stand in his way. That I supported his decision, but in my support I also knew our relationship needed to end. I knew I would not be a good wife to him as he pursued where he needed to go. I continued to let him know all of my fears and limitations. At the end of the conversation where a lot of tears were shed, we parted ways. Our one and only break-up lasted twelve hours after he decided he would rather be with me than be a cop.
Soon after our breakup, Mike and I became engaged and we planned our wedding. Mike continued his career in social services. A year later we were married and I realized Mike was going to a job he hated. He didn't complain nor did he ever speak about being a police officer again, but I knew it was what he was destined to be so we had another difficult conversation. I encouraged him to begin testing, but I also needed a commitment from him that our marriage would always come first. That we would work on our marriage harder than most since we were going to face very unique challenges. He agreed to quit his job if it hurt our relationship. He was hired within six months.
Thirteen years later, we are still married and he is still a cop. I would love to tell you none of my fears came true, but most of them have, except the most extreme. Mike has never thought about suicide, nor is he an alcoholic. We have had hard times, but we are not divorced, nor do I believe we ever will be. I got used to sleeping alone the first eight years of our marriage while we worked on opposite shifts. Mike has never lost his soul to evil, but I know cops who have. I spend holidays alone, and with his current schedule we only have 39 days off a year together excluding vacations. I have learned not to tell people what my husband does for a living when I first meet them. I get tired of hearing their "worst cop" story. With his shift work we have found it hard to maintain friendships, and this has added to my isolation. My worst fear of spending more time alone than with my husband did come true.
I believe law enforcement marriages offer unique challenges and require special survival skills to keep them alive. Officers spend countless hours learning tactical skills, but do not put time into learning relationship skills. Be a cop at work, but a spouse at home. Keep yourself alive so that you can come home at night. Have fun in the job, but have more fun at home. Learn survival skills to keep your marriage alive.
However, right now I would not trade our life together for anything. I love Mike and I am very proud of him. I still cannot imagine him doing any other job. Our marriage has survived because he puts time and energy into our marriage and tries to be cognoscente of how the job affects me. I have also over the years learned my own survival skills to keep my sanity in check. It s by both of us being intentional about being married to each other more than our jobs that have kept our marriage alive.