I am a police officer’s wife.
Being a police wife can come with many challenges. Being a police officer’s wife is about learning to push through your fears and worries. It is lonely nights and holidays not on the actual day. It is resourcefulness at times. And call-outs in the middle of the night or at the most inconvenient times. It is always making sure there is always a seat facing the door. More than anything it is finding a strength you never knew you had.
As a police wife, I wear his badge with honor too. I choose to support my husband who took an oath to make a difference. I choose to believe in my officer when so many choose not to. And I choose to stand behind my blue family who is hated and judged by the actions of others. This is the life we choose. It is a life filled with humility, servanthood, and purpose.
So how do we cope with all the stress? Let’s take a look at some ways to manage the challenges that come with being a law enforcement family.
Making self-care a priority is important for both you and your officer. As a police wife, you know the physical, mental, and emotional toll the job takes on our officers. And inadvertently some of that gets passed along to us. So, becoming disciplined in taking care of yourself is critical.
So, what exactly is self-care? For some, getting a massage or taking a bubble bath may come to mind. While those are both great things, I am talking about something much more than that. For starters, self-care doesn’t just happen. It is something that that is intentional. It is also holistic. This means when I am practicing good self-care, I am addressing my physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual needs well. And when we steward our lives well, we are able to show up as a better wife to our officers or a better mom to our children.
Develop Other Hobbies
As a police wife myself, I know how easy it is for the police world to become such a big part of our identity. But the reality is, our officer’s jobs are stressful. Therefore, it is not healthy for their jobs to become the center of our every waking moment. It’s not healthy for us and it’s not healthy for our officers. It is so important for both you and your spouse to find your identity outside of being a police officer or a police officer’s wife.
Finding hobbies and other interests is important to maintaining your overall health and wellbeing. Research shows that engaging in new activities activate the brain’s reward system, creating excitement, boosting mood, and decreasing stress. Have a hobby you never seem to have time for? Or an activity you have really been wanting to try? Give yourself permission to carve out some space to do them. Making space to engage in these types of activities will allow you to show up as a better mom and police wife.
Maintain Healthy Boundaries
It is no secret that our world is changing. As a police wife, the world can feel like a very cruel and lonely place at times. Everywhere you look it seems like someone has an opinion about something- law enforcement being at the top of the list. Sometimes it feels almost impossible to sit back and be a spectator of all the hatred directed towards your officer, your husband. But the reality is, engaging in it wouldn’t help anything. It won’t change anyone’s opinion any more than it will make you feel better. This is why it is so important to maintain healthy boundaries.
This might look like taking a step back from social media or trimming down your friend’s list. It might also look like placing limits around how much time you spend watching the news or listening to political reports. Sometimes having healthy boundaries may even mean taking a step back from certain relationships. And sometimes those relationships might be people who were once your friends or they may even be your family.
Learn to be Flexible
Learning to be flexible and adaptable is critical as a police officer’s wife. I learned very quickly as a new LEO wife that the only thing certain is uncertainty. It was quite the adjustment getting used to strange schedules, long shifts, and many holidays spent alone when we were newlyweds. Not to mention being woke at 2 AM to your husband being called in to respond to officer-involved shootings or coming home hours after his shift due to being on a barricade. It can be terrifying, devastating, and a whole whirlwind of emotions.
Over the years, I have learned to adjust to this new “normal”. I have come to accept that not every holiday will be celebrated on the actual day, I may have to attend events without him, and some holiday gatherings he just may not make it to. Some things that can make this easier are coming up with your own special holiday traditions and coordinating plans with family well in advance. If date night plans get ruined, make sure you find space to schedule them back in.
Develop a Routine
We all know our officer’s jobs are anything but mundane. This is why having a routine can really help decrease anxiety and maintain sanity. This is especially true when you have children. It is important for children to have consistency and not to be left guessing when dinner will be or who will be picking them up from school. It has been so helpful for my husband and I to sit down and make decisions about what time dinner will be (whether he is home or not), who is in charge of getting the kids off to school, etc.
Having a routine can help decrease stress for you and your officer. It helps bring clarity around expectations, roles, and minimizes the chances for miscommunication or resentment. I would recommend starting by having a conversation around any situations that bring anxiety or frustration to you or your officer. You can begin to plan your routines to help alleviate that stress from there. Remember- routines might also include particular ways we tell our officer goodbye before a shift or check-in texts throughout the day. The goal is to bring some level of certainty in the uncertainty of being a police officer’s wife.
Communication is an essential skill in any marriage. In fact, as a licensed counselor, communication is the most common struggle that brings couples who are struggling into my office. If you think about it this makes a lot of sense because healthy communication paves the way to feeling connected, understood, and validated. Therefore, in a healthy marriage, it is important to be intentional about prioritizing communication and connecting with one another.
Do you and your officer prioritize communication with one another? Our officers are on the frontlines day in and day out. They see unimaginable things that cannot be unseen and at times can be difficult to process. As police wives, we also experience a multitude of different things. Things such as worrying about our officers, the weight of household responsibilities that our officers sometimes just do not have time to get to, and the hurtful ways the world can sometimes depict our spouses- just to name a few. This is why communication is so important. Healthy communication opens the door to connectedness and allows you and your officer to discuss important things such as daily matters, joys, frustrations, and sorrows.
Quality Time is a Must
If you have been in the world of law enforcement long, you know time with your officer is valuable. Our spouses often work long hours, have crazy schedules, work nights or holidays, and at times get called into service at the most inconvenient times. I will be the first one to admit it can be easy to get caught in the trap of acting on feelings of resentment or frustration because of their schedules. But I have learned that underneath those feelings of resentment and frustration is a longing to connect and spend meaningful time with my husband.
Making quality time together a priority is key. Sometimes this means scheduling time together weeks in advance. If something happens where your plans get derailed, reschedule them! Schedule date nights as frequently as possible. It doesn’t always have to be anything big and fancy. Spend time connecting with one another daily, even if it is just for fifteen minutes. Doing so will help strengthen your relationship which will, in turn, help both you and your officer be able to better navigate the challenges this life can bring.
Find Healthy Support Systems
Our officers work long shifts and can have crazy schedules. It is easy to sometimes feel alone. Having healthy support systems is so important. Having people to lean on whether it is just to listen, offer support, or even offer a helping hand, can help alleviate stress and anxiety. We are not meant to tackle the challenges of life alone. As police wives, we need a strong community around us at all times.
Embrace your blue family. There is really nothing like the camaraderie among police officers and their families. It brings me such peace knowing my husband always has the support of so many brothers that I trust to be there for him. I hope you find comfort too knowing you have a blue family that can be trusted and counted on in times of struggle and need.
Thank you to all the officers and police wives who are serving their communities every day. If you have any questions as a new police wife, please reach out. We are all in this together!