Marriage & Law Enforcement

5 tips to make your marriage (& career) work

By Darrin Fulton  |   Apr 8, 2016

No matter your career, ending up in a romantic relationship with a coworker is not out of the realm of possibilities. In law enforcement, it seems almost destined to occur at one time or another. For me, I wasn’t even out of field training when fate intervened.

Ten years later, I don’t consider myself expert. But I can say I’m still happily married to the woman who wears the uniform as proudly as I do. We’ve even gone to the crazy extreme of working together on the same shift for three years. Almost everyone says they couldn’t stand to spend that much time around their spouse, but for us it works.

Following are a few of the reasons why.

5 Keys to Success

Communication: Ah, yes: The word that men fear most in relationships. Why should I have to talk to my wife about my day when she works at the same place I do? Because it allows our emotions to come out, and to expel all the negative thoughts that we have had throughout a shift so that we are not expelling those negatives on each other.

We give each other reasons to laugh, vent, and, should we become a part of something traumatic, to cry on the shoulder of someone who understands completely what we are going through. We are also allowed to shield our children from the horrors of our job and only let them hear and see very little about what mom and dad actually do.

Be normal: I know it’s extremely difficult to exit cop mode. There’s a difference between being vigilant, or carrying off duty, which I fully advocate, and exiting the house with your mace, baton, and cuffs all still on your belt.   You or your spouse will always sit facing the door at a restaurant. I’m sure you have a full plan if all hell breaks loose. But giving yourselves time to enjoy life, going on a date, or doing something with your kids (if you have them). Find a hobby you can enjoy together. Try to do things that allow you to take your mind off the job and focus on your spouse.

Friends outside: Unfortunately, police departments are part high school and part college. There are plenty of gossips, and rumors run rampant. Nothing is better fodder for both than officers getting into a romantic relationship.

There are also plenty of house parties and bar gatherings where officers congregate, tell war stories, and enjoy a few adult beverages. The problem lies where the two intertwine.

I’m not saying you should never hang out with other cops, but, as a man married to a cop, it’s much easier to hang out with colleagues as a couple than alone. Being able to have a beer or two with your shift mates from time to time builds trust and camaraderie. Having a bar stool with your name on it is just asking for trouble.

Bottom line: Whether your married to another cop or not, find people outside of the job to hang out with—neighbors, fellow churchgoers, or friends you had prior to the academy. Those outside friendships, especially as your career progresses, are essential and give you something to talk about besides the worst death call you’ve been on or the latest traffic stop that pissed you off.

Don’t let the job consume you: As I mentioned, exiting cop mode is difficult. But if all that matters is the next collar, felony drug bust, or hot call, every relationship will suffer—none more than your relationship with your spouse.

You have to be willing to relax and enjoy life. Winding down at the end of the day is a critical life skill. Being an adrenaline junky and feeding off the thrill will eventually lead to taking risks that could cost you more at home than at work.

Be willing to take time off: Every officer in the country is given time away from the job. But not every officer takes it.

Granted, it is not always easy to get a day off. But there are always opportunities. Being married to another officer, our time off together is precious. It’s never taken lightly and we get as much out of those days as possible. Taking time away to travel, spend time with family, or just catch up on a honey do list are worth it for your marriage and your career.

Even more important is be willing to take time off when your children are born. There’s an unfortunate stigma that a man doesn’t need time off with a new child. But being there for your wife and showing you really care about her and the new life that you have created together strengthens you bonds as a family.

Conclusion

Again, I’m no expert. I am not a psychologist or a counselor. But this works for me and my wife. We all have our ups and downs. There are days that we have to just step away from each other for a little while. But we always return and remember why we said, “I do.”

Being a police officer is not easy on anyone. Having someone who understands what you go through every day when you get home makes it a little more bearable. But you have to make time and space to make that happen.