10 Key Points Police Officers Need Spouses to Know
In a world where the police are scrutinized for everything they do, it is not often we get to learn about the more intimate side. Let’s not forget, officers are humans too and they have families and relationships just like the rest of us. The difference is that police officers generally tend to be very unique people in more ways than one. And because of this, being in a relationship with one can be difficult. So, as a former police officer who is also now marrying one, I have compiled a list of 10 key points that I believe all officers need their spouses to know, even if they don’t say it all the time.
1) Try not to show your officer that you worry about them 100 percent of the time because it will frustrate them. They will feel like you don’t believe in their training. It also adds to their already high anxiety of never knowing what can happen next. And I want you to know that as a fellow police spouse this is NOT easy to do. However, you need to instill as much faith and trust as you can in your officer. Showing them your worries all the time is not helpful.
2) Trust in your officer’s training, education and experience—TEE for short. If you are unsure about things and want to know more about his TEE then ask. Simply begin the conversation and tell them you want to learn more about what they do and why they do it. The typical question that most people will ask is, “Why didn’t you just shoot them in the hand or leg? Why did you have to kill them?” This is an example of someone who has no idea how an officer is trained. As a result, a simple conversation will clarify these questions.
3) Your officer loves the job. Moreover, it is because it’s all consuming. It will seem like he or she doesn’t love you, but that is typically not the case. Your officer loves you more than you may ever know even if they don’t show it. Not showing it is (sort of) part of the job and it will take you awhile to adjust. You must remember that for many police officers, it is about shutting emotions off. When they do that, they become better at the job because they are objective. So, unfortunately, it will translate in their home life. Therefore, as a spouse you just become aware of this and work on it together.
4) You are your officer’s rock even if they don’t say it. They need you to be the rock of the family. Furthermore, I am 95 percent sure they won’t tell you that either. Your officer needs you to be strong, supportive, loving, accepting, and fun because the job is demanding and they need to be so serious most of the time.
Be the person they want to come home to, call or talk to after things have gone really bad at work. You do this by being supportive, not getting upset or freaking out about things, by listening and never judging them. They see things most of the world has never had to see and they feel all sorts of critical feelings for it too; so don’t be judgmental towards them or they will not want to be open with you.
5) Unless it’s an emergency please don’t call your officer 10 times while they are at work because they will think something is wrong with you. If they can’t answer they will worry and their head will be taken out of the game. This goes for texting too. There’s nothing worse than being on a call when your phone is blowing up in your pocket. It will cause a lot of anxiety for your officer. And when they do get in touch with you, believe me, if it was not an emergency, you’ll pay the price! This goes back to trusting that they will be safe on the job.
6) Your officer will act differently in public than other spouses, and they will always be constantly aware of everything going on while out in public. They might even seem on edge and that is because they ARE and always will be. A sheepdog (the name for your officer) is always ready to protect the sheep (meaning you or any good Samaritan). So, they will always be looking around at who is coming in and out, who is staring at them, who is acting weird and looking for anything that doesn’t seem quite right. This is typical and you must accept it and allow them to be that way. This is how they save their own lives every day while working patrol.
7) Your officer may always carry a gun. You need to know that it is part of who they are. They have a gun on their hip for over 40 hours a week and it’s because it is a life-saving tool. It could easily save their life as well as yours and that of your family. ACCEPT IT. Cops are not rookies at handling firearms. They do it every day. It has become muscle memory for them to handle it. If you force your officer to disarm off duty, that is a mistake. It is taking away from the muscle memory they have developed. Let’s be honest, if something occurs that presents a danger, what is the first thing they are going to reach for? Their weapon!
8) Your officer doesn’t think that everyone is bad, but they will not trust anyone up front. They know there are good people in this world, but they will need people to prove they are trustworthy before they begin to like them. Even then your officer may still be on edge about them. As a police officer we see so many sides of people. We see what people are really like and we have looked evil in the eyes on multiple occasions; believe me when I say that a police officer’s circle of friends is very small. I’m sure you have seen this and it will be something you’ll need to accept.
9) You will get the short end of the stick more often than not. Your officer may snap at you, be angry, seem irritated and be very short with you for no reason. This is one aspect of the job I hate for the spouses because it is SO TRUE. It happens in all police relationships that I have seen. I also know this is a leading problem inside of the relationship and it is one that I have had to battle myself on both sides of the badge.
There is so much that goes on within the job that officers cannot control, do not understand and requires zero emotion to survive. So, when your officer is with you they feel safe to be themselves and let things just come out. The solution to this is to communicate about it in a calm way and come up with a plan when your officer is acting like this. Sometimes it can be as easy as giving them some time by themselves, or having them workout, read a book etc.
10) If you are new to the police-wife-life then this may upset you, but before it does hear me out. Your officer will not hang around people that are criminals, druggies, people who drink and drive, or anyone who is going to bash the police or our government in front of them. As you read this you’ll be like, “well duh” not realizing that you may have friends and family that fall into these categories. This will be quite difficult for you to deal with.
By hanging around people like this, you have no idea what kind of position this puts your officer in. You must understand that your officer will only be able to take so much police bashing, criminal activity talk, or talk/actions going on that make them uncomfortable before they say something. This might put you in a position because you’ll be between your spouse and your friends/family.
The best way to deal with it is to try to avoid it as much as possible. If you can’t avoid the encounters, then have the talk with your family about keeping their mouths shut regarding certain topics. I personally had to do this, and while it’s awkward, I care how my LEO feels when around my family. So it’s worth it to me. It’s also important as the spouse of an officer to avoid hanging out with these people on your own. If it’s unavoidable then you’ll need to make adjustments.
Just understand that being with a police officer means you both live in a glass house where it is built with nothing but windows. Consequently, EVERYONE is watching. Can you imagine what people would say if they knew a cop’s spouse was hanging out with local drunk driver all the time?
Finally, as you can see, there are many points to consider. The life of a police officer is complicated and unique. If you are joining the police-wife-life, every point above will become real for you.
Autumn Clifford is a former police officer. She was in law enforcement for six years before she got hurt on duty and left the job. Autumn has a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and is nearly halfway to a masters’ in the field. She was not only a patrol officer, but is marrying a state trooper in September of 2018.
Autumn has taken her passion for law enforcement and is now helping officers and spouses to understand both sides of the badge. She has created an online business, which focuses on helping law enforcement. You can reach her by following her on Instagram @theladysheepdog