Divorce means a failed marriage. Although I do NOT want to get divorced, my spouse does. I thought we were in a great place. We had been through much heartache and misery as newlyweds. Before I was injured in the line of duty, we exchanged vows in front of friends and family. After years of surgeries, physical therapy, nightmares of dealing with “work-comp,” the horror of dealing with my department’s medical section bureaucracy, the stress of relocating our family to another state, I felt I had purpose again, with meaningful work (teaching). We bought our dream home, and new family car.

I thought my life was GREAT! On top of the usual arguments most couples have, our marriage was burdened with additional obstacles. I have to carry some scars of being a poor husband due to the anger, frustration, and bitterness stemming from my chronic pain and psychological trauma of my accident. I thought our marriage was rock solid. I was wrong. Returning home on a July day, I thought our home had been burglarized. Having worked on a burglar team, I saw things missing and was going to call 911. I attempted to call my wife, but calls went straight to her voicemail, I was nervous and uncertain.

Twenty minutes later, our doorbell rang. Thinking it was the police or a neighbor telling me what was going on, I answered the door; a woman greeted me and handed me paperwork. Still in denial, I took the papers and saw the word DIVORCE! I was being served divorce papers! My wife and I just celebrated my birthday the past weekend with friends at a steakhouse, the following night we went to a family party and spent the night at a boutique hotel. It pains me to think I didn’t see this coming. It hurts me to have been intimate with my wife a day before getting served the divorce papers.

It is horribly humbling learning about your divorce. The silence of the empty house is terrifying. The sobering effect of having your spouse leave with your small children is chilling, odd, inconceivable. I would not wish this hurt on my worst enemy.

If your marriage is struggling, ACT NOW. Start listening to the needs of your spouse. Listen without being defensive and/or judgmental. For a marriage to succeed each must hear the other’s complaints without getting defensive. This is harder than learning how to express your negative feelings effectively. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask a family member or mentor for help in the specific areas your marriage is suffering. Ask your spouse what you can specifically work on to better your relationship. Write it down and post it as a daily reminder. If anything, it may pleasant surprise your spouse.

Consider this question; when was the last time you courted your spouse: dinner, show, flowers? When is the last time you went out for dinner without kids? Making time for each other is paramount for a healthy marriage.

A good example for me has been my parents. My mother and father made time for each other, “getting away” to enjoy a nice dinner alone without their five children. Recognize you may be in a routine that is draining your marriage/relationship. Be intentional about spending time together.

Recent Pew research on what makes marriage work indicates that the average couple spends only twenty minutes a week talking with each other. Turn off the technology and spend thirty minutes a day catching up with each other. You’ll net compound interest on the incremental improvement.

For me, learning to live this new (ab)-normal life is extremely challenging. The hardest part of my current situation is NOT seeing my kids daily; not being able to read to my kids before bed, or wake them up everyone morning has been very difficult.

Divorce has been the hardest thing I have ever dealt with. I miss walking in the door from work, hearing our children scream, “Daddy’s home.” It is heartbreaking, yet I must own some of this and work on becoming better.

NOT leaning on the bottle or using maladaptive coping mechanisms has been vital for my health and wellness dealing with divorce. I won’t lie; I wanted to do some awful things to stop the pain I felt. Instead, I go for walks and try to appreciate the smallest things.

The first week I got little sleep, waking up nightly thinking my kids were still home and waiting to see the school bus outside with neighbors’ children boarding, and crying because mine were absent.

I am no scholar, nor intellectual, just an ordinary man who has been blessed with countless hours in quiet reflection, the result being this article. Humbling myself was the start. Charity begins in your home with your spouse and children. Don’t wait; buy that card, small gift, or flowers just because.

If you are struggling in your marriage, demonstrate to your spouse you are willing to work on any issue and strive to become sensitive to your spouse’s needs. All losses are painful, lean not into blaming, questioning or worry. If your efforts become futile and divorce is the outcome, learn to forgive and work tirelessly to improve your lot.

This has been a dark period for me, and still hurts deeply. Too many of our brothers and sisters in law enforcement and military choose to end their life—the final solution to a temporary problem.

Winston Churchill said, “If you are going through HELL, keep going.”

There were times when I had to live minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour. I have talked to several officers who have leaned on the bottle or worse. I understand and see how officers feel there are no options; there are; I am living proof.

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Brian Mc Vey, MAP, is a proud father, former Chicago police officer, and freelance writer. He has a master’s degree in police psychology from Adler University in Chicago. Brian likes to talk, email him at [email protected].