All individuals in law enforcement face stress, unfortunately. That stress has many faces. It could be the drive to move forward in our careers, issues within our work or personal relationships, internal struggles we are dealing, or even the stresses that our career’s place on our bodies. These stresses can create all kinds of problems in an individual’s life, which are then translated to his personal/family life. And in turn, that just becomes one more weight on the shoulder of an officer that they are trying to balance.
We all know that the divorce rate for the nation sits right at about 50%, but did you know that the rate for officers is 60-75%? Staggering numbers when you really consider it. Approximately one quarter of the officers who are married will still be married to that same spouse at the end of their careers. One quarter.
This is not a number we can ignore. Just because we have chosen the careers that we have does not mean we have to be doomed to failure in our family lives. The effect that the stresses we face has on our personal lives is no secret. Instead of focusing on that, let’s examine ways that we can deal with these issues within our relationships.
First, let’s take a moment and acknowledge the strength and courage police spouses. They are the ones waiting \through our odd shifts, hoping and praying that we make it home safe each night. They are the ones who have to deal with us through each stress we face, and the reaction that it causes internally. We honor you for your love! No one said that an LEO’s life was easy. It surely isn’t any easier on spouses, hence the divorce rate among our peers.
How do LEO’s, keep our relationships positive and healthy? Despite the complexities of our careers, the rules of a happy relationship are basically the same. One has to remember that our relationships are an investment…the energy that we put in determines the results that we see. Here are some tips to keep your relationship strong and healthy, or help repair one that may be going through some issues:
1. Accept your partner for who he or she really is. We all have our own personalities and be respected for that. The key to a healthy relationship is to love someone for who they are, not who we want them to be. Learn to focus and magnify the positives that you see in your partner, and be slow to judgment for their negatives. Be a strength to them as they work on their negatives, and practice patience while they do.
2. Open and honest communication is vital in any relationship, whether it be work, family, or personal. Of course, there are some things we CAN’T talk about and DON’T want to talk about from the job. Our partners must be willing to accept and adjust to this.
But that does not mean shutting out your partner from your inner self either. Be willing to share your day, your thoughts, and your feelings. Practice active listening as your partner does the same. Encourage your partner to express themselves to you on all levels by providing positive feedback when they do. If you are having trouble communicating about a certain aspect of your life, then express that as well. If both are open to communication (which includes sharing and listening), almost anything is possible.
3. Learn from each other. Both partners bring their own history, experiences, and strengths to each relationship. Take the time to learn them and learn from them. Realize that your partner brings a completely different outlook from yours to the table, but it coincides with your enough to not cause conflict. Understand and respect that each of you want the best for each other, and any guidance is out of love and care.
4. Let your primary focus be loving each other. That is what brought you together, that is what has kept you together, and what will keep you together. Throughout any situation, whether it be a lovely moment or an argument, let your main goal be to give as much love possible at that moment.
Be open, be transparent, and let go of any negative feeling you may have. Focus on everything you have ever loved about your partner instead of the things you think they should change. I know this sounds like touchy-feely which isn’t something most Officers are known for! However, I dare you try to be open with your significant other. There is no weakness, just growth as a person and relationship. We can face criminals, so I know we can face this.
No relationship is perfect. All are unique to the individuals involved. However, with love, patience, communication, and effort, they can all be positive, healthy and strengthening. Our careers will never be easy, and a majority of the stresses we face are out of our hands. But we have a team of support that we are able to build and keep around to eliminate those stresses. No one says you have to turn into a “Big Softy”, just be open and willing to protect and serve your personal relationships as well as your communities!
Fasil Khan is a former Marine and currently serves with the Paterson NJ Police Department. He is the host of The Law and Order of Life Radio Show (www.lawandorderoflifeddv.com). Being the Founder of Khan Coaching (www.khancoaching.com,) he also serves as a Life Strategist for Law Enforcement Personnel who want to better manage their careers and personal lives. Fasil has a burning passion to break the cycle of negativity and stress faced by Officers and other individuals in Law Enforcement every day.