Essential Skills for a Successful Law Enforcement Relationship

Do you want to be the law enforcement couple that not only survives but thrives through the career? Want to make sure your relationship is strong enough to endure the ups and downs?


Do you want to be the law enforcement couple that not only survives but thrives through the career? Want to make sure your relationship is strong enough to endure the ups and downs?

I did too!

I’ve dug in and figured it out so you can make your law enforcement relationship awesome!

There are five skills that are essential for a successful and connected law enforcement couple.

They are: cultural competence, connection, compassion, courage, counter in the impact

Let’s break these out one by one.

#1 Cultural Competence

Understanding the culture, biology, and psychological impact on the relationship.

 There are aspects of Law Enforcement Culture that are obvious such as shift work, time away from each other, sleep schedules, lingo, sheepdog mindset, having each other’s “six”, and the potential impact of a critical incident. The not so obvious aspects are the biological and psychological impacts on the officer, which are equally just as important for couples to understand. Couples need to be familiar with the Hypervigilance Cycle, OODA Loop, and how the officer’s brain becomes conditioned to react to situations due to their training. Spouses also are impacted biologically and psychologically. These aspects, many times, spill over into the relationship. Working to understand what it is like and standing in each other’s world will increase connection and compassion. When you understand the culture and its impact, it can help bridge your relationship and feel united.

#2 Connection

Understanding how to connect by communicating and fulfilling emotional and physical needs.

Connection is difficult because of sleep schedules, shift work, and the impact from the hypervigilance cycle. Connection involves communicating daily events, sharing your world, and getting curious about your spouse. Showing your spouse that you are curious about their world makes them feel validated and loved! Connection also must include addressing emotional and physical needs. When you address your needs, it can result in building intimacy and trust, which is vital to the success of relationships. Successful law enforcement couples understand that connection needs to be different depending on the officer’s or spouse’s ability to focus and time. Setting up different types of conversations is helpful and can include: 5–10-minute conversations about logistics; 20-minute conversations to share personal daily events, feelings, and needs that need to be addressed in the future; or longer conversations when time and energy allows to share stories, struggles, address needs, or problem-solve. What we are ultimately looking for in connection is communication. Connection also has to address the physical needs. The emotional connection can lead to the physical connection. By addressing those needs, we build intimacy and trust, which are vital to the success in your relationship.  You can connect physically through touching, hugging, and kissing as often as possible. Don’t forget to make time for more intimate moments and sex!

 #3 Compassion

Apply a positive perspective, generosity, and empathy toward each other and yourself.

The officer’s compassion, and sometimes the spouse’s, is impacted due to the continual exposure of the negative side of humanity and trauma. Stress from the job and being apart as well as conditioning, spills over into the relationship, and impacts the way couples interpret and interact with each other. However, we have to find those feelings and that capacity for emotion in order to have really good relationships. We do this by applying a positive perspective to conversation and actions. It helps couples to counteract the negative impacts and avoid conflict. A generous explanation or thought such as, “I know he/she is tired,” can help to provide a safe space for each of you rather than walking on eggshells.

 Empathy, which is feeling with someone, helps to express understanding and have each other’s “six”. Stay away from fixing a problem unless requested or dismissing negative emotions. Instead, listen for emotion in the conversation and share what you hear. Saying, “that sounds like it sucks” is far better than saying, “You know what you should do.”

#4 Courage

Emotional strength to trust, show up for each other, commitment, and confront what gets in the way.

Officers must confront situations while others run away. Spouses trust and show courage every time they watch their officer walk out the door. Couples show courage in supporting each other and also in confronting struggles. Courage involves being strong, but also vulnerable. Vulnerability is emotional risk or exposure. Couples must sometimes be uncomfortable and willing to confront what is getting in the way of having a connected relationship. Courageously confront difficult conversations! Listen to understand rather than to respond or react. Get curious about emotions and experiences of each other. Have the courage to say “no” to what does not work for your relationship and say “yes” to what feels supportive and nurturing to the relationship.

 #5 Counter the Impact

Resilience as a practice

Countering the impact of law enforcement lifestyle and culture must be a practice to minimize potential mental health challenges for officers and spouses. Couples need to remember policing is only a part of what defines them. Resilience is not about “bouncing back,” but rather the ability to recover and adjust to change or misfortune. It is not about going back to the way something was, but about moving forward in a new direction.

 Encourage each other to take care of and move your bodies. Take care of your mind by dispelling negative thoughts and replacing them with empowering ones. Look for humor in situations and ways to play. Find positive aspects of humanity and give back to your community.

Download your Free Guide for the Essential Skills for Law Enforcement Couples

You can get a copy of these Essential Skills on my website under the tab “Free Essential skills”.  Please share them with others as well.  You can also read about them in my book Hold the Line: The Essential Guide to Protecting your law enforcement relationship which is available on online retailers including Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Finally, Hold the Line is now a program designed for departments and organizations to share with officers and their spouses.  It includes step by step modules with lecture, activities, power points and a supporting workbook.  If you or someone you know might be interested, have them reach out to me via my website or social media.



Adam Davis talks about how he was able to overcome the impact his trauma had on his career and relationships and what led him to write, Unconquered.

Read More »

Essential Skills for a Successful Law Enforcement Relationship

Do you want to be the law enforcement couple that not only survives but thrives through the career? Want to make sure your relationship is strong enough to endure the ups and downs?