Relationship Resolutions

I’m going to share with you the conversation we landed on and how you can course direct your relationship.


Toward the end of December and the beginning of January, I approached my husband a couple of different times with New Year’s resolution types of conversation. I mentioned 3-4 times that I wanted to talk about something regarding that idea. I was asking questions like “What’s your vision?” “Do you have any goals?” “What’s your word for the year?” and it was met with a flat response.  My mom always used to tell me if you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up where you have been.  She taught me to set goals and I feel a little uneasy when I don’t have a direction.  I wanted that for our relationship as well.  I’m going to share with you the conversation we landed on and how you can course direct your relationship.

The impact of law enforcement on relationships 

January is a time when many pause and look at how they might want to change the course of their relationship with the mindset of New Year, New Us. It’s a good way for a relationship to think about where you’ve been, where you’re going, and what’s your gratitude. For Law Enforcement families, it’s important to examine who or WHAT is driving and directing the course of your relationship.

In law enforcement and first responder families, the lifestyle can drive our relationship.  We can wind up in a relationship that we don’t recognize or want to be in. We can become people we don’t want to be.  It can be a hard reflection to reconcile with. Unfortunately, the lifestyle of law enforcement and first responder families comes with many hardships that can impact the relationship.


Simply put, families of officers don’t get to see one another as often as they would like. Due to shiftwork, you might be sleeping while the other is working a night shift. Maybe there are days or weeks when you really don’t see each other because one of you is in bed while the other is taking care of household responsibilities. If you can’t see each other, there will be a lack of communication and connection causing us to miss cues and misinterpret each other.


Another problem with communication is when the officer is on the downside of hypervigilance. It takes 18 to 24 hours to come down from the hypervigilance cycle. The brain is so active trying to keep officers vigilant and safe on the job, that the brain is tired and needs a break when they come home. They don’t have the brain power to think and make decisions. There won’t be in-depth conversations that you need to have with each other. Many times, officers may say things they don’t mean, or react in ways they shouldn’t because their brain doesn’t have full capacity. As spouses, we might be the recipient of a communication that’s really snarky or short and directed at us.  It can be hard when we know that’s really not the person they want to be. We might become resentful of the job, hurt, and ignored. Many times, both partners feel alone, but don’t talk about it.  (Note: We may understand that the brain is impaired during this time but that does not excuse behavior.  We are each responsible for our behavior and the repair afterward…. but that’s a different article and podcast.)


When couples do have the chance to spend time together, there tends to be the action of modifying in the relationship. This is when we shove all the hard conversations and conflicts aside to make the interaction positive and to create memories.

It could also have the opposite effect where all you do is argue when you have time together. Then the slow slide starts to happen. If you argue when you are together, you are not going to want to be around each other. This can lead to avoiding each other altogether.


Priorities are another aspect of the career that can get in the way of relationships. Many times, we allow the department to get in the middle of our priorities. There is a pull to serve, to show up, and to not let their department, other officers, or their administration down, or be seen as not reliable or loyal.  As a spouse, this can feel like the work or the department is more important. Maybe as an officer, you may feel like the kids are more important or your spouse’s job is more important. Another way the priorities change is just time and events. As our parents’ age or as our kids get sick, or chaos and conflict ensue, our priorities shift. They tend to shift away from what we really need, which is each other in our relationship.


Our brains are conditioned by the career of law enforcement. As spouses, we are conditioned to accept that certain ways are just the way it is. Our officers become conditioned through hypervigilance which is part of the job to keep them safe and an important component that cannot be eliminated. It becomes an issue when the downside of hypervigilance spills over into the relationship and negatively impacts home life.

For example, if your officer is not willing to engage with you while coming down hypervigilance, then we develop stories to explain why. The story may be that he’s not interested in you and if he isn’t willing to interact with you, you are going to stop engaging. It cascades from there.

All of these negative interactions or the negative spillover that happen at home can wind up impacting the course of our relationship and drive us in a direction that we don’t want to be in as a couple. It’s important to take time to consider the relationship you want to have and the couple you want to be.

The beginning of the year is a good time to revamp and shift your focus on how to direct your relationship.

Tools to refocus your law enforcement relationship

Here are 5 ways you can assess your relationship and do a course direction if it’s needed.

Vision and Vision Boarding

The point of a vision board is to think about what you want to experience in the future.  You may want to take a vacation, own a home, travel, or get your budget in check. The actual board itself can look different to many people. It can be a foam board, cardboard, or a giant piece of paper.  It needs be something you physically hang and see all the time. The idea is to cut out images and words that suggest where you visualize yourself being in the future.  Cut out images from magazines.  Print out images from the web.  Use photos to show what you will experience when this is achieved.  It needs to be visual.  Whatever the board looks like, make sure it keeps you focused on your vision.


Goals are a good way of saying that you want to accomplish something specific. These can be long-term goals, financial goals, or relationship goals. Say what you want to do, what it will look like, and then work backward to make sure that happens.  There are various ways to set goals but one of the most popular is a SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timebound).  You may consider the deeper purpose for the goal when you set it.  For example, if you are paying off the house, what will you experience differently?


This method focuses on a single word to be used to focus your activity or thoughts for the year.  Pick a word that is going to help your relationship become more of what you want it to be. It should be a word that focuses on a drive for an activity, a behavior, something you want to do more of or to improve on.  Once you pick your word, talk as a couple about how this word will be put into action and revisit the conversation regularly.  It also helps to put it in various places in the house to remind everyone to think through that lens.


Values are the core beliefs, practices, or values that we have. They can be anything from faith, family, creativity, success, security, safety, friends, etc. As a couple, it’s important to know what your values are. You may have to talk about what they are and then you can make decisions based on these values. It can be challenging at times.  For example, if your value is “family time” and your department keeps asking you to do off duty jobs, the pressure may make it hard to uphold the value you have.  If you need some ideas on values, do a web search on “values list” and a plethora will come up for you to use.


The mission is going to reflect the way you work as a couple. It might reflect the way you think or the legacy that you want to leave behind. If you have kids, the mission could be to raise functional humans that contribute to society. As a couple, maybe the mission is to give back to the community. It could be to get through the career in a connected and resilient way. As you go through life, find your purpose as a couple through your mission.

Make sure to revisit these concepts on a monthly or at minimum, quarterly basis. It’s a way to make sure that you’re on the right path and directing your course as a couple.

Relationship Compass

Be purposeful to find and stay on course. One of the ways to do this is through the Relationship Compass that I designed as a part of my book, Hold the Line. It is a free download at  The relationship compass will guide you through thinking about the life you want to create, the relationship you want to create, and then how are those elements backed up by your behaviors and your beliefs.

For example, if you wanted to make sure you had a connected and sexually intimate relationship, how are you doing this? Are you being kind to each other? Are you complimenting each other? Are you noticing each other’s body language? Are you flirting with each other? Are you doing unexpected things?

There is no perfect way to do this.  It’s just what works for you and your relationship.  What is important is to make sure that the impact of the job and the spillover at home is not directing the course of your relationship. YOU need to be the driver.

When we’re thinking about having a connected and resilient relationship, it means thinking about how we can course direct and make sure that our relationship is the primary focus. Don’t get swayed by the law enforcement lifestyle. Keep your relationship the focus because you want it to be there when the job is not. What IS important is to be there for each other and keep your relationship Code 4.



Relationship Resolutions

I’m going to share with you the conversation we landed on and how you can course direct your relationship.