Most relationships struggle with not sliding in to the monotony of daily life. As a couple, you might talk about the business of the relationship such as where the kids need to be when, finances, groceries, etc. When it comes to talking about your day or your life, many couples answer with “fine” or “the usual” or “Ugh.. I’m always behind!”.
In a LEO marriage, where there is a different kind of stress to both partners and shift work, the struggle of connecting takes on additional meaning. Not only are you tired, but most of the time you are just trying to shake off the shit that you saw or spent time dealing with and clearing your head to spend what little time you do have in a positive way with your spouse and family.
So, what we hear as a spouse to the question, “How was your day” are things like:
“You know… the general public are morons!”
“Same shit … different day”
“Dealin’ with assholes.. what’s new”
“I don’t want to talk about it”
“I’m tired can we talk about something else”
“I’m just glad to be home. I’ll talk to you about things later”
Maybe you’ve said some of these things. Maybe you can relate.
While we as your spouse can understand you need to decompress, what you are actually doing is shutting us out of a major part of your life.
Why is this a problem?
Dr. John Gottman is a relationship expert who has conducted over 30 years of research of what makes couples work and what makes them fail. He found that the determining factor of couples being satisfied with the sex, romance, and passion in their relationship was based upon the depth and quality of their friendship. This wasn’t some minor finding. There is a 70% correlation to quality friendships and sex! Do I have your attention now!?!?! As you can imagine, without that connection, couples become dissatisfied and start to drift opening opportunities to connect with other people that can fulfill that need.
Myths you are telling yourself
Not telling us protects us
So, you think that if you don’t tell us what is happening on scene or while at work somehow protects us. It doesn’t. People are wired for story. When you don’t give us the narrative of what is going on, we make it up. Trust me, we can make up all kinds of horrible things! Share with us what is happening on scene and the department. It is not “too much to handle”. Knowing is better than the not knowing.
If you don’t talk about it, it will go away OR I can deal with it myself
This is far from the truth as not talking about it causes you to hold on to things. Feelings do not just disperse. They actually compress and build. They then have a tendency to come out inappropriately through over-reaction of an event, desire to control, depression, or anxiety. They ooze out of you anyway so why not share a little. In treating PTSD, one of the first things we do as therapists is have you talk about it and then talk about it again. The more things are spoken, the less power they have.
We won’t “get it”
You know what? You’re right. We have no idea what it’s like to be in the situations you must encounter. Empathy and understanding doesn’t come from experiencing the same things as another person though. Empathy comes from trying to stand in your shoes and find what you might be feeling in those situations. We have all felt sad, joy, pain, fear, anger, numb. I don’t have to experience your life to empathize with the situation. Do you have to be beaten to understand the pain of those that are? Give us a chance to connect to you.
Give your spouse a chance to know what is going on in your world. Help them understand what you going through, the lingo, the policies, the conflicts, and caliber of your weapon (or weapons).
Trust them to be there for you emotionally. While your other officers can be there to support, ONLY leaning on them can take away from developing intimacy with your spouse and could also lead to inappropriate emotional relationships at work.
Ask them what it is like to be at home without you. Your spouse as a side of this story as well. While you are at work or sleeping, they are trying to maintain daily living activities. Find out what it is like for them and extend that same understanding and empathy. Ask open ended questions for bonus points!
Make it daily if possible. I know that sometimes shift work causes you to miss connections with each other. Gottman says “small things often” builds a relationship so make it happen even if it’s over the phone or Facetime. Spend just 15 minutes a day and you will see an incredible difference in the quality of your friendship.
Sharing something about your world and finding out about your spouses will keep your friendship current and your connection strong.