In July 2015, 40 wives of police officers around the country met together for the first annual Wives Behind the Badge Conference in West Virginia. It was a rich time of connecting with those who understand this law enforcement life, talking about the bonds we share as Blue Line families, and gaining new ideas and tools to support our officers and children. One of the themes we carried through was the calling to love and support our officers, especially as other voices are not so encouraging. In the spirit of this theme, here are seven ways to do just that.
1, Make home a safe place. We can do our part to ease stress at home. Do away with clutter—things we don’t need. Not just possessions; this could be people that suck the life from us, too much electronic use, or good activities that prevent family time. Eat together at the table no matter who is there. We have the amazing power to choose what is best for our families in every season.
2. Listen. We must give our officers ample opportunity to talk. Have a hug ready at the door to set the tone when mom or dad comes home. Remember that most of those he/she dealt with on duty weren’t happy to see them. Home should be different. Sit still for a bit here and there, attentive to your officer. Children can be trained to allow parents space and quiet to debrief. In fact, this will develop a sense of peace and security, knowing that Mom and Dad are working together. It also models good communication.
3. Keep anger in check. There is always plenty of anger to go around, but keeping it from doing damage is vital to our relationships. Ask yourself “Why am I angry?” and then answer. Then ask yourself why again. And three more times. This helps get to the heart of the matter first before exploding. Voice concerns before vomiting them. Leave room for debate and humility, realizing that many conflicts are caused by misunderstandings. Have a good support system in place for appropriate venting, and avoid listening to the hate crowd.
4. Pay attention. We should watch for changes in our officers’ behavior or health and possible symptoms of deeper issues. Become knowledgeable about what to look for and where to get assistance. Resist the urge to panic; seek guidance from someone wise that understands and supports our marriage.
5. Find your voice, and use it wisely. Exercise wisdom when communicating with your officer using timing, tone, and tenacity. Evaluate the timing of a conversation. If it’s a true emergency, call immediately. If it can wait or needs some thought, choose a time when there is no rush. Second, watch your tone—when concerned about something, keep it neutral, not accusatory. Sometimes writing it out first helps organize thoughts so they can be communicated thoroughly. Lastly, life tends to deter relationship, so be tenacious in communication and time together. The career will take precedence at times, but always bring it back to the ones who mean the most.
6. Protect your officer. Protect his reputation, his dignity, and your privacy as a family. There are those who are not trustworthy, so make friend choices wisely. Listen to people to understand where they’re coming from. Kindness is important, but keep your thoughts and private details reserved for those who have earned your trust. We can be shrewd, but kind.
7. Rest is not an option. Children need naps, and so do we. Sleep deprivation is at the heart of a number of problems, especially in this career. We must make sure that we, our officers, and our kids get down time, sleep, and time off.
We as spouses have incredible power to either lift up or tear down. It all comes down to a choice. But that choice makes all the difference at home, and on duty.
Victoria Newman is an author, speaker, and founder of How2LoveYourCop, an organization that provides positive resources for law enforcement families. She is author of A CHiP on my Shoulder and A Marriage in Progress, speaks all over the United States and Canada, mentors several spouses, and is a blogger and ghostwriter. Her website is: www.how2loveyourcop.com.