10 Things I Didn’t Know Before Becoming a Police Wife

10 Things I Didn’t Know Before Becoming a Police Wife

#policewifelife

When I first met my husband, I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. The work ethic, the strong morals – it was written all over him. Before he officially became a cop, I saw him as one, because I just knew that’s who he was. (For friends and family that may be reading this, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about). It’s something that I explained to one of the officers who interviewed me as part of his interview process. This quality isn’t something you can see in many people, and the fact I saw it in him made me admire him, despite the challenges I knew I would face because of it.

Being the spouse of a police officer is not for the weak, self-centered, insecure, or high-maintenance type of person. You would think the longer you have been married to a police officer, the easier it gets. For me at least, it seems to get more difficult in certain ways. The longer I am with him, the more I see, the more I know, and the more I realize how real the dangers can be and the toll it can take physically, mentally, emotionally, and most importantly, biologically.

Here are 10 things I have learned since my husband attained his ultimate goal of becoming a police officer:

1. The hypervigilance rollercoaster

The hypervigilance rollercoaster, also referred to as the “pendulum swing,” is the most important thing I have learned (and most recently, too). When an officer is on-duty, the level of awareness and vigilance is heightened on a level beyond what any other profession requires. Compare this state to when an officer is off-duty and experiences the “emotional drop.” The officer has not only come down from being up so high, but they have now come down far below what would be considered “normal” for everyone else.

The pendulum swing back and forth between hypervigilance and emotional drop is what comprises the hypervigilance rollercoaster – an entirely biological process. This means there is absolutely nothing that can change it, as it is what being an effective police officer on-duty innately requires. But having the knowledge of what is happening is extremely important in order to understand, prevent, and cope with any hardships that may surface.

“Don’t let the assholes live in your head off-duty rent-free.”
– Sgt. James Case

2. Selfishness is not an option

As a police wife you must be as dedicated to his love of the job as he is. Even when you are having a really bad day and you just need his shoulder to lean on, you may have to wait. Things that are a huge deal to most wives such as holiday traditions or the perfect birthday party are just not realistic options in a police family.

Learning to understand that being frustrated is normal but being resentful and angry is not an option. Any time I need to phone my husband while he is on shift, I will be interrupted by the squawking of the radio or a monotone dispatcher, perhaps dispatching my husband right then: “Sorry babe, gotta go, there’s a naked idiot in a snow cone hut. Hey, did you know they have coconut now?” *click*

3. The media doesn’t know half of it

The media truly skews and misreport things. As a police wife, it irks me to no end when people attack police officers simply based on the news they watched that morning. It bothers me so much that I had to distinctly address this issue in my post here.

I remember the beginning of my husband’s career and realizing how the public and media viewed and portrayed our police officers – scrutinized more than perhaps any other profession. It stings particularly because those with an officer in the family know how difficult it is to become a cop and how hard they must work on and off duty. I don’t want to discuss the “bad apples” out there that damage the reputation because they already receive more attention than the much larger proportion of those who are good.

4. It’s best to stay out of the comments section

I eventually had to be instructed by my husband to refrain from reading all the wild and hateful comments that circulate social media. I just feel in my heart the need to defend. After several years now, I consider myself “seasoned” in being exposed to all of this hate and negativity, and while it still upsets me, I have learned it is best not to engage or expose myself to it if I don’t have to.

5. Quality time both apart and together is essential

It is so important for officers to define themselves in ways outside of their profession. In regards to the hypervigilant rollercoaster, within 16-24 hours the officer’s state will slowly rise back to the normal range. Unfortunately, during this phase is when officers are back to work, and that is why when they are finally finished their block, they must fill their time in ways that don’t revolve around policing: playing hockey, mountain biking, visiting family and friends, exercising, etc. A much more helpful approach for the officer leaving work is to have the goal of not so much turning off police work as turning on something different.

I’ve declared I’m his backup at home – and the biological effects of hypervigilance take place at home. So, as his backup at home:

I can cook healthy meals to help my officer fight against the affects on his weight.

I can exercise with my officer so that he swings back into a normal level.

I can make sure he gets the sleep he needs.

I can live and operate with the realization that my officer is a cop, but that is not the only thing he is. He is a husband, a son, a brother, a friend, an outdoorsman, with much to offer our family and community.

6. Learning to be alone is also essential

Learning to be alone is also very important. The other week, my alarm went off at 7 am right as my husband came home and went to sleep. I couldn’t remember the last time we were both home and awake at the same time. Luckily for me, I have my dog, and I am never really alone when I have him around :)

7. The emotional repercussions are real

The darkness is ever near, as our officers are the first to respond to the most horrifying of calls. But they will still put on their uniforms every day, face what the rest of us fear, and hope they can do more good than deviants can do bad. To do this takes immense emotional fortitude. When you are dealing with the darkest aspects of society, obviously you will be exposed to very powerful human emotions. In addition to training and working to survive the streets, learning how to become an emotional survivor is just as important.

8. A table where he can face the door is ideal

Classic! I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve switched seats with my husband as per his request so he can have a clear view of the door.

9. No more rose-coloured glasses

Being a police officer is accurately summed up as “having a front row seat to the greatest show on Earth.” Police officers will change in a lot of ways others will never truly get: they walk differently, look at things differently, view people differently, even look differently themselves.

This way of thinking translates onto me in many ways by association, anything and everything between learning to laugh at things I never imagined to being skeptical of everyone’s true intentions to holding high standards and expectations of respect to referring to places by the intersection at which it’s located. Phew. And so much more. Finding bullets in the washing machine sure is a switch as well.

10. It’s not all bad

Don’t let this list scare you. After all, becoming a police officer is largely about sacrifice. Police officers live each day fully prepared to lay down their lives for any given stranger at any given moment. They spend countless hours away from their family to help protect yours. They will face those with nothing to gain when they themselves have everything to lose. We police spouses are so proud of them, and you should be, too.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “There’s something about a man in uniform.” I am one of those police wives who literally beams with pride when I see him in that uniform. As hard as it is, we manage to make it work. He is my best friend and I cannot imagine a day without him in my life.

Author

My passion for capturing memories through the lens of my camera, my love for food and the joy I find in reflecting on my travel memories using a pen and paper results in a series of blog entries filled with warmth, pure happiness and inspiration. I hope to share a little bit of myself and my adventure of life with you.

61 comments

  • You are so brave !

    I have the utmost respect for our ladies and men of duty and their friends and family that make their support structures. Re-centering oneself and taking time to recharge in nature and with the positive parts of society are great tools for getting through dark times. And yes every day YOU are making a difference. I feel safe when I sleep at night knowing there are officers looking out for me, my friends, my neighbors in our city.

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  • My best friend became a cop and we have often discussed what it is like now for his wife, children, and even friends. He balances several personalities while needing to stay true to himself. It is hard.
    But as you say several times throughout, as long as you know, realize, and learn to accept these situations that he is dealing with also it will help you cope with your own relationship with him.
    As for the social media, I would probably be like you too…the Defender! This goes also for my military family. There are many sides to every story but I dont have to be involved in any of them cept the one or two that I care about. So I refrain as a friend/Family member.
    Good Luck being a Police wife and may you know that there is much gratitude out there for both your husband’s service and yours as a Police Wife.

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  • It’s fantastic that you support him in so many ways. Awesome! It is inspiring that you don’t get too bogged down by all the challenges but look at it as something worthwhile to have.

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  • This was a very moving tribute to your husband and his passion for serving the public. But it is also a tribute to you and your support. I am truly not sure I could be a policeman’s wife. It is a good reminder to people that real life cannot be just what tv depicts. Having your support at home most definitely makes your husband a better cop. Thanks for sharing.

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  • This is a great self-reflective post about the special dynamic that you live with because of your husband’s profession / way of being. I can’t imagine the things he has to go through, and the fear you must sometimes feel, but it sounds like you have a really amazing handle of what implications this has on you, him, and your relationship. Thanks for sharing!

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  • It seems tragic to me that someone who puts their life on the line everyday to help others is then abused online for that sacrifice. That’s depravity of immense proportions. I had no idea about the swing and that sounds like awful mental stress to cope with. Sounds like you are managing well though

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  • It’s such a critically important job, and not without its hardships and stress, as you point out so well. The job involves everyone the family, not just the officer himself. Hopefully you get the opportunity to travel often and leave the job stresses behind.

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  • It’s very interesting to have a really honest insight into the life of a police officer / a police officers wife – thanks for opening up as candidly as you have. I can only imagine how much of a toll the job would take both mentally and physically, and how difficult it is to rise above the media crap when they only report for the sake of selling news. You’ve really given me a new appreciation of the job re the hypervigilance rollercoaster – it makes total sense, and I can see how this could easily spiral into a bad mental condition if you don’t accept, it understand it, and act accordingly to prevent emotionally low days taking over your off time.

    Thanks for this insight, and sharing so candidly. And pass on our thanks for your husband for his incredible service.

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  • It is so interesting to hear what it is like from your perspective as I’m sure many people don’t know the half of it. My brother was a policeman so I have a little bit of understanding from the family point of view what it is like. It’s tough for sure! Thank you for being so open and honest :)

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  • Just loved the way in which you have honestly articulated your life as a police wife. Kudos to you for understanding and being there for him just the way he would need. There is nothing better for a police officer than a loving wife like you I feel! Here is to many more years! Keep going guys :)

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  • Very interesting to hear your perspective on being married to a police officer! I can only imagine how tough of a job it must be, and I can see how it could change your life as well. I always hate it when the media takes things out of context too-it seems that a small instance gets so much focus and it is never a well rounded discussion. We are so thankful for all the officers and those in uniform out there protecting us-tell your husband thanks!

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  • “A table where he can face the door is ideal” haha I’m a bit like this too. But for different reasons I guess. I don’t like have my back facing to the room. You know I’ve never really thought about the families of those who work in the police force. This has definitely enlightened me to the rollercoaster that you must face every day.

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  • I think that this post had to have been hard to write. I can’t imagine the stress of having your husband be put in harms way on a daily basis. You’re brave in both life and writing. I’m sure he appreciates having a supportive wife as well!

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  • I have always wonder how the families of police officers deal with their choice of career and this gives me better perspective! I have a good friend who is a high ranking police officer in my country and whenever we have get together, his eyes are always wondering around. Even on times that he should be resting he would always ask people on the street (a guy whose car broke down, an old woman who cant pass the street, a person who is lost) if they need help. I always thought it’s a selfless job. To put other people before yourself is beyond heroic. And I admire you for being a solid support to your husband. And thank him for me for his service!

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  • Being in the military I can somewhat relate. Whenever I’m deployed, I feel slightly guilty because I know those I love are worried. But it’s thanks to people like you that we can do our job. I bet your husband is very proud of you as well.

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  • It’s always interesting to hear perspectives and experiences that are so different than mine. Thank you for opening up this way! I love that we have a force of brave men and women – and brave men and women waiting for them at home – protecting us every day. I hate that the bad apples get so much attention and put their brothers and sisters on the force in greater danger than they need to be. That said, thank you and your husband for all you sacrifice to look after the rest of us. It’s truly appreciated.

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  • Very interesting post! I just hadn’t thought about how being a police officer would affect your spouse or family, other than fearing for his life (isn’t that bad enough?) Things like letting him face the door at the table — I guess that just totally makes sense!

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  • I have so much respect for those in public service, particularly those who put their lives on the line every day for the greater good. I can imagine just how stressful it is for you, but you also must be so proud :-)

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  • It takes a lot of courage to be in public service these days, especially in police force. I can only imagine how stressful it must be for the families of the police officers to see all these horror stories on TV. I commend you for your choice. Our police men need all the love and support they can get from their loved ones. It’s what keeps them going in protecting our cities.

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  • Interesting to learn a bit about a police lifestyle and something that I didn’t know (or aware of). It may sound like a compromise but I do believe those are the happy moments that a couple could share ~ happy for you and thanks for sharing with us, too!

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  • You and your husband are both very brave in your own ways. I’ve always respected officer’s wives for raising the family while trying not to worry about their husband’s job.

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  • It’s so interesting to read your (honest) point of view, I think being a police officer is one of the most stressful jobs there is, so I admire you for supporting your husband. By the way, I feel like #4 can be applied to almost anything on the internet these days…

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  • I always wondered what it must be like to be a Police wife and always felt that the wives must definitely be strong women to be able to live an unconventional life. Your blog proves it! Them learning how to become an emotional survivor as you mentioned, applies to the police wives as well. Kudos to you!

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  • Very interesting. I can imagine he like a table facing the door! And I have a brother who is a firefighter and his wife is a nurse so they’re “ships in the night” often like you and your husband!

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  • Just as we are reeling from the tragedy in Parkland, the value of law enforcement officers comes front and center. Their spouses are unsung heries for standing by them despite the difficult life.

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