Mike and I had been dating for six months when I knew he was the one who I wanted to see if we could be those forever partners. It was time to see if we would be successful and compatible at building a life together or if irreconcilable differences would drive us apart. I also knew I was in love with him and I had fallen hard. For me he was the most wonderful man in the world, but is that enough to build a future together which is exactly why we continued to date, to explore the opportunity of forever.
From time to time I ask Mike, when he knew I was his forever person, and unlike me he does not have a specific timeline of when he fell in love. Instead it was a progression of time that he knew it was scarier to live a life without me than to be with me the rest of his days. He just knew in the core of his being he was meant to be with me, but as romantic and convincing as that sounds, is that really enough and will it be enough, the feelings of love, intimacy, and friendship, to build a foundation that will last a lifetime? With a divorce rate that is reported at 50% and even higher for first responders we would yell a very loud NO. It takes a lot prep work from the six month point in a relationship until the engagement becomes official and we were dedicated to seeing if we were each other's forever person.
Police Officer relationship profile
Truth be told, and not a shocker here folks, but cops are well known for their crappy relationships. It is so stereotyped we expect a crime fighting character in a movie or television drama to be on their third spouse, an alcoholic, with children from multiple marriages who feel abandoned, having an affair with their partner, with scenes of their current spouse interviewing divorce attorneys. As much as we know that to be a slight exaggeration, we also know people in our departments who fit some, if not all, of that profile. LEOs have a desire for stability, but often their goal, task oriented mindset, takes them down the wrong road. To set your relationship up for success, you need to work harder than most to survive. Here are a few areas to pay attention to so you do not become one of the statistics:
Mike and I cannot say this enough: go slow, turn down the intensity, dial it back, and enjoy this moment in time. Often people speed through life, so concerned with the end result, they pass by the moments that are happening right now. If you do this in a relationship, you will miss building the foundation that is going to get you through the rough patches down the road, and there will be dark times. Take time to strengthen the friendship that will get you through those moments you do not feel like you love, trust, or respect your partner. Be careful of talking so much about your future that you forget about the right now. At this point, until the final commitment of engagement is made, the future is a fantasy and not a reality. Work on the reality so that ultimate fantasy of having someone to share your life with forever can become true. If you go too fast, you will join the ranks of your colleagues in being divorced.
Unpack your suitcases
An important step in building a future together is having conversations about your past relationships. Both of you have past baggage which is comprised of wounds caused by incidents of betrayal, broken trust, and hurt that has rocked you to your core at one time or another. Grab your suitcases (not literal suitcases, just figuratively) and unpack them together over time through multiple conversations. Talk about past breakups, times of being cheated on or if it was you who cheated, what attracted you to this person and so on. Also talk about hard times in your life such as financial, job, and school malfunctions. It is important for you to reveal, but also a time for you to learn about your potential mate. Look to see if they take responsibility for destructive patterns in their life or if they cast blame on the other person, for instance the crazy ex-wife. If they cast blame and do not take ownership for what they contributed to the demise of the relationship, this may not be the forever person.
Reveal family dysfunctions and craziness
Another important step is to discuss the families we grew up in, whether good, bad, or the ugly, since that experience influenced who we are today. Find the commonalities and the areas that are unique. Make sure you like your partner's family because if you build a life together they will be involved unless there is total estrangement.
Seek honest feedback from family and friends
Simply put, go to three to five trusted family and friends and ask what they think about your current relationship. Do not get defensive or justify what others do not like in this person, but look at is as areas that require special attention. Do the work now to see if these areas of conflict can be ironed out or if they are differences that are irreconcilable. Better to know now than when you are going through the $20,000 divorce with everyone telling you, yeah, I never really liked that _________.
Discuss the big topics
Talk about all the big things such as finances, religion, morals, values, child rearing, ethics, conflict resolution, what defines cheating, and most importantly educate your partner on the realities of being a possible police spouse. Make sure your possible forever person can endure your life style as a LEO and they are happy making the sacrifices needed in order to survive the long haul.
Remember at this stage you are still dating and not the forever couple. You are still trying one on for size to see if you are a match. Continue to keep your friends, hobbies, and outside activities. Do not move so fast it already seems like your married. You will lose your objectivity and possibly pick the wrong person.
In the cycle of relationships it takes two years to get to know someone. Nowadays when people are dating they tend to think they have each other mastered in a few months up to as short as a few days. Take your time so that you build survival skills that last a lifetime.
For more advice on dating check out our past two articles linked below.