"As we get into relationships, cops in general, are very used to giving and receiving orders and we don't deal well with non-compliance," Smith says. "We're used to telling people, Sir, Go stand over there or Ma'am, come here. Then we go home and instead of saying to our spouse, Can you empty the dishwasher, we say, Empty the dishwasher and do it now." Like their male counterparts, female officers need to learn and practice good communication skills. Treating your partner like a suspect hardly ever goes over well.
"There are many traits, both learned and natural, that make us good cops," Smith explains. "We are naturally suspicious. We are hyper-aware. We are taught from the very beginning that the world is a violent place and people want to hurt us. The problem is when you go home you have problems in relationships."
Being in a relationship with an officer, regardless of gender, can be challenging. Many female partners of male officers have found support in the company of each other. Unfortunately, those in relationships with female officers suffer from a lack of these resources. "There are a lot of groups and clubs and stuff for police wives," Smith states. "There aren't many police husband associations. It takes a strong, secure man not only to be with a female cop but to run around and brag about it. I happen to be married to one of those guys. He's my third husband and that's not untypical either."
How to Improve Relationships
As a female officer, the first thing Smith recommends is to understand yourself and the female brain. "This takes work," she says. "They need to learn and accept that there are differences between men and women. Women attach feelings to almost everything in their lives. A lot of women don't understand that if they do something wrong at work and their sergeant yells at them, a guy cop will generally say, Ok, Sgt. and learn from it or get angry about it, shake it off and move on. A woman will do those things, but she will also be hurt. That can be very frustrated especially if you don't understand why you have hurt feelings."
Smith's second recommendation is to understand your job. "One of the biggest problems cops have in general is we tend to love the agency," she explains. "We want you to love your brothers and sisters and love your job, but don't love the agency. It's not the agency's job to love you back and make you happy. Women have an especially hard time with that. If they understand what their job is and what their mission is, they will be better able to understand their personal relationships including those with a spouse, parents, kids and friends."
A Partner's Role
There are many things the partner can do to. Once again, Smith recommends he or she understand the officer and her job. "A partner of a woman officer needs to understand the female brain, communication differences, and understand that in spite of the fact it is 2009, in many ways, woman police officers are still fighting to have a solid foothold in the profession." Mary chose to date other officers because she felt they already understood her job and she didn't have to explain herself.
Another important task of the partner is feedback. "Women need feedback," Smith explains. "I would really encourage the partner to not allow her to view herself as a victim. Encouraging the officer to look in the mirror and see not a victim but see a warrior. You have to understand you have entered into a warrior class. You're part of a warrior family because you have chosen someone who is in a warrior class. That's something you have to accept and also embrace."
Like most, understanding and communication are keys to beginning and maintaining a healthy relationship with a female officer. Law enforcement is an occupation but it flows over into personal lives. The physical and emotional stressors of police work strain the best relationships. Those involving female officers are no different. In conclusion, Smith reminds the female officer, "Don't expect your spouse to make all the concessions. That's what happens a lot. You think, I'm the one out there risking my life everyday and what are you doing? You're doing people's taxes."