Living with the Tiger

Death. Injury. Strange emotional behavior. You get the uniform and all the fun that comes with it.


Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Emotional Control

Although emotional repercussions of police work are less immediately traumatic, their cumulative effects can cause as much stress as a line-of-duty death or injury. According to the Institute of HeartMath, "Constant exposure to society's interpersonal violence, negative or confrontational interactions with individuals, a sense of personal endangerment, fear of revenge from criminals, and subservience to an ambivalent, watchful public produce negative emotional repercussions that can affect police officers on a chronic basis." Add to this, extensive emotional control training and the prevalent attitude of "cops don't cry," and the spouse of an officer is often faced with a robot where her husband used to be. Communication is essential in any relationship, but in law enforcement families it is even more so. Often officers do not want to talk about work, and often spouses don't really want to hear about it, but you need communication about other things. Talk with your spouse about what kind of ritual he would be comfortable with. Does he need a bit of time after he gets home from work to relax, and then would be willing to talk with you? What works for each person and each family is personal. The important thing is to work on keeping lines of communication open. Be empathetic and use active listening skills such as summarizing. Insist on the same respect from your spouse.

Numerous stressors affect families every day. Police families are especially prone to sudden and cumulative stress. Vali Stone, author of Cops Don't Cry, states, "It's just the idea that on any working day the officer could be murdered. The spouse attempts to put those fears on the back burner, gives her spouse a loving goodbye and continues on with a normal working day. But as much as we like to ignore these feelings, they are always a tiger at our door." The tiger does not have to be debilitating. By being cognizant of mental, emotional, and physical needs, law enforcement spouses can maintain a happy, healthy home, no matter what the job throws at them.

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