The Cop (or Cop Significant Other’s) Dilemma
If you were to ask a cop about trust, I believe the first response you would get would be a good Clint Eastwood sneer. Trust exists only in reference to one’s partner especially in the heat of the moment. Trust for anything or anyone else, whether external or internal (department management) will get you killed or kill your career. New officers soon learn that trust is the most important of all protected assets. You know who you can trust and who you can’t and it is easy to cross people over from the trust to not trust category. Once they are there, they stay there for life. In her book, I Love a Cop, Dr. Ellen Kirschman describes how street trust issues can evolve into cynicism and over-protectiveness at home. As a cop’s significant other, you are left feeling like you have always done something to create distrust when often it just seeped in the door with his or her uniform. Add to that, the partner’s constant deluge of comments like, “Do you know how many cop marriages fail? How do you feel about all those badge bunnies? You know what they say about cops and dispatchers.” Etc. Etc. Ad infinitum. Even if research shows law enforcement marriages don’t fail and infidelity doesn’t exist at higher rates than other occupations and as communication techniques and maintenance of personal relationships is focused more on throughout an officer’s career, these “helpful” statements will continue to create mistrust. In the field, if you don’t have trust, someone could die. At home, if you don’t have trust, the relationship will die. It’s that simple. Here are some keys to building, rebuilding and maintaining trust.
The Building Blocks
Trust is a willingness to be vulnerable. The word vulnerable itself strikes a negative tone in the heart of law enforcement, but in a healthy relationship, this is not a weakness or a liability. Trust implies the ability to adapt. This doesn’t mean you have to accept behaviors that are hurtful. Trust means believing the other person has your best interests at heart. Trust means not having to “play the game” deciphering the others moves and reacting in a way that keeps you one step ahead. In a new relationship, or better yet prior to getting into a new relationship, assess what trust means to you, define it and be willing to work through any issues you might have. Seeking professional help could be in order especially if you have had a hurtful experience. Owning your pain and where you stand on trust allows you to go into a new relationship without projecting old hurts onto your new partner. Get to know each other slowly. Trust is earned. Healthy relationships begin trust-neutral. I read somewhere most people are on their best behavior for the first 9 to 12 months of a relationship. Allow yourself the time to really get to know someone. After all, the infatuation stage can be one of the most fun, exciting and stimulating times of a relationship. Why do so many of us want to rush right through it?
Sometimes trust is broken in a relationship. This could be created because of past hurts projected onto a new partner (even if you have been together for years), could be seeping in from the streets or could have been created because of something one or both partners have done. If this is the case, a conscious choice to rebuild trust is essential. Although a relationship can go on for years without trust, it’s unhealthy and leaves a hollow, empty spot where love, honor and respect could exist. Agreeing to rebuild trust means patching up the safe, happy place most of us want with our partner. Begin by communication, then maintain honesty and transparency, be predictable and continue with more communication. Seeking outside help is often appropriate.