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To Forsake All Others, Pt I

It’s a different life being a police wife. 

It is one filled with joy and happiness, sorrow and fear, and a whole lot of pride.  It is one that there is no escaping, for it’s always a part of who I am, every moment of every day.  It dictates how I schedule my life and my work, and just try scheduling anything with certainty when you’re working around something as unpredictable as police work!  It can be a roller coaster of a ride with emotional highs, lows, and the mundane that can lead to boredom and loneliness.  It is not a life I would have ever predicted leading when Mike and I married but now, having lived a “police wife life” for 17 years, I cannot imagine living any other way.

Mike and I met at our first “real” job after college - a job that offered minimal benefits, poor health insurance, consistently working sixty (or more) hours a week, and all for the whopping salary of $13,750 a year!  For some reason we had both decided a career in social services working with behavior-disordered teens at a residential treatment center was a good use of our newly acquired college degrees.  No plush office job for either of us!  Instead, we welcomed the challenge of rolling up our sleeves and putting in a hard day’s work in an environment that was volatile and frequently dangerous (and not always with the teens we worked with but at times with the other staff, as well).

Mike first told me his dream was to be a cop a few months into dating but, at that time, his uncorrected vision actually deemed him legally blind and in the state of Illinois he could not become a certified officer with his vision restrictions.  Oh, he could easily see 20/20 with corrected vision but, without glasses or contact lenses, he was Mr Magoo!  At that time I also told him I could never marry a police officer because I wanted a “9 to 5” life with weekends and holidays together.  I did not believe I would be capable of surviving the loneliness that life would entail.  That was the first and last conversation we had about this subject – circumstances had taken care of the issue for us - until a couple years later when he underwent surgery and successfully had his vision corrected to 20/15. 

We were several years into dating when that happened and now the dream of being a police officer was once again “alive” in Mike’s heart.  Of course, this inevitably led to a very difficult conversation, and we broke up.  My childhood had been rough and emotionally unstable.  I was a very early “latchkey kid” (from the age of 6) and my parents emotionally unavailable.  If anyone asks who raised me, the answer is “it was basically me.”  I had to be an adult at a very young age.  My parents provided for me financially but my dad was drunk by the time I came home from school and my mom – never an emotionally “warm” maternal figure in the first place - worked extremely long hours as the household’s steady bread winner.  Needless to say, I had already been emotionally abandoned most of my life, so a future husband who would be vacant due to his work schedule was not a future I wanted.  I craved consistency and stability.

Our break up lasted 8 hours.  Mike chose me over his dream of being a cop.  He understood where I came from and he knew he wanted a life together with me.  At that moment he made the ultimate sacrifice of a lifelong dream for me.  Soon after we got engaged, and were married a year later.  He set aside his dream of being a cop and began to pursue a Master of Social Work degree so to further his career in social service. 

At the time we married, we were both in graduate school and working full-time.  Mike’s employer was going through administration changes and he soon found his job – a fun and rewarding blend of staff supervision and training with direct, hands-on work with his kids - was being restructured.  As the new regime steadily reduced his responsibilities and influence he realized they were in the process of eliminating his job and the leadership jobs of several of his close colleagues.  As I watched him go through this I saw his hope in his future disappear.  He was irritable and just going through the motions.  It pained me to watch him this way and I became restless in my heart.  I knew we needed some changes and I could not go through life watching the love of my life unfulfilled in his career.  So, as I often do, I listened to my what my heart, my head, and my gut was telling me and told Mike I wanted him to pursue his dream of becoming a police officer.  This was one of the scariest conversations I ever had; I was putting trust in him he would not abandon me emotionally.  I had already had a lifetime of pain and I did not know if I could endure more, but I also knew that I also could not endure to see him in this state.  I put complete trust and faith in him that he would uphold his marriage vows to never forsake me, that we would always be one, and to always love, honor, and cherish me. 

Mike was 30 years old when he finally became a cop and it has been a 17 year learning curve of how to make this lifestyle work.  There have been a lot of painful times along the way, where one or both of us struggled with the challenges inherent in the job and strained our relationship in the process.  I would love to say it has not been lonely but, as all police spouses and significant others will testify to, it is often very lonely.  It can be what we sometimes refer to as being a “single wife.”  It does mean holidays and weekends apart, weird hours and shift work, and unexpected overtime.  But when he comes home at the end of his shift, I have a husband I am proud of for the work he does.  In return, I get to be a part of something special.  I’ve gotten to expand who I am personally and professionally, and being close to Mike’s career has benefitted my own.  And I’m part of a unique lifestyle I never thought I could tolerate, let alone embrace.

Mike and I have been dedicated to again taking on and writing about relationship issues in this year, lately focusing on what we call “The Concept of WE vs I” (lead linked below) and the four pillars supporting it.  The second of those pillars is “Forsaking All Others” and that is what this article is about.  To help fulfill Mike’s dream of being a cop I needed to make a sacrifice, which ultimately was a decision in favor of the relationship over my personal desires.  What I was willing to forsake were dreams of “normalcy” and the 9 to 5 stability I craved. 

This is Part I of II in our examination of “”Forsaking All Others.”  In Part II we will go even deeper into what is one of the most challenging things any person can do to ensure the success of their relationship, what it means for successful couples, and how to make “forsaking” a reciprocal - and rewarding - part of your relationship.