The lure of the badge and all it gives – “Being the police” is a powerful hook, isn’t it? It comes with adventure, fun, power, cool toys, and the distinction of working a job most could never get, let alone succeed at. The job itself is a huge pull with its camaraderie and esprit de corps. For a lot of us, day-to-day domesticity pales in comparison. Where’s the adrenaline rush in that?
This is not to say there are never times for ambition, obsession, looking for that little extra, or passion for work. Of course there are, and most partners of cops know this and are okay with it. They’ve chosen to sacrifice for your sake and the sake of the career, and most do so willingly, but you need to sacrifice, as well. Here are the basic steps to “forsaking all others” in a way that both strengthens the marriage and still honors and devoted time to those things (in this case the JOB) that have been “forsaken.”
In Part Forsaking All Others, Part I (linked below), Althea described how she had willfully chosen to forsake certain dreams and expectations of in her ideal version of marriage for me, in giving me her blessing and encouragement to pursue a law enforcement career. She sacrificed greatly for this, and I knew it, and I have an even greater responsibility to honor her sacrifice. One of the ways I do this is by making our relationship and marriage primary over all else, even the job.
But how do you do this in a way that honors your relationship above all else, while still recognizing the importance of your career and all the ambitions and excitement you hold for it? We follow a handful of simple principles.
Make career decisions as a team
Marriage is most successful when you view yourselves as a team rather than two individuals each trying to put his or her self-interest first. As such, we have made sure career decisions are team decisions for both of us. Which shift and hours each of us works, whether or not to seek a different positions or paths in our careers, when or if the time was right to take the sergeant's exam, how to focus our writing and training ambitions, etc. are all decided by the two of us as a team so no one is left behind and no one feels disenfranchised. Teams decisions are empowering, strengthen your bond, and enable energy to be placed first on the relationship, but also to pursuits outside the relationship.
Because her input is an integral part of my career, Althea is invested and engaged in it. We talk frequently about what is going on at work and with me – things that are often hidden from our partners – and I have a supportive sounding board at home. My work isn’t something she has to compete with but an integral part of who we are as a couple. Because we are invested in each other’s careers she knows me professionally and is my biggest advisor; her input and support has made my career richer.
Devote as much – or more – time to the relationship as you do to your career
Consciously devote as much time and effort into your marriage as you did give to your career. As a LEO it can become easy to put too much time into solving the latest crisis that there is not enough energy left over to put into the relationship. Do this by scheduling time together every week to simply catch up with one another and to see how the other is doing. Make a concerted effort to take an interest in each other's hobbies, friends, families, and careers. It is important for spouses to put time and effort into each other so that they know beyond a doubt that they are the most important person in each other’s’ life. If your spouse feels they are competing for your time, you will then begin to experience your spouse as putting restrictions on you; if they believe they are first, they will likely give you freely to other pursuits.
Devote yourself to being well-rounded… together
Althea and I have our own interests and pursuits – each maintaining your individuality is crucial to a relationship, of course – but we have taken great care to cultivate shared interests that take both of us outside our comfort zones and expand who we are together. So many people are content to reach homeostasis in both their personal and relational worlds, deciding they are somehow complete. For us learning, growing, and experiencing anew is a lifelong process. There will always be something else to master (or flail around at, just hoping for adequacy, but enjoying the effort), somewhere to visit, something to see, or new things to learn. Great books and movies continue to be produced, and ideas for articles to write will pop into our heads.