While doing research, I found something interesting. Several forums were alive with discussions resulting from the question, "Would you marry an officer?" I thought this was interesting because it brought to mind a scenario where a woman goes into the police station, looks through an employee book and selects an officer to marry. I think I'll take badge number 4310, thank you. I tested to see if occupation/marriage material was a common question, but I couldn't find any discussions about "Would you marry a pastry chef?" or "Would you marry a carpenter?"
Law enforcement officers are affected by the work they do. Their occupation becomes a part of who they are. This in turn affects those who love him or her. Statistics showing high divorce rates, low marital satisfaction and alcohol abuse run rampant. Even if little research can support some of the claims, the rumors become truths to those who wonder about being in a relationship with an officer. With funky hours, sleep deprivation, sarcasm and distrust of those outside law enforcement affecting most LEO relationships, why would someone want to marry an officer? First, let's take a look at all the wrong reasons.
For All the Wrong Reasons
"Oooo, a man in uniform. Yummy!" Men in uniform are handsome. All you have to do is go to a costume store, to see the popularity of fantasies involving hand-cuffs and other law enforcement apparel. A man is more than the clothes he wears. And, that uniform takes on a whole other appearance when it gets handed to you after an encounter with a very drunk, very dirty, combative person or you find it on the dresser with a Blood and Body Fluid Warning slip on top of it. If you only want the fantasy, I'd recommend marrying someone you love and making a trip to The Halloween Superstore.
"I'm Married to a Cop... Try to Mess with Me," reads a t-shirt. Another states, "Be Safe at Night. Sleep with a Cop." There is a sense of security when your significant other has the training to keep places around him safe. What makes this a wrong reason, is often being married to a police officer has you home at night alone, weapons readily available in the house and the chance of being targeted because of his occupation. To be truly safe, you must be aware of danger and train yourself. Taking self-defense classes can increase your confidence. Keeping weapons locked up can keep you and your family safe. Being aware of your surroundings and maintaining a safe atmosphere within your home will help you be a proactive part of the security you crave, no matter who you sleep next to.
Law enforcement is generally a good, government job with plenty of job security, but not every department pays a comfortable wage. So, if you are looking to marry someone because of the money they make as a cop, it might not turn out the way you hoped. That huge house in the Suburbs, fancy truck and jet boat just might have been earned by tremendous amounts of overtime or too much credit.
For All the Right Reasons
Getting into any relationship, regardless of what job they do, requires understanding, empathy and patience. Being with a law enforcement officer usually means utilizing even more of these three things. The work can be difficult, dirty and depressing. An officer can find him/herself becoming emotionally drained, detached and feeling underappreciated by the public and those within the department. After a few years, cynicism rises. So, before you decide whether a relationship with a law enforcement officer is right, you have to figure out what kind of person you want to spend your life with. Assess the values you both prize. Learn how compatible your communication style is. If you and the person you are with are willing to do the work necessary to have a successful relationship, occupation will only be one piece of your family puzzle. If the significant other happens to wear a uniform, there are some things you both can do to try and mediate various issues that come with loving a cop.
Having an understanding of the various aspects of your officer's job can make dealing with the good and bad times easier. If the department offers a Citizen’s Police Academy, sign up for it. Go for ride-alongs and meet the people your LEO works with. Don't learn about the job from television shows which generally only highlight the "exciting" aspects of the work. Relying only on what you see from them can skew your vision of law enforcement and your significant other. It can also make you overly worried. Talk to your officer about their job. Many times people do change once they hit the street, but keeping an open line of communication between you can help ease the transition and face changes head on.
Seek help from counselors trained in law enforcement relationships before problems become overwhelming. Talking to a trained professional who has an understanding of how law enforcement affects the entire family, can help both of you learn to communicate and deal with the negative affects of the work. Any pro-active actions on you and your significant other's part will help keep your relationship strong and vibrant. A counselor can assist with how to focus on communication and gaining an understanding of each other's expectations within the relationship.
Much of what your officer sees at work is negative. Once home, the negativity is often reinforced by what he or she sees on the news. Try to keep things positive at home. Communicate when you need to about what the other is feeling, but also communicate about other things going on. Focusing on the positive will make both of you feel better and can significantly improve your relationship. Leave each other notes highlighting something your significant other did to make your life better and happier. Spend time together, just being together. Find time to laugh - frequently. Negativity comes with the job, but working together to make your home a safe, positive environment can ease some of the stress.
So, you want to marry an officer? This question should be rephrased, "So, you want to marry the person you love who works in the law enforcement profession?" Know the challenges the occupation brings and start your relationship from day one with both your eyes wide open and a willingness to communicate and handle any issues. The question should be answered, Marry the man, not the job.