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Whether you’ve been the significant other of law enforcement personnel for a few months or a few years, you know the feeling of putting yourself last. If you’ve added children into the mix, you’ve really moved down the totem pole. With everything else you have to worry about, you try to push your feelings down so that everyone else is happy. But, you deserve to be happy. You deserve to have time to yourself as well. Often times, you find yourself giving up little things to make sure everyone else is getting what they need.
“I was going to make lunch, but the baby started crying.”
“I was going to go lay down for a minute, but if you need to workout, I can stay up.”
“I forgot I had to go to the bathroom.” How does this happen, by the way? How do you just forget that moments, or even hours, ago you needed to use the restroom and you got so distracted that you just didn’t?
Before you know it, the sun has set and you haven’t eaten lunch or dinner, you went to the bathroom when you woke up and then you’re not sure if you ever saw the throne again, and you’re a walking zombie: tired and probably in the same clothes you wore yesterday. But alas, you conceal it so well. The kids are in order and they’ve all eaten. Your significant other has slept, worked out, eaten, showered, rested, and gone off to work without a hitch. And finally, at 8:00pm (if you’re lucky) you get to sit down and do what you’ve wanted to do all day: binge watch your favorite show, eat all of the snacks you’ve hidden from your significant other and the kids, catch up on Facebook or whatever other things you scroll through on your phone, and just relax!
Just kidding! You sit down on the couch at 8:00pm and you’re out like a light at 8:05.
Ha! Joking. You never sit down because you have to clean up and get ready to do it all over again tomorrow.
This is when it creeps in. This is when you finally have time to think and reflect. You start wondering what it would be like to have a “normal” family. When will you have time to go get coffee by yourself or get your nails done? What’s it like to eat dinner at dinnertime rather than 4:00pm. (You can’t even get the senior discount, but you’re eating the senior dinner!) Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to plan things with others without the possibility of having to cancel? Will I ever be able to sit down and eat, and all of those other tiny little devils that creep in.
You start to wonder if it’d be easier if you stayed home full time. You feel like you’re underappreciated or that your ‘job’ doesn’t seem to be as important as your spouses. You wonder what it’s like to have a significant other who is home often enough to really split the responsibilities like you’d like them to. You wonder how others seem to have all this free time to do as they please. Don’t others have worries and responsibilities?
STOP DOING THIS TO YOURSELF! You’re going to just keep getting upset and it’s going to boil over and explode one of these days, and it’s a complete waste of your energy.
Trust me, I’ve had this argument. Several times. And, let me tell you, it’s ridiculous. Your job is to support your significant other in their job and their decisions. Their job is to support you in your job and your decisions. Do you really keep score of who does what? (Been there, done that, not proud of myself for it.) Do you really want to spend time fighting over who is appreciated and who contributes more? Because, I think you’d rather spend time enjoying your life together. Unfortunately, we’ve chosen to be part of a lifestyle that could change our lives in the blink of an eye. Sorry for the truth bomb, but you know it’s something you think about more often than you want to.
It’s difficult. I get it. Life changes when you’re a police spouse. The police life changes people, and there’s no way to prepare your marriage/relationship for it. You simply have to deal with it as it comes. It’s overwhelming. It seems like one day, you suddenly don’t know who your significant other is anymore. Shoot, one day, you suddenly don’t know who you are anymore. Support turns into resentment. Quality time turns into being in the same room with one other, but not having anything to talk about. Or, you simply just start to live separate lives under the same roof. (Roommates, anyone? Again: been there, done that, wouldn’t recommend it.)
Let me say it again: STOP DOING THIS TO YOURSELF!
You’re allowed to have emotions. You’re allowed to ask these questions. But, I’m not about to allow you to waste your time arguing, resenting, and feeling like you don’t know who you or your significant other are anymore.
What I will allow you to do is fix it. But, how? Well, I’m no expert, but I’ll give you my advice. There’s a little book out there that my husband and I swear by. Well, I swear by it. It took the Mr. some convincing, but he’s finally on board. If you haven’t heard of it, you should definitely take a look at The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book has been a game changer for the Mr. and myself.
Not only is it an interesting read, it’s something you can keep coming back to. Let me tell you, I’m a creature of habit. I am very particular in my ways, and I hate change. But it’s been interesting to see over the past five years just how much I change. Whenever these questions and feelings start to creep back into my life, I try to pinpoint what is going on. Am I really mad that I haven’t eaten lunch (I’m no stranger to the hangries) or is there something deeper going on? If I’m hungry, I get a snack. If that doesn’t help, I go back to my book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman and I retake the quiz. More often than not, my love language has changed. My tank is running on empty, and we haven’t changed our patterns to try and fix it.
In the first years of marriage, I was acts of service. In the last year, I’ve become words of affirmation and quality time.
If you’re like me, quality time is hard. Our schedules are opposite. We have children who need our time and other things that creep in and take whatever time we do have. It’s easy for those little devil questions to take over and the resentment to start building.
It might take some time to figure out how to work your differing love languages, but it’s totally worth it. And, don’t just take the quiz once and throw the book in a drawer somewhere never to be seen again. Revisit it when you forget who you are. Revisit it when you start getting overwhelmed and thinking that you’re not being appreciated. Chances are, you are so very appreciated. Your needs have just changed for this season and you need to get back on track.
If there’s one thing I can assure you of, it’s that your love, support, and time are never underappreciated in this line of work. No. Your love, support, and time are what get them through the tough calls, the overtime, and the horrific scenes they deal with.
You can overcome this. You can beat these questions and these feelings. You’re not doomed and you’re certainly not on the bottom of the totem pole! ! Eventually, you will find a balance and you will be able to get coffee and go out with friends. You may even be able to use the bathroom without little fingers poking under the door or your kid sitting on your lap! We’re talking goals here, people!