I was recently asked, “What’s it like being a police wife?” Being an author and advocate on the subject of law enforcement, it’s a question I’ve been asked quite often.
I’m quick to point people in the direction of my article “Selfish Is Not An Option.” It’s been around for years and pretty much covers all areas. However, there’s been a change in my opinion in recent months. It has not been sudden, or hastily brought on by current events which have many spouses of police officers feeling a deep seeded pride and defensive protection over their loves. No, it’s been a slow simmering change which has grown into a rolling boil of emotions within myself. Lately, especially lately, I have found myself with an entirely new perspective on being the spouse of an officer.
My husband is a veteran patrol officer of over seventeen years. He’s an “old school” cop, one who takes the stance of “stupidity and haters equal job security” and “when God calls your number, he calls your number.” He isn’t a talker, and he isn’t one to share all the details. He speaks in body language without saying a word. Some nights upon returning home, he doesn’t make it past his leather chair in our bedroom. He strips down to his under armor, pants held up by his Velcro. Boots still on, he rests his head in his hands, rubbing his bald head with 5:00 o’clock shadow. That tells me his story. I may never know the details, but just a glimpse of that image speaks volumes to me. Other times he will enter the house and immediately turn the shower on. Again, there’s no conversation needed. The steam of scalding water washing over the bathroom mirrors like a fog tells me there’s either pain trying to be eased or death trying to be erased.
It was a night much like that, which opened my own eyes to the change within myself. Indeed, what does it mean to be the spouse of an officer? My non-talkative LEO crawled into bed that night and wrapped himself completely around me, holding me so tight I wondered who felt more? Did he feel more vulnerable letting his guard down, or did I feel selfishly safer having him there protecting me, even knowing his bear hug was due to a bad night? His next question answered it for us both… As he held me, he asked me, sincerely wondering, “Why do you love me so much?”
I told him the simple truth, “I love you for who you are, I love you so much more to make up for all of those who hate you.” Just like that, any pettiness or anger or frustration with current events was erased. At the end of the day, when it’s just the two of you, you are left with what comprises your love for one another.
Being a police wife to me, in today’s society, means being the biggest advocate and supporter I can be in order to give him the encouragement and strength to fight his way back home, alive.
Now don’t let all that mush and gush leave you rolling your eyes at the naïve police wife. I am well aware of the ugly truth of some police marriages. I was once married to an abusive cop and former marine. I also spent twenty-three years working high-conflict family law. There’s an abundance of dysfunctional marriages out there and frankly, there’s plenty of abuse in police marriages, plenty of cheating, plenty of sharing the neighborhood bike so to speak. I’m the farthest thing from a romantic personality you’ll ever find. It’s no secret my own blog followers, years ago, dubbed me “The Unicorn Slayer” for being the outspoken blogger on a mission to crush the unicorn dreams of denial of police wives everywhere. I’ll continue preaching my mantra: “It’s not my job to blow sunshine up your ass”.
Here’s the deal…. I know a good man when I see one. I know a good woman when I see one. I know there are a whole lot of amazing men and women, badges on their chests, fighting the good fight and there has never been a time when they needed support on the home front more than they do now.
There is one truth I know for sure; an abusive cop would be an abusive lawyer or an abusive doctor or an abusive contractor. The problem is, abusive cops have a sense of power and that complicates the situation for many. The badge doesn’t create a corrupt abuser, it simply gives them a tool. And for those cops, who are ruining it for the rest of the good ones, this isn’t about you. You’re worthless in my book and if you have a spouse, I pray to God they’re reading this and seeking legal counsel. Because, if you’re willing to abuse the power of the badge, there’s no coming back from the hell you’ll put your spouse through.
However, for those officers and their spouses out there who are in functional marriages or life partnerships, for those who respect one another, for those who truly love one another, I would say this…Don’t let fear, anger, frustration, resentment or jealousy take a seat in the front row of your lives.
One thing I have learned about being a police wife is that it’s never “you get what you give”. It’s “you give and you give and you give what is needed.” My needs might be on hold for weeks. I can get furious, I can take it out on my husband, I can give him the cold shoulder, I can harbor resentment…or I can be honest with myself and ask myself if any of it was within his control to change. Am I mad at the drunk, or my LEO? Am I mad at the teenager who committed suicide five minutes before my husband called 10-7, or am I mad at my husband five hours later when he crawls through the door? My husband took an oath to answer the call. Period. He doesn’t make the calls; he answers them. Do I honestly, truly believe my husband wants to be out on a frozen highway, two hours after his ten-hour shift ended, searching for a teenager’s left hand which was ripped off in an accident, or do I think my husband wishes he were home to eat that steak and drink that beer that were ready hours ago?
Perhaps it’s easier for me to keep it clear. Perhaps the fact that both my husband and I have made a concerted effort and promise to always be on the same team, regardless of differences of opinion. Perhaps it’s because of my line of work, advocating for LEO families… After all, I have watched as my followers have become widows at the rate of 1 every 58 hours for years now. Indeed, maybe that’s what helps me keep things in perspective. Who knows, really? All I know is there’s nothing about this life worth fighting over. I honestly don’t care if at times I feel like a single mom, or that date night got cancelled because of a hooker and a drug deal, or that a suicidal cow derailed a train, or that tonight was supposed to be our time, but my husband’s brother-in-blue — who was forced to pull the trigger a few weeks back — needs a friend right now. As long as my husband makes it home alive, that’s all that matters.
What’s it like being a police wife? It’s worry you push aside. It’s forced independence. It’s strength you never knew you had. It’s resourcefulness. It’s being an expert with power tools. It’s being the queen of the kid shuffle. It’s people thinking you’re a single mom. It’s lonely nights. It’s holidays not on the actual holiday. It’s waxing things and wearing things and getting a spray tan and being met with snoring within five minutes. It’s call-outs in the middle of the night…in the middle of “things.” It’s cold dinners. It’s putting your kids to bed alone. It’s avoiding felons in grocery stores. It’s always making sure there’s a seat facing the door. It’s backing your car into every space, every time. It’s your spouse saying, “Does this shirt make my gun look fat?” It’s explaining to your young child why kids at school call their mommy or daddy a PIG.
It’s also looking into the eyes of someone who took an oath to make a difference. It’s letting your LEO know you still believe in them when so many don’t. It’s supporting the ones who are hated and judged by the actions of others. It’s knowing when to press to see if they’re alright and knowing when to let them work through the monsters alone. It’s the hand on their chest when they silently sob in the middle of the night, and never mentioning it again. It’s making sure they know you’ve got their six, always. It’s being the haven that rescues them. It’s being their true north, the place they fight to return to, the one and only place where they can breathe. It’s the sigh of relief at the sound of Velcro and keepers. It’s the utter joy that snoring brings as it is proof of life, for just one more day. Being a police spouse is perspective. It’s whatever it means to you. For me…it’s pride. After all these years, after all the hate, after all the headlines, I know his heart. For me, I’ve never been prouder to be the wife of a police officer, and with everything I have, I promise to make sure he knows that too.
About the Author Melissa Littles