FEATURED IN PATROL
In his book Fit to be Tied, Sr. Pastor Bill Hybels speaks of a period in his life when he spent so much time in his career that his marriage suffered severely. At that time, Bill had encountered a surge of growth in his church from 15 high school students to a congregation of many thousand, a new building project that had intense complications, and was receiving increased national praise and attention. Bill had begun taking his eyes off his wife and began putting the majority of his attention into building this church, while his wife Lynne was at alone home raising their young family. Lynne would bring to Bill's attention how she felt neglected and was unhappy, but Bill would wonder, "How can my wife want more of my time when she knows I am being called to a greater good?" However, as their marriage continued to struggle and flail, Bill remembered his first vow was to his wife and not to his career and to the church. Bill knew he needed to refocus his attentions back to his wife or he would lose her.
The struggle of Bill and Lynne are similar to that of a police relationship because it is hard to know where your loyalty lies and how to juggle a life's calling that makes a difference in this world, against what may seem to be the mundane of married and domestic life. Although the story of Bill and Lynne Hybels is that of a pastor and his wife, there are certain parallels that can be drawn with the experiences of many law enforcement couples. There is a dedication of time to career over marriage until the marriage begins to suffer, confusion that a spouse does not understand or respect "the calling" and the purpose to serve a greater good, focusing so much energy into career that none is left over for home, and guilt felt by the spouse over competing for attention against something they know is such a large and important part of their LEO spouse's being.
When Mike began to pursue the testing process of becoming a police officer, he was in his late 20s and we had only been married for a few months. My anxiety began to soar and I was also very conflicted. As mentioned in an earlier article linked below, Mike was unhappy in his current career in social services as it was going nowhere without further education. It was also obvious Mike would never be happy if he did not pursue a life in law enforcement, a dream of his since he was a child.
So I proceeded to let Mike and the dreams of a nine to five husband with weekends and holidays off go, as he actively began testing for police departments. But we also had a series of very difficult conversations that mapped out our future responsibilities to each other so that we would not end up a statistic of yet another police divorce. It is no secret police work is hard on marriages. Divorce is already rampant in our national culture, and the rates are so much higher in LE marriages. How many of you are on spouse number two or three or more or know a colleague who is? How many conversations do you hear that begin, "My first wife..."? How many of you work in an atmosphere where the story rights would make a fascinating soap opera? For many of you, law enforcement is a calling, but if you are married you have a calling to your spouse, as well. How do you balance the two without neglecting either? Following are four basic tenets we have followed to protect our marriage: