Dads Need Their Kids
When Brent became a highway patrolman, I was the one who comforted him when he came home. But after we started having children, I noticed a little shift. It seemed to me that he was more excited to see them than me when he came home. I used to get a little jealous, but then I decided to grow up.
I’ve come to understand that my husband needs and feeds off of his kids. He needs their optimism. He needs their innocence. He sees in them that there is good in the world, and it’s worth fighting for. I know that may sound a little dramatic, but it’s true. He may not even realize it. But coming home and holding his baby girl or wrestling on the floor with his boys—my husband needs this. Chances are so does yours.
Almost every day, year after year, there has been a wrestling session at our home. It started when our oldest daughter could crawl. Brent tackled her—lovingly, of course—and she would laugh until her belly hurt. It’s continued through the years, and now we have to clear a large space, as the legs and arms are much longer, but the laughter still rings through the halls. I call it wrestle therapy, and Brent needs it just as much as the kids.
But I’ve always been the stick in the mud. I’m the one who’s moving the vase or scolding when it gets too rough. And they laugh at me and sometimes pull me in against my will. Usually it ends with my stomach aching because I can’t stop laughing. So, let them wrestle. Let them throw footballs (soft ones) in at least one room of the house. Let them cuddle past bedtime. It is good for our husbands’ souls, and it helps to balance out the harder parts of his job. The kids love it too.
On the Other Hand…
There are other seasons in a law enforcement career that aren’t so great for kids. Sometimes your husband will need some quiet, alone time. When he’s had a really bad day, he might not be able to handle the chaos that kids create. Several of my law enforcement friends have told me that they have had to take the kids somewhere else or send their husbands to the gym. Being quick to anger, irritable, or just in his own little world is a reality at some point. Unfortunately this can be really hurtful to the children who don’t understand.
That’s where we come in. Our husbands need a little space, exercise, time, or sleep to get back on track. We can create room for this, depending on our creativity and our attitudes. If we’re full of resentment, our kids will pick up on it and be resentful. If we are patient, our kids will try to be patient. If we give him a little room for moods, it won’t be so traumatic for the kids. Then, when he’s calmed down a bit, you and the kids can engage him in the family goings on.
It’s important to communicate to your kids, no matter what the age, what is going on. For little ones you can tell them that Daddy’s had a bad day, and he needs some time to deal with it. For older kids you can give a little more detail, as appropriate. But the attitude is support and love, not condemnation. We all have moods from time to time, and home is the best place to work through them, especially if we give each other the space to do it.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" November 3rd, 2013
Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder
Our three boys grew up knowing the risks. We never lied to them about it, but it wasn’t what we talked about at the dinner table either. But what they also knew was that if Mom or Dad died doing the job, we’d go out with a sense of pride, purpose, and loving what it was we were doing.
Jeri, former CHP and wife of CHP[i]
I felt a little left out when my son became a patrolman. Suddenly he and my husband had their own little language and a camaraderie. When your kids go into law enforcement, it’s a whole different ball game.
Cassandra, wife and mother of CHP officers
It was a beautiful day at the park. The Easter egg hunt was over, but not all the eggs were found, so the older kids were searching the deep grass. Hot dogs sizzled on the grill. A couple of the dads were marveling together at how well the day was going.
“The kids are so well-behaved. I think it’s because we don’t let them get out of hand. They know if they misbehave, we’ll clobber them!” said one officer, laughing.
Heads nodded in agreement because we understood; most cops’ kids are held to a pretty high standard. Their dads have seen what happens out there on the street, and they don’t want their kids to become customers. Chances are that if someone else heard this conversation, they might get the wrong idea. With all of the confusion about parenting these days, there are mixed messages about what is acceptable and not acceptable. But law enforcement parents tend to lean toward a stricter standard.
What’s It Like To Be a Cop’s Kid?
Cops’ kids generally don’t get away with much. Police officers are trained to be able to tell when someone’s lying and their kids all the more. There’s also a network of information that gets around as well, especially in rural areas. If an officer’s kid gets into trouble, there’s a good chance he’ll find out about it.
One tendency for law enforcement parents is the need to protect. Recently we had a situation with our nineteen-year-old daughter in that she and her girlfriends befriended a boy who was very handsome and likable. Because they met him at a church youth group, the assumption was made that he was a great guy, and one of the girls developed a dating relationship with him. Then Brent found out that the boy was going to court for stealing a car and had a prior for marijuana possession. Oh, the tearful conversations we had to have with that one! We talked about boundaries with a person who engages in criminal activity even though likable and that it was a bad idea that he come to our home. She was convinced that he had changed his ways, yet Brent could tell from his excuses that he hadn’t yet experienced a turnaround. Out of respect for Brent, our daughter made a choice to distance herself from him in their group and set boundaries like not driving him places. A couple of months later, he abruptly left the group to live on the streets in another state. Hurt that he left without a word, her friends suddenly realized that hanging out with this guy wasn’t the smartest idea.
We can trust our husbands to protect our kids. But sometimes it can go too far. I had a conversation recently with an officer who’d seen a lot of death on duty. I asked him how he dealt with it. He told me that it manifested itself in being overprotective of his wife and kids. He has forbid them to go anywhere at times and won’t allow people to drive them anywhere unless he first okays it. As you can imagine, this hasn’t gone over well. Arguments ensued, and his wife thought he was being jealous. But that’s not what it was. It was his inward responses to watching people die in his arms, guarding a little girl’s dead body for hours to comfort a friend, and wiping another officer’s blood off his uniform. It was these horrible images that manifested themselves into fear for his family.
These situations are so tricky because his fear is valid. The need to control is very real and possibly the only thing he can do to ensure the safety of his loved ones. But it’s also problematic. The answer here is to recognize the reasons for the behavior and work from there to communicate. Your officer needs to be validated and respected in the process, and together you can move toward a workable solution.
Appearance may be a big deal to a police parent as well. Earrings, tattoos, baggy pants, and hairstyles matter to police officers. I’ve listened to several of our non-law enforcement friends talk about not making a big deal out of phases their kids go through. But police officers make judgments every shift about people they deal with on the street. Their lives can depend on it. They are looking for signs of criminal behavior and if the individual has a weapon. There are clues they look for in clothing and behavior, and some of these same clues may appeal to our own kids at some point. But law enforcement parents just don’t want their kids even remotely resembling the people they put in jail.
[i] Correspondence, Code 3 Magazine, (Spring 2007).
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" October 6th, 2013
Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder
You need a support system, but can you trust women?
I ran into an acquaintance recently who I hadn’t seen in a while. We quickly caught each other up on our families, and she mentioned that her nine-year-old daughter was giving her fits. I nodded, knowingly. “That’s when their hormones start up,” I shared. “I bet she’s also experiencing drama with other girls at school, isn’t she?” She looked at me like I was psychic. I went on to recall stories of my girls when they turned that magic number nine. It was a hurtful time; girls were so mean!
Sometimes interacting with other women is scary. We’ve all been there at some time or another—some girl is creating drama, and suddenly connection isn’t such a hot idea. The good news is as we mature, there are fewer of us who take part in this kind of stuff. But definitely not all. That’s why I say, “Proceed with caution!” If you find yourself connecting with a woman who is gossiping, run—don’t walk—to the nearest exit. Even if she’s talking trash about someone you don’t like, chances are she’ll eventually talk trash about you too.
Rules of Engagement
Over the years I have worked with, served, taught, mentored, spoke to, and counseled hundreds of women of all backgrounds. I’ve learned through trial and error how to be a friend and observed those that do friendship well. I’ve come up with some general rules of engagement that will help you pick some good friends and be a good friend in return.
The Number-One Golden Rule
I’ll start with the most basic. We learned this in school or from our moms early on, but it represents a very good boundary for our behavior! The golden rule is to do to others what you would have them do to you. If you want someone to keep your secrets, keep hers. If kindness is important to you, then be kind. If you would like some practical help here and there, then offer and follow through with practical help. Fill in the blanks from there.
Keep this in mind as you converse with others. As women, we have a tendency to talk too much. Oh, the words we say, every day, in lots of ways! But we all have two ears and one mouth. Listening is twice as important as talking. Ooh, this is a good reminder for me! I have so many stories, and I like to tell those stories to make connections to this and that—show others how much we have in common! But I like to be listened to, so I have had to teach myself to shut my mouth and listen to others.
Rule Number Two: What’s the Back Story?
Novelists are always on the lookout for creative ways to bring in the back story. This is the prelude to what you’re reading in the book, the reasons or the road to how the character got where they are physically and emotionally in the story. The same goes for real people; there’s always a back story.
I have learned to never make assumptions based on first impressions. Some women are shy. Some women want to be friends, but want to first observe if you’re trustworthy or not. When I speak, it’s often the women who don’t make eye contact with me during my talk that approach me afterwards to ask questions.
You’d be surprised how many women are carrying burdens that come across as indifference to others. Those who come across as confident, engaged women can actually be harboring feelings of self-doubt just beneath the surface.
Things aren’t always as they appear. We don’t always have the facts. That fabulously dressed brunette sitting by herself with a don’t-approach-me look has a story. She probably isn’t stuck up. She probably doesn’t think she’s better than you. She might be shy. Or she was abused as a child. Or she and her husband had an argument on the way there. Or she has ten dollars in her bank account and no groceries in the fridge. You never know what is behind the blank stare or the up front attitude. But it might be worth it to try to find out the back story. It just might be very similar to your own.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" June 17th, 2013
Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder
I’ve talked about motivation, foundations, problems, and trust. These are some deep parts of yourself you may never have thought about in this context. But I come back to them because it is so important to know who you are. When we know who we are, then we are much better equipped to deal with whatever life hands us. We know what will work and what won’t. It’s much better than going through life just guessing.
When Brent went into the academy to become a highway patrolman, I went through my own transformation at home (the CHP Academy is a six-month live-in arrangement with most weekends off). I had to stand on my own two feet for the first time in my life. I had a home to run, a job to perform, and on the weekends a husband to encourage and support. Back in the day before e-mail and cell phones, I had no way to get in touch with him during the week. I had to rely on his ability to use the one phone on campus while completing rigorous eighteen-hour days. He didn’t call much, and I missed him terribly.
It was during this time that I discovered that my husband would not meet all of my needs. Fulfillment could not be found in him alone, nor could he secure my insecurities. This was hard to accept; I came into our marriage with an expectation that he would do all that. I did some soul-searching, found a mentor, and grew up a little. It was a good thing too because that toughened me up for our first assignment in Los Angeles.
The best approach to our relationship with our husbands is as whole people. They can meet some of our needs but not all. Spending some time answering the motivation and foundation questions is a good start. But we cannot do this alone. We must have a support system.
Questions to ask yourself:
1. When you are eighty years old, what do you want your life to look like as you take inventory of the years you invested?
2. Do you struggle with fear and/or worry? If yes, what is something you’re willing to try to combat it? If not, why not?
3. Do you tend to live with short-term thinking or long-term thinking?
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" June 3rd, 2013
Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder
Proactive Steps To Deal with Fear
We can know the odds and be prepared for the worst. But there are always those close calls and creepy little feelings that come up from time to time as we face the danger of what our spouse does for a living. How do we disarm them?
1. Face the worst case scenario. Much of what we fear is unknown, and fear breeds worry. Think through your greatest fear and play it out in your mind as to how you will deal with it. Come up with an emergency response to the “what if.”
2. Demystify the experience. Familiarize yourself with your agency’s death benefits and protocol. Talk to your spouse about who you would want to deliver the news should something happen. Security is very important to us as women, and not knowing what will happen if can be a catalyst for worry. Brent’s agency encourages officers to designate who will notify next of kin in case. You can be a part of that decision or work to initiate such a protocol in your husband’s agency.
3. Resist the temptation to listen to scanners or dispatch applications on the Internet. This is not an emergency response to facing the worst case scenario. This is a distracting illusion of control. “If I just know what’s going on, I can handle it…” Risky approach. This could perpetuate fear, not dispel it.
4. Talk out your fears. I talked with Brent in his down time once or twice and found it helpful. I’ve also talked with other seasoned wives, and this helps too. You may even consider talking with a survivor if you have the opportunity. If you are a person of faith, prayer is an excellent way to talk out your fears. Personally, this is where I found much comfort when I have dealt with occasional fear.
5. Let it go. This is one area you can’t control, and if you try you’ll drive yourself and others crazy. Go back to your foundation. What or who is it that you trust?
My friend Michelle Walker lost her husband in the line of duty New Year’s Eve of 2005. I asked her how she dealt with fear before he was killed. I learned that her father was with LAPD and had suffered a shooting but recovered. Incredibly, she never feared that her husband would be killed. She answered, “Fear drains your energy, puts stress on your marriage and family, and ultimately won’t change a thing. I’m so glad that I didn’t waste the time I had with Mike worrying.”
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" May 20th, 2013
Posted In: Uncategorized
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Thinking
Pursuing happiness is short-term thinking. It concentrates on right now. Right now I’d be very happy if I had a big piece of German chocolate cake. And then after I eat that very large piece of German chocolate cake, I’d be happy if I had just a little more. So I’ll eat another half piece. Fifteen minutes later, I’ll be miserable because my stomach hurts. And then in the morning when my jeans are too tight, the guilt sets in. Long-term thinking is different. This mindset understands that passing on that dessert means better-fitting jeans, and that is the avenue to self-respect and good health. It is making a decision to pass on something that will make me happy temporarily to obtain something much more satisfying in the long run. Long-term thinking is realizing that when I am happy, I celebrate it because there will be seasons that I will not be happy. And yet I’m okay with it.
Long-term thinking in our marriages requires looking at the goal: to still have a thriving marriage at the end of our lives. Actively pursuing a satisfying, contented marriage means investing in your relationship over the years in happy and not-so-happy times.
Long-term thinking doesn’t blow things out of proportion when you have a spat this week after connecting on a deep level last week. Relationships ebb and flow, and short-term thinking will create drama. “You never…” is the accusation when, in actuality, he does at times just not enough for you or not enough at the moment. Drama gets tiresome when it pops up again and again. It takes out large withdrawals from your marital bank account. In contrast, long-term thinking relaxes a bit and doesn’t panic. Long-term thinking stops taking cues from whatever doesn’t feel right at the moment and tries to understand the big picture.
Put Fear in Its Place
The most common thing cops’ wives hear from non-cops are questions about how we deal with fear. It’s the first thing thought about once a loved one decides law enforcement is the career they want to do, and it’s the most obvious. Those on the outside looking in assume that we worry all the time and the circumstances dictate to what degree. When Brent promoted to lieutenant and was relegated to a desk, our non-cop friends figured that I wouldn’t worry as much because he was out of the danger zone. They were surprised to hear that I didn’t worry as a lifestyle, that I had dealt with my fear long ago.
The first time I felt fear about my husband’s job was about nine months in. He came home one morning and told me how he and his partner came upon a gang fight in a bad part of Los Angeles. Being the eager rookies they were, they stopped, called for back up, pulled their guns, and yelled freeze. And those who were fighting did freeze, unbelievably enough. All except for one, who took off running. At that point Brent’s partner gave chase, leaving Brent alone with twenty armed gang members, having only a six-bullet revolver and a shotgun. It was at that point he realized that the situation could go really bad. He was outnumbered in people and in weapons. They could’ve turned on him in a heartbeat, … but they didn’t.
It seemed like forever, but soon he heard the cavalry coming; others arrived, black and whites screeching in from all directions. Gang members were sorted out, handcuffed, and taken to jail. Brent’s partner came back too with the fleeing suspect in custody. Turns out one of the bad guys was wanted for rape. It all turned out well, but the fear factor was definitely there.
Brent laughed about it—and at first, so did I. But it scared me. I started counting down the “what ifs,” and fear crept in with them. Honey, we’re not in Chico anymore! He’s fighting real gangs with real guns. The danger was near, and it was very real.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" May 6th, 2013
Posted In: Uncategorized
His Coping Mechanisms
Your cop will have his ways to deal with stress. You may not be crazy about some of them, but, if it’s working, you need to let it go. A couple of years ago, Brent had a chief who dealt with stress by having an occasional outdoor cigar-smoking session with a few guys in the office. My daughters hated this. They always knew when Daddy smoked a cigar that day. But I knew that a few cigars over a several month period were unlikely to do any damage. In fact, it did him some good to take an occasional timeout in the middle of a hard work day.
Debriefing with their friends seems to help them deal with stuff a bit easier. Suggest he play racquetball or golf with some buddies. Maybe a yearly hunting trip is in order, or have him spend a morning fishing with a friend. During these times, it’ll also help your attitude if you schedule something for yourself.
Cop humor, silence, Monday-night football, motorcycle riding, exercise… our guys need outlets. There has to be some way for them to fill up. He’s putting out a lot of himself to be an officer. You can help too by listening, taking care of your portion of the marriage partnership, initiating sex, and creating a safe home. But as awesome as you are, you are not the only place he can be filled. Support an outlet or two that build him up.
Understanding our men—who they are, what they do, how they deal with it—helps us to know better how to support them. But this is only half of it. How we respond is the other half.
Erica, whom I referred to earlier in this chapter, says that she doesn’t think about this stuff each and every day he walks out the door. I don’t either. But I suggest thinking through it ahead of time when all is well, letting these thoughts digest so that day to day and year to year we grow and learn together instead of moving apart. In some ways, it’s putting on our own mind armor to keep us in the marriage game as well.
We have a choice here. We can begrudge the way they are and build a wall to protect our sense of who we think they should be. We could, over time, harden our hearts toward parts of them and complain behind their backs to our friends. We could demand that they change, and they might even try out of love for us. But, in the end, they will not be able to trust us completely.
Or we can accept them for who and what they are, respecting their processes. We can love them unconditionally for what they are and be forgiving for what they aren’t. This acceptance gives them the freedom to be real. And in the security that this provides, they might even just mellow out over time. I’ve witnessed this in many marriages. We might say, “She’s been good for him.” At the very least they will appreciate the safe place that our love creates and trust us with depths of themselves we will treasure. Sex may be better, too, as the walls of mistrust disappear and we grow in intimacy.
On its surface, it seems like an easy choice. But it isn’t. Marriage is hard. Marriage to a cop is even harder. How can we get the courage necessary to thrive amidst all of this?
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" April 8th, 2013
Posted In: Uncategorized
The Hero at Home
Because this book covers different aspects of law enforcement marriage, it probably seems like my entire existence revolves around the fact that he is a cop. It doesn’t. There are areas of our lives that have nothing whatsoever to do with law enforcement. This is a big question for new officers’ wives. “I have my own job; do I have to drop everything for this to work?” The answer is no. Life is life. Kids. Careers. Hobbies. Church. Clubs. Sports. There is more to life than law enforcement.
Erica doesn’t view her husband as a hero when he walks in the door. He’s Marlo, the father of her children, the man she married, and the one who takes out the trash. So when he comes home, she expects him to jump into their lives. I love this. Erica has two boys and a job. She basically runs the home and likens it to a revolving machine. When Marlo comes home from his shift, she expects him to join their lives that are already in motion. Because she has communicated this, it works!
What you don’t know about Erica is she had to face that horrible moment that we all fear: “Honey, I need you to come the hospital. I’ve just been shot!” Marlo called her from his stretcher on the side of the freeway. After this critical incident, she had to make things click in her mind. This was when she adopted this attitude: Marlo is the man she married. He’s not Marlo the hero; he’s Marlo the husband. He’s Marlo the dad. In fact, she’s only seen Officer Marlo a few times.
This mindset may be more difficult for other men. When they are on duty, they have to take control in the midst of chaos. Your man has been trained to be in control of situations and will be direct and to the point. He doesn’t do multiple choice on duty. What happens when he comes home, still in this attitude of control?
My guess is it doesn’t go over well. I know this might be pretty tempting for cops to do, but it doesn’t exactly pan out at home. We’ve been running things all day, and it’s a little difficult to relinquish that position. We’ve got our tried and true ways of making it work, and then he comes in and does it differently! Again, this is where respectful communication comes in. He needs to be a part of the home too, so don’t hold on so tightly to your methods. On the other hand, you are not one of his customers, and he doesn’t want you to be.
The other side of the spectrum is that they are tired of making decisions and/or babysitting crooks all day, and they don’t want to take the reins at home at all. Recall the down stage of the hypervigilance roller coaster. It takes some good talks and patience to work through this.
The Long-term Perspective
I’ve mentioned several things that you see on a day to day basis—the short term. But there is a long-term perspective as well. In a career that spans twenty to thirty years, these issues will ebb and flow with the seasons. Supervisors and commanders come and go, and, depending on their leadership skills or lack thereof, your husband’s career will benefit or suffer.
There have been seasons that Brent couldn’t wait to get to work. And there were times when his stress was so elevated his blood pressure would reflect it. The point here is that seasons come and go. Enjoy the good times and embrace the rough spots for the character building they can instill. Either way, sometimes it just helps to know that it won’t be forever.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" April 1st, 2013
Posted In: Uncategorized
Before and after Shifts
Many times this hypervigilance rollercoaster will begin just before he leaves for work. He’s putting on his game face. For Brent and I, the time before his shift wasn’t pretty for years. Sometimes I’d be upset half the shift after he’d leave. He was intensely focused. There were a few hurt feelings here and there. I finally learned he needed his space to gear up for the day. It wasn’t directed at me. He was inwardly focused to be on his game.
I also needed to be careful about the demands I placed on him right before work. A half hour before he was to leave was not a good time to talk about bills or problems with the kids or scheduling conflicts. I learned to make a list for later. A little patience and everyone benefits.
For many officers, coming home is a lot of the same. In addition to that coming down from hypervigilance, a bad accident, a supervisor’s comment, or an incident involving children will sometimes bother your officer, and he needs down time to think it through. Your questions or requests may conflict with his thinking time and his comfort in bringing up something so raw. You never know what he’s dealt with that day. How do we handle their responses like strong, mature women?
Faye has implemented the pause moment. She’ll ask her husband how his day was and pause for the signs she’s come to recognize after thirteen years on the force. Sometimes he’ll be fine. Other times she’ll hear a heavy sigh, and so she’ll remain silent. She knows that if he needs to call one of two fellow officers that something is bugging him and that he’ll let her know in his time. She then adjusts to his response as appropriate.
Communication comes first—verbal and non-verbal. If he’s bothered about something, maybe he needs a trip to the gym. Maybe he just needs to hold his baby daughter for a while in silence or wrestle loudly with his boys. Maybe he needs to watch TV for a couple of hours and relax. The rub comes when you have plans for the evening. Or it’s tag-team time and it’s your turn to go to work. This happens over and over through the year and beyond. It’s learning to ebb and flow with the moment and having the awareness and self-control to deal with this process positively.
I want him to be on his game when he needs to be and, if he isn’t to let me know so I can deal with it and move on. But nine times out of ten, it’s difficult to do. He doesn’t know what’s on his mind; he’s just irritable. Or he doesn’t have the energy to articulate his needs. Sometimes he just lies on the bed and falls asleep. So much for dinner!
Brent has learned to be good about telling me when he is so spent he can’t meet my expectations (at least the majority of the time). I have had to learn to be patient, and that right there is tough. Sometimes it just stinks! And I’ve decided that it’s okay. When we understand that it isn’t us, fight the temptation to panic or worry, and communicate like mature people, that’s when it gets better. We develop thick skin. But it’s keeping our hearts soft and bitterness-free over time that takes a bit more energy and focus.
I’ve been talking a lot about flexibility and allowing your man to decompress from his job. But by no means am I suggesting you take a doormat mentality. You are an equal part of your marriage and have equal value. As cop wives, we tend to be strong and sometimes outspoken, but not all of us. I’m suggesting ways to come alongside and support, but in the context of mutual love and respect for one another. There is a difference between being interdependent (the goal) and co-dependent.
In the long term, we need to find ways to achieve balance. When Brent took over command of the CHP Academy, we were mentally prepared that it would take a lot of out of us. He worked long hours and maneuvered a large staff through some seemingly impossible demands. At times it was downright overwhelming. During these times he’d come home, share a bit with me, and we’d sit together, shaking our heads.
I wish I could share that we took advantage of his vacation time and gave him the down time he needed. But that wasn’t the case. He actually built so much time up that he exceeded his vacation time limits. And we suffered as a couple and as a family. It has been the hardest season to go through in his career.
After two years of long days and many weekends, he wanted to umpire baseball games. I reluctantly agreed. It seemed at first like it was just more time away from our family. But when I saw the camaraderie he built with other guys and how happy he was when he returned, I didn’t mind that he was gone the extra hours. I finally saw him relax. It became a replenishment, something he desperately needed.
During this time at the academy, my life was busy as well. He was busy with his job, and I was busy with my own pursuits. But one thing I did during this time was be available to listen when he came home. For much of our marriage, my guy didn’t talk much about work. He usually had a lengthy commute to calm down. But as the academy commander, he entered the house, still talking on his phone. Because he couldn’t talk with others about his frustrations, he vented to me. I was safe, I listened. I didn’t say much, didn’t need to. Sometimes I offered my female intuition, and he was pleasantly surprised that I could be so business smart. I liked that. It brought a new level of trust and respect to our relationship. All I had to do was be ready to close my mouth and open my ears.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" March 26th, 2013
Posted In: Uncategorized
Understanding His Motivation
War is seductive. There’s something inside me that lures me to the mission. I look at what’s goin’ down and know that I have to do what it takes to rescue these men… It’s almost like I have this need, deep inside of me…” The soldier’s eyes were moist and serious like he was reliving his combat experience again. I could see the pain on his face as images flashed through his mind’s eye.
“And then, as I heard the bullets whiz by my head, I came to my senses. What am I doing? I have kids… I have a job at home… why am I taking these risks?”
It was a crowded room, but I didn’t notice anything else. It was the closest thing I’d heard yet that describes the warrior mentality. Although I couldn’t step into his shoes, it resonated within me. Duty. Compassion. Laying down one life for another. Courage that comes from deep within. I’d seen glimpses of this before in my husband and his co-workers. This is the mind of a man in uniform.
Some are born with it. Some learn it really young when they’re watching Daddy put on his badge. Some are enticed by the honor and respect that goes with the shield and gun. No matter where they got it, it’s there. It’s a powerful, inner force that drives them on.
Only 3 percent of the general population can do what our husbands do.[i] They are willing to complete what’s necessary in each situation. They may even lay down their lives to stop a criminal from producing chaos and death, and that willingness commands respect. Do you respect your husband for who he is? For what he values?
My friend Deidra has had a difficult time with this in her twenty-year marriage. He may be a hero out on the road, but it wasn’t always the case at home. She and I had a conversation recently and this is what she said:
“In their line of work, they get respect. When people see a cop, they definitely clean up their act a little. Then he comes home, and I don’t give him that respect. Why don’t I give him that respect? Because some of the things he says are not respectful! When you’re acting like a jerk, why should I respect you?”
One of my biggest failures has been that I haven’t valued him. I haven’t valued his accomplishments, the fact that he is putting his life on the line for other people, that he’s a great provider, a great husband, and a great father. When I don’t respect him, he feels really bad about himself. And that affects a lot of things, like our relationship. He feels like a failure because he thinks I don’t believe in him. They get this level of respect on the road, and then when they get home, we don’t give it. I think it’s degrading. I wish I could go back and do it over again… to be more proud of him. I am proud of him.
Diedra and her cop have been married a long time and have a good marriage. But she is realizing now that the way she treats him affects him as a man and as a police officer. Respect is to a man what love is to a woman. It’s their greatest need. We as wives can remember that there is always something to value within our husbands even when they’re not faring well in other areas. It helps to remember him as a whole rather than honing in on his weaknesses.
[i] This statistic is based on population calculations.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" March 11th, 2013
Posted In: Uncategorized