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How To Love Your Cop
How To Love Your Cop

Chp 10: Little Future Cops-Dads and their kids

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.

November 3rd, 2013

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Chp 10: Little Future Cops-Gun Safety

When our oldest son was little, we got a kick out the way he tied his cuddle blanket around his neck, made guns out of whatever was around, and ran off to fight the bad guys. When Brent’s leather holders for badges and guns were retired, our son appointed himself heir to them. Then as he got older, it was Nerf guns and laser tag. At times our home was converted into a war zone, with the screens taken out of the windows, the lights out, and sweaty boys hiding, shooting foam darts at each other, and leaping in and out of the house through the windows—serious fun. Finally he progressed to Air Soft guns and paintball as a teenager. He and his buddies found empty fields with lots of bushes, trees, and ditches and got down and dirty, strategizing all the way. I think he even borrowed some of Brent’s old Kevlar panels and eye gear to protect himself from welts.

As you can see, we have a relaxed view of guns in our family. But that doesn’t mean we don’t take gun safety seriously. When Brent brings his duty weapon home, he keeps it secure and teaches the kids about how the gun works and the correct way to handle it. He also cleans his weapon at work. There is an attitude of respect, not making a big deal out of it, but rather stressing the importance of keeping it pointed away from everyone even when it is unable to fire. The kids know that they are never to handle it by themselves and under no circumstances with another child. This would never happen anyway; Brent keeps his gun with him and will leave it in his locker at work more often than not.

If your home has other weapons, though, it is imperative that you get a safe that is childproof. We all know of a tragic story or two where accidents have happened. Kids can be unpredictable even when we train them. Talk with your kids about guns at friends’ homes as well or if someone brings a weapon to school. They may respect your rules at home, but their curiosity may get the best of them somewhere else. We also use news of gun accidents to remind them of what to do in these situations.

Guns aren’t the only thing we need to think about. Kids also need to understand that they don’t want to get into the pepper spray, Taser gun, or the handcuffs. One afternoon Brent laid his gun belt on the bed right beside me, and our youngest son asked to see the handcuffs. Brent got them out and gave them to him. But before we could say anything, he put them on himself and started laughing. Until he realized that Brent’s handcuff keys were at the office, forty minutes away! It took some rummaging through the junk drawers and a call to a cop neighbor before we finally found an extra key. Our son doesn’t go near the handcuffs anymore. Sometimes natural consequences cure whatever foolishness our kids dish up.

October 27th, 2013

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Chp 10: Little Future Cops-Kid Communication

Kid Communication

Kendra’s six-year-old son knew Daddy went to work to arrest bad guys. Diedra and her husband sat their boys down at the ages of twelve and ten and had a heart to heart about what Dad’s job entailed. Betty’s eight- and nine-year-old kids watched their daddy on television during a standoff. I have been asked over and over, what are the guidelines for letting our kids know what their daddy does? How much information is okay and when?

As I’ve thought about this question, I’ve realized that there’s no right answer. It really depends on the relationship you have with your kids, what you think they can handle at what age. I don’t remember ever sitting our children down to have a heart to heart about Daddy’s job. If they had questions, we provided an age-appropriate response. We didn’t offer more than what we thought they could handle at the time but made sure we answered their questions truthfully. I don’t remember our kids ever fearing for their dad’s safety on duty. I think this is because Brent and I never made it a habit to worry about what could happen, and they took their cues from us.

I do know that our kids suffered disappointment when Brent wasn’t there for sports games, Fourth of July fireworks, and other things that came up here and there. Over the years he’s tried to make as many events as he can, but there were times he just couldn’t be there. But if there was something important that he couldn’t make it to, we always tried to make up for it later.

When Brent was commuting to the Bay Area during the week and home on weekends only, he had to miss many kid events. Our youngest daughter was in a program through our church in which she conquered challenges weekly and received promotions in return, using a medieval theme as the backdrop. They had really great ceremonies where the child would be honored for their accomplishment. But the ceremony was on a Wednesday night. She was really sad that Dad was gone. We told her that although he wouldn’t be able to be there, we would tape it so he could see it later. What we didn’t tell her was that Brent worked out his schedule and drove back that night, arriving just in time. The look on her face when she saw him was priceless. She burst into big, happy tears and ran to hug him really tightly.

With a little planning and creativity, we can redeem the events our husbands miss. As moms, we have to lower the expectations of our kids when the career calls. But when we take the time to make special efforts to make memories, it makes up for it. In fact, these are some of the best days of their lives.

October 20th, 2013

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Chp 10: Little Future Cops: United Parenting

Mom and Dad: United Front

So, what if you have a different parenting philosophy than your husband? What if you don’t match up on the expectations of your children? Who determines what the rules will be?

Both of you do. If the two of you have different standards of behavior for your kids, nobody wins. Your kids will be confused for awhile, and then they’ll figure it out and be very smart. They will parent shop and inadvertently pit the two of you against each other. At that point it becomes a real mess. But if you and your husband have different viewpoints, you’ll do yourself a favor to unify.

Start with things you both want your children to embrace. Morals. Values. Education. Faith. The big things you both want to instill in your children. Then work from there. Look for positive ways to teach them, such as spending time and actually talking about values. When situations arise you can use them as teaching moments. How you conduct yourself in the home and with others is also instilling your values in them as they watch you. Ask yourselves, “Where are the boundaries?” and “What are the consequences of crossing those boundaries?”

Brad and Heidi valued truthfulness in their kids. They felt that if they could trust what their children said, then they could build core values on that trust. Because kids are tempted to lie, they came up with a serious consequence: it was Tabasco sauce on the tongue. Fully edible and harmless, it brought temporary pain. It was a powerful deterrent for their children, a lesson that lies cause real pain. They didn’t have much trouble with their kids telling the truth after that.

Children need to know where the boundaries are and the consequences of wandering outside those boundaries. Most law enforcement parents understand this because they administer the consequences of those who don’t have boundaries every shift. But here’s the key: children who have lovingly been given the perimeters for behavior and firm follow up to help them rely on those boundaries feel secure. It doesn’t mean they won’t try to push the limits. But it gives them peace, knowing that they have room to grow and be kids within the safety of balanced behavior. These perimeters also give the child a sense of dignity.

A couple of years ago, Brent and I had an issue with one of our teenagers. There was a breakdown in trust as boundaries were broken. For the first time, we found ourselves with different views on how to handle things. Brent took an aggressive approach, and I preferred to be more passive, seeing our child’s point of view. Both of us loved our child fiercely, but we had differences in how to respond. As the months passed and things began to improve, I realized I had taken sides with my teenager. This wasn’t wise. I could see both sides, but because I didn’t align myself completely with my husband, I caused more harm to their relationship and ours. Brent didn’t feel supported, and I think our child lost some respect for me in the process. But it’s never too late; we talked it out and realized there were more similarities than differences that we could agree and act on. The most important thing was to be unified as parents.

When you and your husband set the boundaries for your kids, respect his instincts. It’s always better to set the bar a little higher and adjust later if needed as you both grow in your parenting. Giving more privileges up front and then taking them back later causes a lot of frustration in your kids.

October 13th, 2013

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Chp 10: Little Future Cops – Being a kid of a cop

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).

October 6th, 2013

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Chp 9: Silver Bullets: Money & Your Marriage-Tips on reducing costs

Once our oldest daughter was born, I quit work and stayed home with our children. It was reducing to one income that forced us to pinch pennies. We had mouths to feed and only so much money to buy that food. I’ve listed some ways that we have implemented to bring down our costs.

  • Get out of debt; interest should be the first expense to go.
  • Pay your bills on time; late fees should not be a budget item.
  • Have your paycheck direct deposited; many times banks will waive a monthly service charge if you do this.
  • Raise your insurance deductibles as high as you can comfortably go; this will bring down your premiums. Then make sure you have the deductible in savings.
  • Turn off the lights when you leave the room, unplug appliances after use, and turn off computers at night. Use extra freezers or refrigerators only when entertaining.
  • Shop at discount stores and warehouses. Split large quantities with friends.
  • Go without meat a couple of nights a week for dinner. Have pasta with marinara or salads or soups. Rice and beans are a great supper with complete protein and no expensive cuts of meat.
  • Buy juice from a can and mix in your own water. You can save as much as 150 percent on the cost.
  • You would be surprised at the beautiful clothes you can find at thrift shops. I have several friends who dress beautifully from thrift shop deals. You’d never know.
  • If you’re an avid reader, borrow fiction from the library or friends or buy used books. Only buy books new that you will refer to again (like this book).
  • Cut back on newspapers and magazine subscriptions. Renew only those you read regularly. Listen to news on the radio; you can multitask, and it’s free!
  • Make your own coffee. Buy the good stuff: it’s still cheaper to make.
  • Make your own lunch. Buy the good deli meat: it’s still cheaper to make.
  • Make sure you don’t buy extra roadside assistance if your auto insurance already offers this. You’d be surprised how many people do this!
  • Grow a garden. Nowadays gardens can even be grown in pots on the patio.
  • Do indoor dates with homemade popcorn, a video, and a glass of wine after the kids have gone to bed. You’ll save a small fortune and won’t drink and drive.
  • Use coupons for restaurants!
  • Rather than eat in, take it to go. You save on drinks and tip. Have the kids share entrees to cut down on waste.
  • Do your shopping on the Internet; there are always better prices. Watch for waived shipping costs and sales to get the best possible deal. Brent pays a yearly fee for two-day shipping through Amazon.com, and they don’t charge tax. Saves us plenty.
  • Look for bundle packages on media. Cell phone service, cable, and landline service companies will sometimes work together to reduce your monthly bills.
  • If you have teenagers, pay the monthly flat rate for texting. It’ll save you money, guaranteed. And it’ll save on your minutes.
  • Always ask your husband if he knows coworkers with side businesses. Cops will many times give cops a good deal. It’s kind of a co-op thing.
  • Inquire whether your union has concierge services. You can save money on vacations and amusement parks among other things.

These are some of the savings I have found when trying to balance the budget. They are tried and true.

Money is a huge issue for marriages, and the financial times we are currently enduring have taken their toll on many families. But we can take control of this area of our marriages and make it what it needs to be. When we make the choice to keep spending under control, everyone benefits, including our children.

September 30th, 2013

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Chp 9: Silver Bullets-Money & Your Marriage-Ideas and Hope

Keep Your Money Life Intact

  • Spend less than you earn. This should be a no-brainer, but most people just don’t adhere to this idea. When I was a newlywed, my boss told me, “You should live on Brent’s salary and save yours.” I thought he was nuts. But I will tell you it was the best advice we never followed. Had we taken his advice, we would’ve been in much better shape early on.
  • Debt is a four-letter word. When we don’t save and pay cash for items other than a mortgage, we will pay much more for what we buy. Sales prices will quickly be added to in a hurry. Why do you think we get discounts for using credit at department stores? The odds are in their favor that we won’t be able to pay it off before we incur interest.
  •  Budget, budget, budget! This is the only way we can live within our means. We have found that the best way to do this is through a software program. There are many programs from which to choose. Do a Google search and you’ll have more information than you ever dreamed. We have successfully used Quicken for years, but there are other programs that may offer options that are better suited to your situation. We can pay bills, budget, keep track of what we spend, and even download our spending into TurboTax, making tax time just a little easier.
  • The 10-10-80 spending plan. Ten percent goes to savings. Ten percent goes toward giving to charity. Budget and spend the rest. My daughter is excellent at this plan. When she started babysitting at twelve years of age, she put together a spreadsheet on the computer that charted her progress. She’s been faithful to it ever since. She gave 10 percent to our church and other needy causes, then put 60 percent into her savings, and spent 30 percent on fun stuff. She was able to do this because we were taking care of her needs. Once she became an adult and is now taking on more financial responsibility, she has new percentages that include her car and school expenses, but even now she still gives 10 percent to charity and 20 percent to savings.
  • Don’t spend; invest. Typically we look at money as something we spend rather than a tool used to invest in our futures. When we have this slightly different perspective, we tend to be more proactive in proceeding wisely with our money. When we have goals and dreams for our futures and then view our money as the means to meet them, we are much less likely to let our money slip through our fingers.


It Can Be Better

Are we destined to always struggle with our money? How much is enough? Will there ever be enough? Like Ted, does your husband feel the pressure of providing for the family yet feel as if the debt gets bigger as the hopes grow smaller to ever reach your goals? If so you’re not alone. Unlike most relational things, there actually is a formula to solve our financial woes.

I recently heard two cop wives talking about their finances. They were both on the same money plan and were comparing notes.

“Where are you in the process?” asked Barbara.

“We are now debt-free, except for the mortgage,” Eve said with a smile.

“Wow! That was quick!”

“We had a lot of things to sell,” explained Eve, “Then we took the money and paid off debt. We found a renter for our big house, and now we have a down payment on a smaller home in a better community. It’s all been working out very well. We don’t have to count on Ben’s overtime anymore. How about you?”

“We have about a year and a half, and we’ll be debt free. We’ve whittled our expenses down to the point that we have extra money each month that goes toward paying off our credit cards. It is so freeing!”

The plan that Barbara and Eve were speaking of is Dave Ramsay’s “Total Money Makeover.” His book of the same name shares a simple yet smart plan to get out of debt as soon as possible and then use your money to build wealth in smart ways. Brent and I took a money class shortly after we were married. The class was called Master Your Money, by Ron Blue. We learned some great principles for managing our finances. More recently we read Ramsay’s book together. His ideas and principles were very timely.

Whether you choose Dave Ramsay, Ron Blue, or something else, the point is to have an agreed upon plan. If you are currently in a difficult place financially, there is hope. Get creative. It’s amazing to watch your money make the shift from burden to delight as you get spending under control and see it grow. It’ll be one more thing under control in your law enforcement life. And that makes a huge difference!

September 23rd, 2013

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Chp 9: Silver Bullets: Money and Your Marriage


“Don’t even consider keeping up with the Joneses. THEY’RE BROKE!”

“The number one cause of divorce in North America is stress due to money problems.” Dave Ramsey, financial advisor

It’s no secret. Across the country and beyond, we’re vulnerable to economic trends. Why? Because, for most of us, we are dependent upon other people’s money. We have become increasingly dependent on Wall Street, banks, and the government. We work hard, and then everyone takes a cut. Then we get to choose how to spend the leftovers. If we decide that the leftovers aren’t enough, we borrow. Pretty soon our choices are made for us; we no longer have enough left over from the leftovers to live. It’s a vicious cycle, and we’ve seen the consequences of this in the last few years. People are losing their homes, jobs, and more. Cop families are no different.

Carl and Tina declared bankruptcy and lost their gorgeous house because they bought whatever they wanted on credit and then couldn’t pay the mortgage.

Quinn and Saul both work just to make ends meet because half of Saul’s salary goes to alimony payments.

Brian and Marcy depended on his overtime to make their house payment. It severely cut back Brian’s opportunities to expand professionally, and he was hardly home with his family.

Carrie and Andy bought an expensive house on the outreaches of what they could afford. Then the police department implemented a pay cut. She ended up having to teach school when she desperately wanted to be home with her little girls.

All of these families are law enforcement. Good careers. Excellent benefits. Decent salaries. But no matter how much money is made, failure to plan is a plan for failure.

The Role of Hypervigilance

There are law enforcement-related issues that affect our money. Hypervigilance and critical incident stress have their effects. Dr. Gilmartin says,

The behavioral and marketing researchers on Madison Avenue have… clearly established that certain individuals, when feeling mildly depressed or unfocused, can find themselves feeling more energetic if they purchase something. This form of “retail therapy” does have distinct gender differences. Women tend to make small ticket purchases… Males do not appear to like to go shopping, but they do enjoy “buying stuff”… big-ticket items like boats, cars, pickup trucks, motor homes, campers, and maybe some power tools.

What happens is that retail therapy can turn into debt. And debt becomes a huge burden that results in extra jobs and overtime. The catch phrase he who has the most toys wins turns into he who has the most toys whines.

This spending pattern affects our marriages. More and more debt is added to our limited resources and can rob us of financial security. We are constantly behind, working harder and harder to catch up. Dr. Gilmartin adds,

This cycle robs the officer of any sense of financial security across the span of the occupational career. Many officers, without having a sense of proactive control of their finances, experience significant distress economically, in spite of enjoying an occupational career that is generally free of lay-offs and downsizing, with excellent retirement and medical benefits.

One of the benefits of police work is the financial security it brings to the family. Most sworn police officers are in it for the long haul; a twenty-to-thirty year career in law enforcement is the goal. There are exceptions, but depending on what your department offers in pay and benefits, chances are good that you’ll belong to the middle class. Also, law enforcement is a reasonably secure profession. There will always be crime; therefore, we will always need police officers.

But if we allow ourselves to get into debt to the point that we are strapped financially, that feeling of security begins to wane. When our officers are working day in and day out but money is constantly coming up short, a sense of frustration can develop. These feelings will heap on top of regular pressures of the job, and can lead to a feeling of desperation. At this point, talking about money will become very difficult.

September 8th, 2013

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Chp 8: Stuff Happens – How do you spell relief

How Do You Spell Relief?

Whether the issues that you face in your marriage are a result of his job or relational differences or other outside pressures, there is a likelihood that at some point you will want to give up. Even the best marriages have occasional long winter seasons, and we are human.

For sixteen months, Brent lived out of town during the week while he commanded another area. Then he transferred to a local position but took on the most challenging job of his life. I saw him more, but for the first few months he came home and promptly fell asleep on the couch. His job took more and more of his energy, concentration, and time. Then personal hard times hit. It was very difficult. After many months of seemingly impossible demands at work and at home, I saw a change in his behavior. He became withdrawn, angry, forgetful, and, at times, almost victim-like. This wasn’t like him. For awhile, I was concerned for him. But then I became more concerned about me.

“How long will this last?” led to “I don’t want to be treated like this,” which led to “I don’t deserve this.” That led to “I don’t have to take this anymore!”

I started detaching myself, entertaining thoughts of escape. It became a big temptation that consumed several days a week. I stopped fighting for us in my mind. I was letting go, giving up. With each squabble and each let-down, I found myself drifting farther and farther away and hurting more and more.

It was the first time in our marriage that I considered leaving. It was a very strong temptation. Frankly I just wanted out. I needed relief.

We took a vacation to the beach in southern California, and I wondered how to tell him where I was. We bumped along through the week, and I felt so distant. He was in the same room, but I felt we’d grown miles apart. One day we took a trip to the zoo with the kids. As we got into the car, we had an argument, and that was the final straw. All the way home it was over for me. I’d had enough. I didn’t want this anymore.

After dinner I went for a walk on the beach to clear my head. As I walked toward the ocean, I noticed a really cool sandcastle that someone had built that day. It was fortified with thick little towers around it and stones and a moat. Someone spent a lot of time building it.

The tide was coming in. A wave lapped at the fortress that surrounded it, and suddenly I was riveted. For the next hour, I watched as wave after wave washed bits of the castle away. The fortress was the first to go. Then the waves methodically carved a hole in the back side of the castle I couldn’t see. Suddenly the top fell off, and the waves washed it away within minutes. Then a large wave swept up, and the rest of the castle split in half. My chest tightened, and I caught a sob. My eyes filled with tears as I realized that, to me, it was not a sandcastle disappearing but my own home.

I heard a whisper: “Are you gonna do this to your family?”

I wept as the tide completely wiped the sandcastle away, leaving only the stones that garnished the fortress. It was as if it had never existed. And I heard that still, small, but firm voice ask me again, “Are you going to do this to Brent? To your kids? Everything you’ve built will be for nothing. And for what?”

I looked up at the blurred stars through my tear-filled eyes. “No,” I decided, “No, I cannot do this. No! I will not leave.”

I listened to the waves crashing on the shore and gained a little strength.

“No, I will not do this to my husband. I will not destroy my family.”

The hurt still burned in my heart. But I decided to stay. And then I decided to recommit myself to loving my husband no matter what he was going through.

After that night I had to re-train my mind to think positively about Brent and our relationship. It took a couple weeks, but then I realized that he was hurting too. He was burnt out. He was empty, weary, and he needed me! So I reached out with a new attitude and started actively loving him again even though not much changed on his end at first. I loved him first out of compassion but then with fervency.

Then things began to change. He relaxed. Work seemed to ease up. We started laughing together. Twenty days after the sandcastle moment, he presented me with a beautiful little song that he had heard and thought it could be ours. This meant so much to me! It seemed that once I decided to stay, my recommitment encouraged him and lifted him out of the place he was in.

Think We, Not Me

As I look back, I realize that I let myself get really self-focused. It became more about me than we. And when times are tough, this is a recipe for failure.

That night on the beach reminded me of something else. After the sandcastle disappeared, I looked to my right and saw some large rocks that some condominiums were built upon. I realized that Brent and I had built our relationship on a strong foundation of trust, mutual respect, and unconditional love. We were undergoing some strong storms of life and had been pelted and worn down. But because our foundation was strong, we would not fail. Our life together would not disappear like a castle built on sand; it would stand the test of time.

August 21st, 2013

Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder

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Chp 8: Stuff Happens – How to Recover

Take Time to Recover

The third stage is to take time to recover. Try to get some time off and get away for a change of scenery. Build positive memories. Take a break from extra-curricular activities that create more busyness. Make sure your family gets rest. If your relationship is at a relational deficit, then start making deposits.

This is also a good time to set some new boundaries relating to the issue. Perhaps you both need to stop spending time with friends who drink heavily and find other avenues for friendship. Maybe you both need to set some boundaries with activities that aggravate issues. Follow the avenues of healthy support. You also have the unique position to help him get the nourishment he needs through healthy meals and exercise. In fact, eating right and exercising are essential for his (and your) healing.

What I’m suggesting here is for the both of you. His crisis affects you in a huge way. Things you go through affect him as well because your lives are intertwined. You both need time to recover and to heal. In some cases it could be a lengthy road. You’ll need this time to remain patient while the problems are resolved.

Being Strong When We Feel Weak

Years ago the mentor I met with while a newlywed was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. Debbie was given six months to live but died in five. During that time I too was dealing with internal hurts that needed healing. It was really tough. A wise friend of mine encouraged me to watch for what I could learn during this time. “Find purpose in the pain,” she said. I’d never done that before, and in the midst of it all, it seemed impossible.

But it wasn’t. With the help and support of my husband, eventually I viewed the end of Debbie’s life as a new beginning for me. Debbie had imparted a bit of her heart into mine, and this I could hold on to. Incredibly, the final piece of my healing was put into place through a conversation at her funeral. And although I miss her even now, in a way I keep Debbie alive as I carry forward what she taught me.

When you are going through painful seasons of life, challenge yourself. Try to find purpose amidst the pain. What can you learn? What can you carry forward? How can you have victory over what seems like defeat?

When life is topsy-turvy, we need to be held up by our foundations and support system (see chapters six and seven). There may be a tendency to withdraw when things are tough, but it is when we need others all the more. A timely phone call or a meal provided is very uplifting. You never know what kindnesses others will offer when you are in crisis.

As a person of faith, I turn to God for comfort. He has been my refuge and strength in the midst of some very hard times.

The last bit of help may just come from your own attitude. It may sound strange, but when you are going through tough times, be thankful. Sometimes you might have to start with being thankful your situation isn’t worse than it is! It may seem like your life is in shambles, but there is always something small (or large) to be thankful for. You will be surprised how being grateful will lift your spirits!

August 14th, 2013

Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder

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