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 He became withdrawn, angry, forgetful, and, at times, almost victim-like.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.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" August 21st, 2013
Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder
It isn’t a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Stress can create police marriage problems but you can be prepared.
Because my husband has PTSD from his deployment to Iraq, the Fourth of July is now about renting loud movies, closing all the windows and blinds or praying that he gets called into work so he can be barricaded behind the prison walls where the outside can’t come in. I don’t fully understand it all, but that’s what we have to do now to make him feel better. We help relieve some of his anxieties and reassure him that while he will never forget what he went through,. God is still taking the time to heal his heart and mind. We do it one day, one step, and one prayer at a time.
Renee, wife of former National Guardsman and current sheriff’s deputy
You may have heard the tongue-in-cheek phrase about motorcycle cops: “They say there are two kinds of motors: those who’ve gone down and those who will go down.” It’s a little along the lines of a law enforcement career in general: those who have had some kind of difficulty on the job and those who will. In a twenty-to-thirty-year career, your man will suffer something. Injuries, long-term effects of hypervigilance, supervisors who don’t get it, burnout, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), grief over fallen comrades and other difficulties will at some point take a toll. How will you maneuver through these challenges together?
There are three kinds of stress that law enforcement officers experience. The first is general stress, the day-to-day things that life hands us. There are varying levels depending on the seasons that we go through—illness, death of a loved one, financial pressures, and so on.
The second kind of stress that your spouse may go through is cumulative stress. Dr. Ellen Kirschman describes cumulative stress as “prolonged, unrelieved wear and tear that results from having more demands than a person can respond to.”[i] This is also called burnout.
The third kind of stress is critical incident stress. This develops when a specific event happens that overwhelms the officer’s ability to cope effectively. Examples would include accidents that have multiple fatalities or that involve children, a mass casualty incident (like 9/11), a shooting, a suicide of a co-worker, and other disturbing incidents.
Some of the symptoms of critical incident stress are physical. These include chest pain, trouble breathing, trembling, high blood pressure, stomach issues, headaches, fatigue, and poor sleep. Emotional symptoms include denial, fear, depression, feelings of helplessness or feeling overwhelmed, anger, and excessive dwelling on the event. Other symptoms of critical incident stress are cognitive. These include disorientation, hyper-alertness, issues with concentration and memory, nightmares and flashbacks, and assigning blame to others. There are other responses reflected in behavior. [No comma needed in previous sentence.] In addition to some that I go into a bit more below, you may see changes in eating habits, crying spells, and unusual spending.
As wives, we need to be aware of the ways our men respond to stress and learn to recognize problems. It’s not an if; it’s when. Life happens. I’ve provided information on some responses to job stress. It is not an exhaustive list. If you suspect that any of these areas are affecting your guy, I would suggest you do a little extra research of your own so that you can support him in an educated manner.
[i] Ellen Kirschman, I Love a Cop (New York: The Guilford Press, 2007) page 89.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" July 8th, 2013
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Last week’s blog has some tips on helping you have a support system with other police wives. Here are some more rules of engagement for you.
Rule Number Three: They Are One, Not Two
Rose’s husband is a deputy with a nearby county sheriff’s department. She was recounting to me how the office had experienced severe drama in the last several months, and it was wearing on her even though she wasn’t directly involved. There were two people having an affair at the office—an officer who was married and the wife of another deputy. Everyone knew except the spouses, and they were all trying to keep it a secret while gossiping about it. What a mess.
You will socialize with other attractive men in uniforms throughout your husband’s career. Chances are your friends’ husbands are nice to look at too. But if we are to conduct ourselves in a way that makes us safe friends, we must establish boundaries with other men.
I have developed a defense mechanism against letting handsome men get into my thoughts. When I see a married man who is attractive, I make sure to meet his wife. Then I look at them as one entity, not two. When I see Robert, I see Sue. When I see Scott, I see Lisa. This has worked for me; it keeps my mind in check. Looking at them as a couple keeps me from flirting and therefore doesn’t stir up bad vibes with my friends. The friendships keep me accountable. I don’t even go there, and others sense that I’m trustworthy.
I also have to mention the way we dress. Women are beautiful. And how we clothe ourselves makes a big statement to others about who we are and what we value. Dressing to attract (very short skirts, low-cut tops, ultra tight pants) may get the attention of men, but it screams to other women that they can’t trust her. She’s unsafe, threatening. Dressing nicely but appropriately helps other women trust you as a friend.
Rule Number Four: Loose Lips Sink Ships!
Have you ever poured a bag of sugar into a canister and realized too late that it wasn’t big enough to hold the whole bag? There are sugar crystals everywhere! They’re on the counter, the floor, and your clothes. You can sweep for the next three days and still feel them on your shoes.
This is what happens when we don’t use discretion. Once your words are out of the bag, they can end up anywhere.
Within departments there are always politics. I can’t tell you how many times key people have tried to get me to talk about my views on things. They’ve tried to get information. I am learning to keep my opinions to myself because my views will be read as my husband’s views. And that could get him into hot water.
When you are socializing with people from the department, play out beforehand what you will disclose and not disclose. You don’t ever have to be rude unless someone gets out of line. Smile. But be careful about passing along information that could jeopardize the well being of your husband. Better yet, stay clear of controversial work topics and share about the other aspects of your lives.
Someone Older and Wiser
Renee’s husband, Joel, had been deployed to Iraq twice. When his time was up with the National Guard, he went to work for the sheriff’s department. Renee had struggled deeply with little kids in tow while he was in the Middle East. She felt very alone, and there wasn’t much support available. Those years were very hard. So when Joel came home and became a cop, she was glad that he was home, but there were still stresses with his job.
About that time she met a woman who was also a deputy wife. Cyndi was a little older, and her husband had been with the county for several years. She took a liking to Renee, and they soon found they had much in common. Soon this friendship blossomed into a mentoring relationship. Cyndi called Renee from time to time and asked her how she was faring. She’d answer questions and listened to Renee’s concerns. She gently guided Renee to keep on investing in her marriage and children and offered understanding and helpful ideas. Unlike the lonely deployment experience, she felt supported and strong.
I, too, have benefited from mentoring relationships. When I was younger, I sought out confident women that I respected and asked them to meet with me for guidance. The time was invaluable. I sat soaking in tried and true wisdom and remember much of what they said all these years later.
In recent years I have been able to pay it forward. I am now a mentor to several ladies and feel honored that younger women want to meet with me. I love listening and sharing wisdom and asking questions to get them to really think about the deep stuff.
If this kind of a friendship appeals to you, start looking for a seasoned woman from the office or another department. It helps if she is a law enforcement wife, but it doesn’t have to necessarily be so. Look for a wise, quiet yet confident woman who cares about you and your marriage. Then take the plunge and ask her to meet regularly.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" June 24th, 2013
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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
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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
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When I Moved In, I Brought My Baggage
Jim and Angie sat across from us, their meals barely touched. They recounted an issue that they couldn’t get past in their marriage, and it was huge. They were so concerned that they brought it to Brent and I, their mentors, to help them sort it out. About that time Brent asked, “Is this something that you struggled with in your home life growing up?” Jim’s face froze, and I could almost see the light bulb brighten above his head. He then recalled a story that had paralleled their issue to the tee. The core issue was apparent to each one of us, and they came up with a simple way to deal with it.
In this life journey you’ve been on, chances are you have picked up things along the way that aren’t so good. Someone hurt you. You have adopted others’ destructive messages about yourself. Perhaps you made poor choices in your past, and you are reaping the consequences now. Whatever the reason for the hurts in your life, if not dealt with, they can adversely affect your marriage.
Dr. Gil Stieglitz, in his book entitled Marital Intelligence – A Foolproof Guide to Saving and Strengthening Marriage, says that past baggage is one of five problems we face in marriage. He writes,
“We carry with us wounds and destructive internalized programming as well as guilt and consequences from our past actions. There is no way to seal off the past and have its unresolved issues stay away. At times the impact of unresolved past baggage is so strong that it must be dealt with before progress in marriage can be attempted… It will continue as is unless those wounds are exposed, grieved, and processed… People need to process their pain from the past.”[i]
Many are the hurts of those we know. Some heal, some don’t. Some make peace with their pain; others live in the past. If baggage is affecting your relationship, there are healthy ways to deal with it. Check your support system (see next chapter). Some things can be talked out with a wise friend. I also recommend going to an older, wiser couple with your husband. When Brent and I went through a tough time with one of our teenagers, we sought out the help of a couple we respected who’d gone through similar things with their son.
Counseling is also a great tool. I once heard a police officer say that when she needed help with plumbing she called a plumber. When she needed help with electrical, she called an electrician. So it only made sense when she needed help with some emotional issues she was facing, she called a counselor.
[i] Gil Stieglitz, Marital Intelligence, (Winona Lake, IN: BMH books, 2010) page 184.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" May 27th, 2013
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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
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I don’t wear the badge on a uniform. But when you’re married to an officer, you wear the shadow of their badge on your heart.
Pat, wife of a CHP officer who was injured on-duty
Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength—carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.
Corrie Ten Boom, Holocaust survivor
In 2006, one of our officers responded to an accident that involved a disturbed young man. One thing led to another, and a fight ensued as the man tried to steal the officer’s gun. A sheriff’s deputy joined in, as did a paramedic who was on the scene. The subject was overpowered, and he went to jail. This kind of thing happens often, but this time a reporter with a camera just happened to stop and snap several pictures of the entire incident. The photos made their way to a variety of places, and Code 3 Magazine picked them up and published them.
In response, they received an emotional letter from a wife of a police officer with three small children. She wrote that she was shocked to see such graphic pictures and didn’t wish to receive the magazine anymore. In the next issue, there were several responses to her letter. Here are two excerpts:
…[B]elieve in your husband… and support him with all your heart. It is for you, your children and the world they live in that he serves as a peace officer. You are and need to be a part of that. A loved one’s support and faith is often the secret weapon that a peace officer will use to survive a critical incident. Hiding from reality will not work.
Deputy sheriff married to a highway patrolman[i]
Being an officer’s spouse is not for the faint of heart. It takes strength, will and an understanding for the love of the job that officers feel and commit themselves to… I hope she can come to terms with that which she is now married to. If not, her constant fear will destroy both her and her marriage…
Former officer and wife of police officer
Fear had taken its toll on this young mother, and it seemed that she responded with avoidance and anger. It’s a natural instinct but one that could be destructive to her and her family. So, what’s a girl to do?
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
Worry and fear are chronic when the ground you stand on isn’t firm enough to steady you. Every house is built upon a foundation, and the house will only be as sound as the materials it’s built upon. If your personal foundation is built upon things like truth, morality, goodness, and a love for others, chances are you’re standing on something solid that will withstand the storms life brings you. But if you are standing on ignorance, selfishness, fear of what could happen at any moment, or are led primarily by your senses (touch, sight, taste, etc.), your life will eventually falter on these shifting sands.
What is it that you stand on as an individual? What are your goals for your life? What drives you? When you are eighty years old, what do you want your life to look like as you take inventory of the years you invested? The answers to these questions will determine your success in life as a person, a wife, and a mother and levels of satisfaction or regret at the end of your life. It will also determine your emotional stability in the face of what your husband’s career hands you.
Most women that I talk to want to be happy. That’s what life is all about, right? We don’t want trouble, we don’t want pain. We want to feel good inside and out, have fun, live positive lives with positive thinking. It’s life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Unfortunately, if we are actively pursuing happiness, we are headed for disappointment, maybe even sorrow. Let me tell you why. Happiness is subjective. Happiness is elusive. And the definition of happiness is ever changing, depending on what it is that we chase to fill that happy place.
My youngest son recently wanted a Wii so bad he could taste it. He researched it on the web. He saved his money for months. Whenever we went shopping, he asked to swing by the electronics section just to see if they had them in stock. His pursuit of happiness was wrapped up in buying that Wii. Finally the day came when he received his Wii in the mail. For the next few weeks, he played Wii for hours. And, yes, he was so happy! But after a couple months, I noticed he was researching something else on the computer—catcher’s gear. Here we go again!
Happiness is short lived. There will be times in your marriage that you will not be happy. There will be seasons that will take you down some dark paths. If your underlying pursuit is to be happy, you may want out in these seasons. Why? Because chasing a feeling that comes and goes will be a constant source of disappointment. And in that emotional instability, you will inadvertently undermine your own marriage.
[i] Correspondence, Code 3 Magazine, (Spring 2007).
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" May 2nd, 2013
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Selfishness vs. Listen with the Desire To Understand
This last communication killer is so common it’s actually part of our culture. We’re encouraged to look out for ourselves, to be self-focused. We’re also naturally inclined to respond to our own desires, feelings, and whims. We’ve been doing it since we could breathe. Maturity comes when you can keep your selfish tendencies in check, thinking and acting as if others are important too.
In a way your husband has sworn to the department that he will set selfishness aside, that he would lay down his life to save another. This is unselfishness at its best, real hero quality. You, as his wife, have agreed to share him for the greater good, another unselfish quality.
But in the day to day, we each have needs and wants that call to be met. We have dreams to pursue and goals to accomplish. So it’s a dichotomy, making sure that we take care of ourselves but also tending to the needs of our husbands, kids, work, etc.
If we really want an outstanding relationship, we will make a choice to listen with a desire to understand each other. But it requires character—humility, even—to set yourself aside for a time to listen.
Roger Williams, Director of the Mount Hermon Conference Center once said, “Selfish people will never live in unity.” In marriage, everything needs to be filtered through us. Not “me,” but “we.” And the “we” includes you both—sometimes him, sometimes you, and sometimes both. There’s a give and take here. And it takes practice.
This is a difficult chapter. Good communication requires responses that don’t always come naturally. It takes courage and inner strength to speak the truth in a way that doesn’t leave our partners wounded. But understand something, ladies: you have power. You have the power to crush your husband, to let your frustration fly in his face, or slowly, methodically undermine him. Either way, it could reduce him to shreds. The closer you grow, the more dangerous you become. You and I both know some women who are very good at this.
But you also have an opportunity to use your power to do something incredible. You have a choice to build him up into the man he deserves to be. Your love and respect can build strength and confidence in him. You can strengthen that thin blue line, indirectly, through careful, proactive words and actions—words that encourage, even heal; actions that respect who he is.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" February 25th, 2013
Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder
When my book first came out and my friends and family members read it, a frequent observation was, “Wow, you really put a lot of personal stuff in there. Has Chief read it?”
Are you kidding?! Of course Chief read it! He went through it with a fine-tooth comb. And he gave me feedback – some of which was hard to hear but essential for its excellence. When co-workers questioned him as well, he replied, “If it helps others with their marriages, I’m completely willing to talk about our difficulties.”
My aunt was the first one to really nail my reason for this. She wrote, “I was a bit surprised that you were so open and personal about your experiences, but that’s what makes it so compelling. It should be required reading for a lot of young couples, not just law enforcement pairs. It even speaks deeply to old long-time married folks like us, forcing one to really examine our relationships with our spouses…”
If you read last week’s blog, you know that I continue to share the good, the bad, and the ugly for the sake of sharing the lessons I learn in life with you. Knowing that we are more alike than different in our thoughts and actions connects us. I know I’m not all that – and you know you’re not all that. Authenticity brings relief.
And what does this have to do with how we love our cops? Everything.
Somewhere in the course of our culture’s “evolving” relational intelligence, we’ve downplayed the idea that our actions (both good and bad) have significant impact on those we are close to. There are no real consequences, it’s my business. These are MY choices – they have nothing to do with you. But really – do your choices affect your spouse? Your kids? The neighbor? The taxpayer? If I choose to eat a donut, who’s business is it but mine? Well, let’s see. Donuts pad on weight, which I want to lose. A choice to screw it all and devour empty carbs will inadvertently tack on guilt (right there on the thighs – where it’s virtually impossible to lose!). And that guilt manifests itself, eventually, into irritation. Irritability leads to sensitivity. Sensitivity leads to insecurity. Insecurity leads to misunderstanding. And misunderstanding results in conflict. With the others who are close to you. Every choice – negative and positive has its effect on others whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.
We also think that admitting our shortcomings will have a negative effect on our self-esteems and the respect others have for us. I’ve got news for you – those you live with already know that you aren’t perfect. It’s like the idea that we can’t tell God we’re angry – He already KNOWS! And understanding and acknowledging the stupid things we do not only help with the authenticity of our relationships, but those who are willing to apologize and/or change, are very much respected.
When we admit our shortcomings, we take away their power over us. Rather than expend the energy to hide, deflect, and lie about the things we don’t do well, or the wrong things we say, the mistakes we make, or whatever the case may be, we can use the energy to come clean. It’s much less exhausting to be authentic than to put up a front.
And here’s an added bonus. When we give ourselves freedom to make peace with our weaknesses, we’re much more willing to forgive others their shortcomings. Suddenly there is a willingness to come closer and connect because there is permission to fail – I can be who I am – good, bad, ugly – if there is mercy, forgiveness and restoration.
(Disclaimer – This doesn’t extend to abuse, and it doesn’t give license to chronic bad behaviors. Although, admitting a problem is the first step to restoration in such cases.)
So what am I saying? I’m sayin’ let’s keep it real with each other, people. We’re all in this together.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" July 31st, 2012
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