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Dealing with never being off duty

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Odmp_max50

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Posted over 7 years ago

 

Can any police spouses out there give tips on dealing their husband or wife never really being off duty?


Chris Cosgriff
Executive Director
The Officer Down Memorial Page, Inc.

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Rate This | Posted over 7 years ago

 

I am fortunate because I am married to another police officer. I would say in my situation I am lucky to decompress at home and talk briefly about the day and move on. When you are home you need to stop analyzing and obsessing about your job or events that occured or you will certainly affect your home and family life. Now, I am not perfect so of course I have done some obsessing of my own but you have to let go or you will end up divorced, drinking or killing yourself. Decompress calmly with your spouse or a close friend if you can and LET GO!

9-11-logo_max50

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Rate This | Posted over 7 years ago

 

Some good resources on this topic:

Ellen Kirchmann's "I Love a Cop"

Vali Stone's "Cops Don't Cry"

Kevin Gilmartin's "Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement"

Army_nurse_max50

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Rate This | Posted over 7 years ago

 

All of the books listed above are great. I know that when my husband comes home from work that he needs time to wind down. He usually sits at the computer, gets on his forum, reads his email, newspaper, etc. After an hour or two he is somewhat ready to be around people but is usually tired and goes to bed. I know that for 3 -12 hr days this is how it will be. He decompresses on his first day off and then is ready for his family the next 3. It sucks sometimes, OK...all the time but that is how life is going to be.

I have had to put my foot down with him a couple of times and that seems to work. He doesn't like to decompress with me, because I am not law enforcement. That drives me nuts because I have been friends and worked with many police officers prior to marrying my husband. I wish he had a little more faith in what I actually do understand.

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Rate This | Posted over 7 years ago

 

Gilmartin is great on what he calls "the hypervigilance roller-coaster", which sounds like what you are describing, copsnurse. When cops come home and "veg out", it is a way of getting back into balance after being hypervigilant all day. Not something they decide to do, but something that happens automatically and naturally.

Here's valuable information: the "veg out time" can be shortened dramatically by aerobic exercise, which "recalibrates" the neurological system.

Re-read that part of Gilmartin, and see if that information might help your officer to find a good way to manage that phenomenon.

Army_nurse_max50

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Rate This | Posted over 7 years ago

 

I understand and accept the hypervigilant roller coaster. What's nice to know is that exercise will help to decrease the time frame in which it occurs.

I will definately pull the book off the shelf and start reading it again.

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Rate This | Posted over 7 years ago

 

Isn't it great when you find something that can help you get a handle on something difficult?

Empowering!

Sabers_max50

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Rated +1 | Posted over 7 years ago

 

First I would like to say it is nice to have a place like "Police*Link" to go, and discuss these problems, that we all deal with, whether we talk about them or not, and I thank everyone here that has shared something that works for themselves and thier family. I am going to have my wife read here, what I can't seem to describe to her in words... When I get home, I don't want to talk about the night I've had or the close calls, the chases, the people I have to lay hands on, or the stress of dealing with people in the worst moment in their life. Really, we only see people at their worst, and the bad calls, usually outweigh the good ones where you leave feeling like you have truly helped change their life, and created a positive outlook or something for them to start rebuilding on. I try not to speak about work around the house, but I also know that I can not close her out, or it will only create a different problem. I also find it difficult to not be "A COP" when we are just having a family outing, or driving around. This really is a 7 day a week 24 hour a day job, but I am not sure how to balance good safety, and not freaking her out about who is in the store, the user (or loser) in line infront of us, the guy I arrested last week... I want her to be aware and to understand me, but I kind of do not want her to know what we really deal with, simply because she has enough to worry about with three kids running like wild indians through the house, without worrying about daddy not coming home... I know I sell her a little short, and probably worry about her worrying more than she really does, but to do the job well, we need a strong family behind us... Supporting us, and eachother. now I get to a point.. Have a hobbie. I have horses, they are a full time job in themselves and I can forget about everything else when I'm around them. They are a joy to everyone in my family and they give us something to do together that we all enjoy. This is the best remedy for my job stress.

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Rate This | Posted over 7 years ago

 

It's great to have a hobby or interest you can get 100% absorbed in-- and how wonderful that yours is something the whole family can get involved in! It can strengthen your relationships as well as give you real mental/emotional/spiritual refreshment from work.

As for the 24-hours/7-days-a-week nature of the job: it DOES change how you see your community. You DO recognize problem individuals, and you have stories/memories associated with many places-- i.e. "Here's where we found that suicide, there's where the kid was locked in a closet," etc. There may be times when the family is in tow that you see something you can't let pass-- one of my officers caught a bank robber that way, when he was off-duty (no body armor, no weapon, no back-up, and wife in the car!).

I wonder if you can work out a little code with your wife, so if you are ever in a situation where you're on "red alert" you can make her aware and not catch her off guard. She is, after all, your partner. Like, if the user in front of you in the grocery is going to recognize you, and you don't want him to connect you with your family for their own safety, you'd have a way of putting her on guard. If you are saying your code word/phrase and moving your family along to another line or down an aisle, the code would help them know it is a situation to do what you say and ask questions later.

Does that makes sense, or am I dreaming?

I hope others here will share how they handle this.

Sabers_max50

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Rate This | Posted over 7 years ago

 

I agree, and understand the "code word". There is a great book addressing these issues, that I am trying to get ahold of.... I have spoken to several other officers which use this, and find it quite effective in certain situations... Thank you for your thoughts and insights.

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Rate This | Posted over 7 years ago

 

You're welcome.

One of my officers caught a bank robber off duty, when he and his wife were driving someplace.

Another was wounded in an off-duty fight when he intervened in something bad going on-- his wife was there, too, and jumped into the fray!

I think it is really wise for officers to think about such matters before they happen, so they can prepare family members with an emergency action plan-- or know for themselves what they will let slide because they don't want to put their family at risk.

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Rate This | Posted over 7 years ago

 

I think I have truly been blessed by God to have the husband that I have. Lately since we are down Deputies, we have all been averaging 6/days a week - 13-16 hour shifts. My husband has been so wonderful and understanding. One of the big plus' where I work is I live within the County, so we get a take-home unit. This is good becaue during my shift, I can come home and visit with my hubby and the girls.

Chaplain - You give some great ideas. Yes we do have a code word that I use (and the girls have one too). I have been in that situation where I was with my family in the store and came across an "Officer Safety" subject that I recently arrested and was abushed by. I ended up having my husband and the girls leave in our car and I called an on-duty Deputy and had him give me a ride so I could keep an eye on the person till my family was gone. That is one of the only draw-backs of living in the community you work in, unfortunately. I always carry while off-duty too, so at least I am somewhat covered

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Rate This | Posted over 7 years ago

 

Good story, Stletto-- it is a great illustration of how such a code can be a handy thing.

Once when I had dropped in at our PD, an officer's wife & child were visiting at the same time. We were standing at a desk, chatting. We heard footsteps out in the hall as someone came in the door. I had my back to the door, but the wife was facing it, and I saw her sweep her little girl into the clerk's desk area and step in front of her. The rustling behind me was the wife's husband coming in with someone he had just arrested. As he pushed the guy past us, the wife swept the little girl right out the door. Bad guy never saw the little girl at all, never saw anything to connect the wife with the cop. Little girl never saw her dad or the bad guy.

It was an interesting moment that reminded me that cop families are always having to be alert.

Liz_max50

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Rate This | Posted over 7 years ago

 

You know, when I was a young officer and had my new wife beside me I always wondered why the myth of policeman related divorces were high and why all of my older cop buddies were divorced or seperated. I walked around saying that will never happen to me, it's all a bunch of BS.

Well over the years I have tried to be a good husband and an ever better father. I have seen the worst as I work in a low income area and have seen the armpits of society for 17 or so years. I was always on my wife and kids to keep the house clean so we won't have roaches crawling on the walls. We moved to a nice area and a good school district so my kids will have a chance at a good education. All these things I did because I though I was making the right decisons to keep them safe and happy. I would take out my frustrations with my job on making them do things that would keep them from falling into the pit that I call WORK. After years and years of this and not talking about my job, my wife and family started talking back. They called me mean and horrible for always making them aware that there were situations out there that I was trying to keep them from getting into. I have almost been divorced several times, but we keep seeming to work it out.(Again I think we don't get a divorce because I won't let it happen so my kids will stay safe). We still love each other and get along, but I still want them to stay away from all of the horrible things I see.

Long story short. 18 years of marrige and 17 1/2 years on the street, we are still dealing with the job. She always asks about my day and I always tell her that nothing happend. I really do not care to talk about what goes on at my job. My kids are now growing up and are kind of seeing the things that I was talking about, but still tell me that I am yelling at them all the time. I just know in my heart that when my kids go on their own paths in life that I have instilled the neccesary basics needed to be good productive people.

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Rate This | Posted over 7 years ago

 

caninekopz, congratulations on sticking with it, and being a caring partner and father. Sometimes I think a lot of folks give up too easily.

One thing your post made me think of is that a good skill to acquire for strengthening family ties is learning how to share the impact your day has had on you without having to go into the gory details. Cops don't want to burden their families with that stuff (and rightly so) and they want their homes to be a safe place for them to get away from that stuff-- have home be home and work be work. Again, rightly so.

But a problem some run into is that when they come home burdened with hard stuff and don't say anything about it to the family, the family-- who know their cop well enough to see that he or she is feeling burdened-- may feel closed out. In a way, they have to pay the penalty of having a sad/depressed/whatever member but their hands are tied to do anything about it. They sometimes begin to feel they are no longer part of the cop's team.

It's good to learn how to say something like, "I had a really crappy day-- dead baby call. I don't really want to talk about it-- I just want to sit and hold our baby for awhile. I'll be okay, I just need a little time to decompress."

What that does is acknowledge what the family already senses: that you've had a bad day. It tells them what you need (space) and what to expect (that you don't want to talk about it) but that you expect you'll be okay. That's what they really want to know.

By giving them that, you are demonstrating that you consider them part of your support team, and that you are not meaning to close them out, even if you are not wanting to talk about the incident.

Female_bodysurfer_max50

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Rate This | Posted almost 3 years ago

 

I heard horses really help relieve stress in a big way.  I'll have to ask my brother about this one.  He punched cattle in Nevada and was a distance rider when he was young.  Now he drives an eighteen wheeler.  Talk about never being off-duty.


lbutler226 says ...


First I would like to say it is nice to have a place like "Police*Link" to go, and discuss these problems, that we all deal with, whether we talk about them or not, and I thank everyone here that has shared something that works for themselves and thier family. I am going to have my wife read here, what I can't seem to describe to her in words... When I get home, I don't want to talk about the night I've had or the close calls, the chases, the people I have to lay hands on, or the stress of dealing with people in the worst moment in their life. Really, we only see people at their worst, and the bad calls, usually outweigh the good ones where you leave feeling like you have truly helped change their life, and created a positive outlook or something for them to start rebuilding on. I try not to speak about work around the house, but I also know that I can not close her out, or it will only create a different problem. I also find it difficult to not be "A COP" when we are just having a family outing, or driving around. This really is a 7 day a week 24 hour a day job, but I am not sure how to balance good safety, and not freaking her out about who is in the store, the user (or loser) in line infront of us, the guy I arrested last week... I want her to be aware and to understand me, but I kind of do not want her to know what we really deal with, simply because she has enough to worry about with three kids running like wild indians through the house, without worrying about daddy not coming home... I know I sell her a little short, and probably worry about her worrying more than she really does, but to do the job well, we need a strong family behind us... Supporting us, and eachother. now I get to a point.. Have a hobbie. I have horses, they are a full time job in themselves and I can forget about everything else when I'm around them. They are a joy to everyone in my family and they give us something to do together that we all enjoy. This is the best remedy for my job stress.

Boat_max50

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Rate This | Posted almost 3 years ago

 

 Bump all the above....I also think a family hobby is a good thing...I have a job that I can't talk about either and it can be stressful somedays  more emotionally over whelming....There have been days when during my 45 minute drive home I have cried my eyes out and then came home and took my bad day out on my spouse dealing with the constant dying is a job in itself and a family is another job, you have to learn how to separate the two.... or it will get the best of you... For me that's easier said then done I can truly leave my job at my job  sometimes it still follows me home your job could very well be around you in your community so it's not as easy to leave it where it should be..The best advice I can give you is cherish your time with your family, try not to think about where you've been when you are with them try to place it in a hiding spot in your mind b/c it can consume your way of thinking.... a few years back it was really rough at my job we had a lot of young cases back to back that died and it really shook me up for while and I became obcessed with the " What Ifs"...it took a toll on my family...The truth is we are never gauranteed another day none of us we each have a opportunity each day to live life to the fullest potential no hidden fears or emotions should rob us of that opportunity  or dictate it but yet we still allow it to. At the end of my shift  When I come home and take off my uniform that signals me it's time to shut my job out of my personal life...I don't talk about the guy we had to shock three times to get his heart started , I don't talk about the mother whose 23 yr old son just died due to a overdose. Even if you do talk about it   noone understands the way you feel in that situation b/c there is no way to describe it... talking about is only a release of stress that can  also be alleviated with things such as a hobby..


In Life we should experience an adventure that will create a memory worth repeating.....unknown.....

Female_bodysurfer_max50

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Rate This | Posted almost 3 years ago

 

I think one of the worst things must be to have a horrible fight with the spouse right before going out the front door.  It can eat you.  And distract you.  Break your concentration.  Cause you to take an unnecessary risk to cut the time.  


Maybe even affect your timing and judgment on the job.


That could be quite dangerous.   


Even if it just means not double-checking a report and having your Boss call you on the carpet for it!


So, I guess, especially in family disputes one is never off duty because resolving them properly is so critical.