So much of the division I see in marriages would be easily remedied if selfish tendencies and lack of respect would be eliminated as an option.
I often relate the relationship with my children to that of my attitude I have towards my husband. We have grown girls as well as a seven year old special needs boy. Marriage, law enforcement life and autism in itself could make for a hot mess reality show. There are days when I am mentally exhausted, physically injured (autistics can be very violent), my house is destroyed, expensive therapy equipment has been purposely broken, the harshest words have been said to me by my son and all I want is five minutes to pull myself together and cry in the closet….however, that moment is nowhere in sight as five minutes before my husband finished his shift he just had to be the one who rolled up behind a drunk, leaving me hours from any kind of relief.
There are days I do not like my son. There are days I don’t have the energy to deal with autism. There are days I resent autism. There is never a day that I love my son even one ounce less. There is never the thought that I will give him the cold shoulder, be rude or hateful to him until I feel like being respectful again. There is never the thought of “I’ll show you” because of his actions. He is my son. He’s my life. I dedicated my life to being the best mother I can be to him. However…..when I’m exhausted, when I’m emotionally spent, when I’m physically drained, when my day has been the worst of the worst and my husband comes in four hours later than expected and the first words out of his mouth are “Is there food? I’m starving….wow, rough day, what happened to the house?” How easily can my daggers come out at the man I love. How easily I could take one sentence and make the choice to lash out because of how it instantly felt due to the circumstances of my day. How easy it is to disregard what I’ve not even asked about, his day, his regular shift, then a drunk at the end of it, his level of exhaustion and hunger and the fact that he wanted to be home four hours ago too. Why, as couples, do we so easily overlook respect and quickly rush to jump on opportunities to disrespect one another? Why is it so easy to be hateful to the one you supposedly cherish? Selfish want and pride.
Now, the situation above could go either way but honestly, it’s completely in my hands to choose. I could allow my emotions to be an excuse to dictate that my assumptions are my husband’s intentions before ever allowing him to speak or listen. I could easily chime in something to the tune of “excuse me? You’re four hours late, I’ve been punched, kicked, the $300 sensory swing has been ripped from the studs, there’s apple juice on the ceiling, your son flooded the bathroom, again and cut holes in his sheets, but you want to know about food and why your house isn’t clean?!? (insert a stream of profanity here), or….I could take five seconds, breathe and remember my husband has absolutely no way of knowing about my day until I tell him, just as I have no idea about his until he tells me. I can take an educated guess that a starving, tired man has no intention of walking into his own house and purposely pick a fight as that decreases his chances greatly of receiving food or any hope of peace and quiet for the rest of his already exhausting day. And the way that truly goes down in our house is with me responding honestly “My day sucked, obviously yours did too. Why don’t you go change and take a minute for yourself and we’ll figure it out together”. The reason that works for us is because my husband has a mutual respect for me, as I do him. There’s no competition about who had the worst day and we both know nothing good can come from either of us taking our frustrations out on each other. The only thing worse than a crappy day, is starting a bunch of new craptasticness with the one person you should be able to talk to about it before the day is done.
It is our goal, as a team, to figure out how to help each other, encourage each other, support one another and lift each other up, regardless of what we’ve individually endured on any given day. It works, because we’re both willing to treat the other in a respectful manner, no matter what.
Honestly, I see women who will forgive their girlfriends more quickly than their husbands. I see men who come home and instantly solve their frustrations by belittling and demeaning their spouse and children. I see women who do the same. I see a whole lot of people who are willing to hurt those they love in order to be right, be validated, justify their own emotions and take a stand, or to avoid their own truths.
There is no getting around the following, whether you are a husband, wife or parent….. ANY TIME, AND EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU BELITTLE, DEMEAN, REDUCE, DIMINISH, DISRESPECT OR DISVALUE your spouse or your child, you are being ABUSIVE. PERIOD.
We all have frustrations in life. We all have horrible days. We all have periods in our marriages and relationships where we can easily let life creep in and cause a wedge between us. It is a choice. Regardless of my level of stress or his level of stress, or illness, or financial worry or issues with our careers or problems with our children, we have a choice. I can disagree without diminishing my husband’s opinion. He can disagree without disrespecting me. It’s a choice. Somehow in society it has become easier to lash out and belittle those we love than to step back a moment and honor their worth.
Obviously there are marriages and relationships which are plagued by abuse or infidelity which is not applicable to this conversation and require much more intervention. However, for so many couples, who truly love one another, sometimes we need to step back and reevaluate our respect for one another. We can use the chaos of life as an excuse for our own lack of character, but why would we want to? Have you told your spouse what they truly mean to you lately? Have you been the first to own your mistakes and be accountable for your actions in a moment of haste? Have you gone out of your way, despite how busy or tired or frustrated you are to let your spouse know how much you value them?
Much about law enforcement marriage is no different than other marriages…however, there is one truth which cannot be discounted. Every 58 hours an officer doesn’t come home. Never forget that as they walk out the door, and regardless of how bad your day was, never forget that when they walk back in. Just as our LEOs should remember never to walk out the door in anger, as that could be what you leave your spouse and children with for a lifetime.
Cherish one another. Love each other. Make your team your priority. Always.