I have been the partner of a police officer for over 30 years. We met early as young wide eyed, naïve teenagers. We were together when he went through the academy, his training station and as he worked his way through detective training school, crime squads and now moving into officer rank.
All the way along we have had completely open communication – as much as he was allowed to discuss anyway, and I believe that this is what has kept us together. We have been through some very tough times together but also some very good times too.
The worst times for me would have been during his days in the crime squads. He was NEVER home (he probably thinks it was the best time in his career). I often joked with him “did you forget to come home again last night?”. We had very young children and he missed a great deal of them growing up. I also missed out on the support and help that many of my friends received from their partners. Social events were actually lonely for me, my partner was never there. Extended family knew that the kids and I would be at birthday parties etc. but not him. Family holidays were very rare.
As if this was not enough strain on our little family, about the time when the kids started school there were threats made against my husband and his family – us.
I had to be extra vigilant whenever I went out. We could not let the kids out of our sight and never talked about my husband’s work to anyone. This was hard. He became jumpy and always on guard. Our kids know to this day if we go out to a restaurant Dad sits facing the door – no option.
As time moved on I became used to this way of life. I learnt to rely on myself; plans were always made without thought to his availability or opinion. Perhaps this was the saddest part, it was as though my husband was not really a part of my/our lives. He suffered as a result of the job, sleepless nights, anger outbursts and no patience with the kids – but that is his story to tell.
Eventually he saw how much he was missing out on, so we joined a community group together. Being part of a greater community gave us a common, outside interest, and something bigger to be a part of as well as a fantastic social network. As the years went on, the nights of “forgetting to come home” became less and less, we found a routine. I enjoyed the odd evening during the week to myself when he was on an afternoon shift, which also saw him more available to be with the kids in the mornings.
I engaged with some counselling to have an extra person who I trusted to talk with. I can unload when I need to and I have developed some strategies to help me cope with the difficult times.
Now that the kids are almost grown we are looking forward to the future. He still works long hours with only the odd shift work and is generally around on weekends (not New Years or other holidays necessarily!). Being open and honest, being able to support him fully has been my role in this journey. I know when there is something wrong and when times are getting tough at work. I want to support him and I need to know what is going on in his life. I don’t need to be protected, I am strong and we are in this together. That is the only way I can help.