October 20, 2011 at 4:25 pm , by Lauren Piro
We all deal with the work day encroaching on our family time (how many of you spend more time canoodling your Blackberry than your husband?). But not all of us deal with the stress of a spouse with a job that’s not just stressful, but also potentially dangerous and traumatic, like Liz. Her husband Nick is a New York City police officer, and it’s wreaking havoc on their bond. Read the full story here.
Liz’s turn: Nary a day goes by that Liz, a 41-year-old stay-at-home mom of three kids, doesn’t worry that she’ll see her husband’s name on the evening news or that she’ll hear a knock at her door, and Nick’s captain will tell her that Nick didn’t make it back from a call. She’s proud of her husband and his work, but can’t help but let her imagination run wild with worst-case scenarios. Nick’s suggested she join a support group, but with the housework and child-rearing he leaves her to do alone, she doesn’t have the time. Plus, she’d really love to open up to her own husband about her feelings and not feel shut out. When Nick received a promotion to a position that would keep him at his desk and off the streets, she was thrilled that they might have a “normal life.” But with new responsibilities came longer hours, and she and the kids rarely spend time with him together. She feels exhausted and abandoned, and whenever they do get a chance to talk, they end up fighting.
Nick’s turn: The 39-year-old cop’s day job takes a huge emotional toll—he deals with violence and drama every day, but the gig requires him to put his head down and block it out to stay calm. He’s wiped when he gets home, he does still help around the house, even more than most dads he knows. Liz only whines and complains, gabs with her girlfriends on the phone all day, signs their kids up for endless extra-curricular activities, and, oh yeah, spends too much money stuff they can’t afford. She ambushes him as soon as he walks through the door every evening with new list of grievances and emotional blather. He takes a lot of pride in his work and provides for his family, but he’s missing a supportive spouse.
The counselor’s turn: Nick’s job often requires him to be stone-faced and strong, so reigning in his emotions became an occupational hazard—even at home. To Liz, his silence meant that he didn’t want to share his day and his thoughts with her, and that left her feeling unloved. Sure, she wanted more help with the house and the kids, but what she really needed was more connection and communication. Without it, even the small things turned into major blow-ups, and constant bickering quickly became their norm. The counselor asked them to make conscious choices to reinstate the intimacy and kindness into their relationship, and the couple took the advice in stride. They make a point of greeting each other each evening with a hug, offering each other one genuine compliment per day, and taking at least 15 minutes each night to catch up. And Liz finally did join that support group; the connection with other cops’ wives makes her feel even less alone. Before long, tensions abated and they each rediscovered the person they fell in love with—and had an especially celebratory anniversary to boot.