What does it take to be a wife in general? It’s tough work.
My first marriage was over before it began, but I thought that by “doing the right thing” and getting married after I had my first daughter meant that I would eventually learn to be a wife and be a good wife. I would grow to love, like love is meant. It was doomed before I said “I do.”, sadly I knew it and I thought it could grow on me. It didn’t……… I was young and naive and even though I wanted divorce, it was rough. I never want to go through that again, especially after marrying for the right reasons this time. No divorce is a happy divorce. This is my husband’s first marriage, but he knows the value of a strong relationship. Past hurts build us up for better futures. I’m lucky to have a husband that once we get over ourselves, we can talk things through…
What does it take to be a firefighter’s wife? (This can be interchanged to a LEO wife, military wife and probably a few other occupations… I’m not sure how closely the divorce rates compare but I can only imagine it isn’t great numbers) I know that eerie number of 75… you know, 75% of firefighter marriages fail. They end in divorce… they call it quits. It’s gloomy. It’s heart breaking. It’s scary even from the inside looking out. Do you understand that 75% means THREE out of FOUR? 3/4. Large numbers. Alarming numbers. I can totally see how that is possible though. Being a firefighter’s wife is sometimes, hell. I’m sure being the firefighter is hell too, but since I’m not a firefighter, I can only speak from my side and give sympathy to theirs.
I can tell you what it takes. It takes and it takes some more.
I had an emotional flood last week. The dam broke and I had a few minutes of finally allowing myself to cry and finally allowing my husband to see it. You can in part blame it on the fact that I am a woman and hormones thoroughly wreak havoc sometimes, the rest of it is because I am worn out on 48s, classes and off days packed with commitments to students, “to do” lists and errands. Phone ringing and me wanting to say “Tell them to call you on shift!”, but keeping my mouth shut because that would be just plain rude, not to mention selfish. Being a firefighter wife is tough. Sometimes, there is nothing but selfish thoughts and you know what. IT IS OK. It is ok to be selfish sometimes, as long as you don’t take it overboard. It gets old, being married and having to share your husband with a whole other family, a whole other life… the fire service. It can be a demanding thing sometimes.
What he said to me, I knew in the back of my head but I am a tough cookie and tough cookies don’t let thoughts like this through. He said, “You don’t always have to be strong.”. With that, it was almost like the dam gave way and all of that pressure that had been building up just flooded out. I only got a few minutes of his time because his volunteer class he has been helping teach was graduating and he needed to shower and go. I couldn’t go because I’m also a mother of children who can’t be left home alone yet, but after our talk I was ok with that.
It is hard for us fire wives. We get a lot of “Where is your husband?”, “HE working AGAIN!?”, “Don’t he know he is working himself to death?”… I’d really love to hear “What can I do to help you?”, instead of the passive aggressive questioning because they don’t approve of our lifestyle. It is hard dealing with the kids, alone, 66% of the time. You know, get pissed off if you want to when I say this, but it’s like being a single mother but someone helps pay the bills. Seriously. The appointments, doctors, illnesses, school, speech, homework, chores, activities, missed the bus…. you name it and it is going to happen on a shift day. ( Murphy is a cop! 😉 jk, kinda… ❤ you LEOs and LEOWs) We deal with being the mommy and the daddy. We are the "MAN" of the house when he isn't home. We deal with creepy noises at night. The dead batteries when we're already late. All the cooking, cleaning. laundry and errands, if you are like me. Brain is dead from listening to the voice of SpongeBob ALL DAY LONG. Flat tires. Clogged sinks. Tending gardens. Sometimes yard work even. Some of us are SAHMs, that alone is hard before you stack being a firefighter's wife on top of that. Some of us have jobs we work from home and others work outside of the home. Some of us are married to firefighter's who are DoD, deployed or even contract firefighters who go overseas. We wear many hats and we try to do it well. We try to be strong. We try to be that tough cookie. We rock and make it look easy sometimes, then others we become hermits and just try to not give the kids stories to later tell their therapists. It is a seriously tough job to be everyone's everything so much of the time.
So what does it take?
It takes your husband away, holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, normalcy, routine, sharing a bed, your best friend, being a family, having dinner together, those important conversations you can't have while he is on shift… it takes, and it takes some more. It takes so much away from us.
With that said, it also gives. It gives me that me time after the kids go to bed, when I can eat junk and watch tear jerkers. It gives me that pride knowing that we share him so that he can serve others. It gives me other fire wives, who I have met through my main support, FirefighterWife.com. It gives us those off days, during the week for dates while the “normal” working hour people are all at work. It gives us a LONG vacation when he takes just a few days off. It gives us another family too. It gives.
It does give, and give on top of taking.
Isn’t that what marriage is? Give and take? Sometimes giving way more than you think you should and taking way more than you deserve other times? I know that there are times I feel like I just can’t give any more, but I manage to find that last little bit. There have been a few times that I didn’t deserve a kind word, much less his love, but he still gave it to me. Is this where marriages in the fire service fail? Are they only looking at everything that is being taken away and not enough of the things that are being given? Are the conversations and intimacy too few and seldom? Are wives and firefighters shoving things down too far and never pulling them out to talk about? Are we just falling into the “it isn’t going to get better” and just live life unhappy until there is no more room for being unhappy?
Being a fire wife takes a lot of giving. Patience. Understanding. Keeping your mouth shut when you’re about to speak out of anger or hurt. Saying how you feel in a loving way, because you are partners in life, not enemies. Sacrificing. Adapting. Rolling with the punches. Being open and honest. Asking for help when you need it. Allowing yourself to be human and taking of your superwoman cape sometimes. Crying from time to time. Lifting others up because you’ve been there. Finding support because you need support. Being a fire wife takes a lot and it gives a lot.
There are many resources out there to help you if you need it. A lot of insurances will pay for therapy, couples or alone. There is no shame in seeking help, it shows that you are strong enough to not give up. The choice to give up or give it your all is up to you. Marriage is never going to stop being hard, taking work or changing.
I don’t want to be that 75%, do you?