December 20, 2014 • By Dennis Beaver
“I am getting married to a police officer and want to stay married, aware that law enforcement has a high divorce rate. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks, Cindy.”
To answer Cindy’s question, You and the Law spoke with law enforcement couples who shared with us a deep dedication to their marriages and an understanding of what it takes to remain together, married to a cop, and as we’ll see, overcoming feelings of abandonment can be the greatest challenge of all.
The danger — Will he come home from work?
“You have to face and accept the danger of this job,” Pam Sever of Hanford told us:
“My husband, could potentially be killed on or off the job. I made up my mind that I would not let it get to me.”
Married 21 years to Parker Sever, Acting Chief of Police of the Hanford P.D. when this story was written, Pam credits a number of specific factors in what she describes as a very happy marriage.
“I made myself forget about the risks of his job when he went to work. Also, he does not bring work home with him. He is lighthearted with a great sense of humor as a coping mechanism which helps him deal with the things he has witnessed.”
Similar feelings were shared by Denise Westlund, whose husband, Per, is a Hanford Police Department School Resource Officer.
“You have to deal with the idea that every day he goes to work, he may not come home. That is the reality of being married to a police officer, and with police now being targeted by crazies, their families have an increased level of anxiety.
“Reality is that police are often seen in a negative light, especially when someone gets a ticket, while firefighters receive compliments, which they deserve and is understandable. Police wives are driven crazy by news reports which portray officers badly and often completely ignore the facts, placing so much emphasis on bad cops.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if the many things our police officers do which protect society were shown in a positive light?” There is a need for more balance in the media,” she strongly maintains. Husband Per agrees and understands the public’s unpleasant reaction to many encounters with law enforcement, explaining:
“We are clearly in more of a negative role and not appreciated to the same degree as firefighters. What they do is seen as positive, while we take away the father, make an arrest for DUI, write a speeding ticket, things which everyone will agree are unpleasant encounters with law enforcement.”
“Does the worry that he may not come home ever go away?” we asked.
While Pam and Denise instantly replied, Never, Per offered this reassuring comment:
“Cops understand that our wives fear the unknown, yet learn over time to trust that we aren’t going to jump into crazy situations, and are not going to put our lives in danger unless we have to.”
Patience and flexibility required as time demands are unpredictable
Law enforcement divorce has been the subject of many research studies, many of which point out something often not thought of before the wedding ceremony, and that’s patience and flexibility, qualities topping the list for Pam and Denise.
“Before saying I do, Cindy needs to know herself well enough to determine if she has a personality well suited to be married to a cop. Patience is crucial, as is the ability of taking things in stride. Last minute things will come up and you need to get into a mindset that things like this will happen. Being flexible is absolutely required,” Pam underscores.
“You’ve got to realize that it will be impossible to have a structured family life,” Denise points out. “Forget dinner with hubby and kids around the table at a certain time, big party plans, travel, vacation, or date night. You must be flexible as your plans can change with one phone call and you can feel abandoned.
“Many time Per says he is coming home, but a call comes in. It is not his fault. You have to accept that reality or it will drive you crazy.”
“To be a good wife of a police officer, it is not for the weak, you cannot be self-centered, needy, clingy, insecure or high maintenance. This is not a 9 to 5 job and that fact must be accepted or Cindy’s marriage will fail,” she cautions.
Leaving not a dry eye in the room, Denise Westlund revealed a necklace with Per’s badge number, “Which is close to my heart, and I carry him with me, throughout my day, as I know there are bad possibilities.”
Next time: 12 Golden Rules which will keep Cindy and her husband together.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.