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Minding the Store

Written by Scott Oldham

Most officers enter their careers in law enforcement expecting that everything will go well with their lives. They expect to live out their dreams, both in the career and in the personal sense. What most do not stop to think about is how they are going to go about caring for their chosen one—their spouse. They don’t stop to think about the long days or nights that will be spent alone. They don’t stop to think about the worry, the dread and the alienation that they are about to inflict upon their significant other. They don’t think about how they are going to take care of that person’s needs.

Speaking from the male perspective, very few of us can even fathom what is going through the minds of our wives. For those in special units or those assigned to particularly high-risk teams, the problems are exacerbated by the demands of those job functions. While we may give it some minor notice, some “Yes, Honey, I know” excuses, very few of us stop to really think what it is we are doing.

The problems we have on the job pale in comparison to those of our spouses. Not only do they have their own personal and family’s problems to worry about, but we tend to drag our work problems home with us to become a problem for all. We don’t ever really stop to think about what we are giving back or what needs they have that we are not meeting. What exactly are we giving to the relationship?

The vast majority of male officers just assume that everything is right with the world as long as there are clean clothes, food and our favorite beverage in the fridge. Let’s face it guys, for the most part around the house, we are lazy in comparison to our wives. Far be it from a profession with a divorce rate 1.5 times the national rate to set the standard for giving “what to do in a relationship” advice, but there are a couple of things that can surely be learned from all of our collective experiences.

The poet Wilfred Peterson wrote in “The Art of Marriage” that “A good marriage must be created. It is about standing together to face the world. It is not about marrying the right partner. It is about being the right partner.”

Without a doubt, it takes a lot of effort to be that partner. If you have chosen the wrong person and your partner decides to emotionally exit the relationship without closing the door behind her, then there are endless days spent in an emotionally barren world. In those instances, there is a failure to pay attention, a failure of one party to provide for the partner, and a total breakdown in what a marriage should be.

When circumstances of life so overtake a relationship that one or both involved fail to meet the others needs, then resentment will take hold, and love is replaced with ambivalence. Surely at that point, the only thing that can ever be found in the relationship is simple tolerance at best, barely concealed hatred at worst.

For the lucky among us, the right partner has found us. The one who takes the time to meet the needs, the time to set and share a quiet moment, to notice the little things that make the world truly special; that person has made life a much more meaningful experience.

For those who have found that perfect someone special, choosing the right partner has led to a life that isn’t a battle. There is always a safe place to retreat where the pressures of the outside world can be put aside. You must be prepared to meet the needs of your spouse and become responsible for both her physical and emotional care without a thought of “what’s in it for me?”

To become the partner your spouse needs and requires means you have to “mind the store” and be sure that your spouse has everything needed to both survive and to thrive in her life, which will include you. It may mean washing the dishes or doing a load of laundry. It may mean taking such a drastic action as to actually turn off the television for 10 minutes so that both of you can sit quietly and talk about nothing of any importance.

It means paying attention to your house and keeping an eye out to be sure that you are meeting the needs of your partner, whatever they are, so that she in turn can meet yours. It is about minding the store. It is something that must be done.

Scott Oldham is a supervisory sergeant with the Bloomington, IN Police Department where he is assigned to the Operations Division as patrol supervisor, as well as being one of the team leaders for the department’s Tactical Unit. He and his partner, Sergeant Mick Williams, provide contract instruction on a wide range of subjects, including tactical and patrol-based skills. He can be reached at oldhams@bloomington.in.gov.

Published in Law and Order, Jul 2008

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