“I just don’t define myself as a police wife like a lot of wives do.”
I cringe when I hear these words. Not because I don’t agree with them. But because I know the firestorm that comment is about to set off.It’s a touchy subject among law enforcement wives, and with good reason. To begin with, it’s usually spoken from a position of “I’m better than you because I don’t tie my identity to my husband,” and even if it’s not, it’s almost always taken that way by those who have ever described themselves as a police officer’s wife.
Clearly, I have no issues with describing myself as a law enforcement wife publicly, and maybe you’ve looked down your nose at me for it.I’m at the point in my life where I’m OK with that. I’ve been through enough in 34 years to have thought long and hard about who I am and how I define myself.I don’t feel I have to explain the way that I present myself to the world anymore,but I think this is a crucially important issue, not just for law enforcement wives, but for humans of all walks of life. So even if you’re not in a law enforcement family, stick with me here. I have something to say to you, too. Please don’t tune me out just yet.
Awhile back, my husband and I were discussing this blog and what I would have on it. I wasn’t going to include anything about being an officer’s wife. My thinking was that I didn’t want people to think that was all I am, and someday he wouldn’t be in law enforcement anymore and then my opinion wouldn’t be relevant. My husband got that look on his face for a fleeting second that he gets whenever I say something really stupid. (It happens, believe it or not.)
“Why would your experience no longer be relevant? You’ve lived this life. You know what it’s like. It’s not like you can ever go back to how you were before.”
You can never go back to how you were before…that’s the key here,isn’t it? Isn’t it like that with life?
I didn’t want people thinking that I was tied up in “his job.” But reality is, “his job” greatly affects my life. I’ve had experiences I would never have had, met people I never would have, seen and heard things I would have been oblivious to, because of “his job.” My life may not revolve around his job, but there are times my schedule sure does. I may not be emotionally invested in his calls or cases, but I am in him and that makes this life exhausting sometimes. I’ve had to think about things I never had to consider before because of “his job.” I’ve had to make plans and have conversations that never crossed my mind before “his job.” I’ve had to answer questions for my children that they never would have thought of were it not for “his job.”
If I hadn’t included that part of my life, there are so many of you I would never have met, never have shared with, never have laughed or cried with! I would have missed out on so much!
I’m not a police officer. His badge doesn’t define me- or him for that matter. He’s more than a badge. I’m more than his wife. But my life experiences shape who I am, and being his wife while he’s been in this line of work has definitely been a life-changing experience- for ME. I’m not sure how it couldn’t be. In order to not ever be affected by this life I would have to be paying absolutely no attention at all…to him or anything around me, to be honest. I’d have to just bury my head in the sand and probably move out of the house to be that oblivious.
Granted, all wives have different levels of involvement they are comfortable with. Some are very outspoken, want to hear all about his day, and long to connect with others who understand. Some will absolutely never acknowledge being an officer’s wife, have never set foot in his department, don’t want to hear anything that happened and have no interest in connecting with others.
Both are equally OK…and so is everything in between. (Unless you’re one of those women who thinks she gets to wear her husband’s rank or deserves special treatment because of his position. I say this because I love you, so don’t shoot the messenger…nobody likes you when you do that. Stop it.)
Here’s the bottom line, folks. We are all shaped by our life experiences. Every. Last. One of us. Maybe you don’t feel like being married to an officer has shaped your life experience. Cool. What has? Maybe you lost a parent at a young age. Maybe you have a loved one you lost to drug addiction. Maybe you’ve struggled with alcoholism or an eating disorder. Maybe you’ve lost a child. Maybe you’ve battled cancer. Maybe you’ve been assaulted or abused. Maybe you’re divorced. Maybe you’ve filed for bankruptcy. Maybe you’re a woman. Maybe you’re a minority. Maybe you’ve struggled with depression. Maybe you really, really love your dog and you feel like he saved your life.
None of those things “define you.” All of those things shape who you have become.
“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are.”
You view everything around you through the lens of your experiences and one person’s experiences do not outweigh another’s. You don’t get to tell someone that they shouldn’t be so “caught up” in their experience of being an officer’s wife while you’re constantly sharing your political viewpoints, stuff about your job, or your weight loss journey. There’s no difference. You get to walk your life. Someone else gets to walk theirs. And if you’re wise, you’ll learn from the experiences of others, rather than trying to silence them.
You also don’t get to decide how other people share their experiences. Just because you would never share something, doesn’t mean no one else should. It’s not fair to make assumptions like “well they never share because they have something to hide” or “they share all the time because they just want attention.”
I especially love the “a sign of a healthy relationship is no sign of it on social media” group. That is literally the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. There are people who never share their relationship on social media and have absolutely crappy relationships. I share all the time about ours and if you think that’s because secretly we’re really miserable as a couple, you’re a kind of stupid only your mother could find cute. I digress…
Who are you judge someone’s motives for sharing or not sharing their journey? What if you’re terribly wrong? What if they’re quiet because they’re suffering and they don’t want anyone to know? What if they feel alone? What if they’re fighting a battle you know nothing about?
Why do I share like I do? Well, my passion has always been to help people. Specifically, I love being able to provide a voice that helps people better understand each other. I try very hard to be as transparent as possible because I believe that someone needs to hear my story. Someone needs encouragement. You’re never the only one. If I have struggled with it, someone else has too. So many people suffer alone because they feel no one understands them. What if making myself vulnerable by sharing my experience gives someone else the strength to make it, because they see that someone understands?
When I miscarried, I shared about that. When was going through a very scary pregnancy, I shared a lot about that. When I got divorced, I shared about my struggles. I shared about being in an abusive relationship. I shared about being assaulted. I shared about being a single mom. All very taboo subjects that we’re not supposed to talk about. Especially on social media. People are perpetually horrified. How dare you “put your dirty laundry on Facebook.”
Y’all are the same folk that then turn around and talk about how everybody on social media is fake!
For crying out loud, of course they are! You rip them apart the second they start to appear like a real, struggling human being! I don’t want anyone to ever, for one second, think I’ve got my act together. I’m a mess just trying to survive on my best day. But guess what? In my experience, most people are.
So, you can throw every accusation and snide remark in the book at me, tell me how I’m too caught up in this experience or that one, claim I’m looking for attention and look down your nose at me all day long…the messages I get telling me how much something I shared made a difference to someone else will trump your judgmental nonsense every day and twice on Sunday.
I make no apologies.
Experiences come and go…but the ones we walk through are ones no one can take from us. Some were easy. Some left us with hard-earned battle scars. But they are ours. And what we choose to do with our stories can change the world.
As for me, I’m going to stick with a core belief that has defined me for as long as I can remember:
“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”
Be un-apologetically you.