Have you ever heard the saying “how do you show up?” This generally applies to our attitudes when we go to work, try something new, or starting our day. The same thing can be asked when our law enforcement spouse comes home from work. How do we greet the ones we love when they walk in the door? Sometimes when our partners come home, the first sentence out of their mouth is “Oh boy I am tired”. Our initial response is to say “You’re tired? I woke up 3 kids, got them dressed, made breakfast and lunches, and ran out the door for school drop offs, worked all day, came home, did laundry and then cooked dinner. If you want to talk about tired, well I AM tired”. This is a fair thought to have. But how would it feel if you were met with this response before you even got your jacket off?
So why am I bringing this up and why is it important? How I choose to greet my husband when he comes home from work is my choice, and can ultimately set the tone for the evening. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Empathy is also when we suspend our own judgement and step into another person’s shoes. If we change the way we respond to our partners with statements like “Wow hun, I bet you are tired” we can create a safer space for them to decompress and come down from their adrenaline filled day. When we can pause for that moment and show our partners empathy, they in turn can give this back.
I have often heard psychologists speak about creating rituals that help people separate work and home life. This can be as simple as hanging up the vest, putting your phone away for the night, or even changing their clothes. A choice and a ritual that I have created is how I meet my husband at the door. When he first comes in he is met with 2 kids who want “pick up hugs” and a big dog that needs scratches. I wait my turn to get a hug and a kiss and ask him about his day. I want to create a space for him to breathe and unwind. I know that when he can do this he will be better for the kids, himself and our relationship. If I give him this space to unwind then when I need him to have empathy for me or the kids, he will be better equipped to do so.
It is important to note that it is not about whose job is harder or who works more. Don’t forget that you are a team and are working towards the same goals. Some days your partner needs more from you and other days you need more from them. This is a relationship. And as such we are there to support each other
Jordan Peterson says “if you can fix 25 little things like "coming home," you will have an extraordinary life. Taking your family to Disneyland is insignificant. Your kid's expensive birthday party will be forgotten within weeks. Coming home? That's your whole life. Fix it. Start today.”