First Responders: At Risk for Divorce
First Responders are individuals who are first on the scene of an accident or disaster, such as firefighters, police officers, or other law or medical personnel. It’s no wonder why this unique category of professionals are considered to be at higher risk for troubled marriages and divorce.
First Responders carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, having seen and assisted with tragedies and disasters the likes of which the rest of us can’t begin to imagine. These individuals are taxed to an extreme – they adjust and re-adjust their bodies, minds, and emotions to work shifts that are often long and to face extreme risks as part of their daily jobs. They are taxed mentally, physically, and emotionally and many times their personal relationships and marriages can suffer as a result.
Long Hours Take Their Toll
In addition to working shifts outside of the normal nine-to-five day, first responders can rarely walk away in the middle of a task. Author Erin Prater [LINK SOURCE: describes how first responders simply can’t punch out when their shift is over.
When a shift is over, a worn-out firefighter can’t walk away from a warehouse blaze. A bleary-eyed police officer can’t fall-out of a high-speed chase when the clock hits 5. As Murphy’s Law would have it, duty often calls during dinner, sex, a cozy date-night in, a birthday celebration – any time that’s disruptive.
Higher Risk of Suicide and Mental Illness
Prater also states that it can take hours or even days for a first responder to mentally and emotionally come down from the intensity of a situation they are called to handle, and this makes them unable to function normally. It also makes it challenging for their spouse or partner to interact with them as it can be days before they have let go of the tragedies they have witnessed.
Additionally, not all communities are able to pay their first responders as well as they deserve, and that can mean financial strain on the individuals who worry about supporting themselves and their families. In general, all this can lead to increased chances of mental illness, suicide, and other serious results.
National studies have found that first responders deal with significantly higher rates of substance abuse, domestic violence and suicide. One study found first responders to be six times more likely to commit suicide than the average civilian. The job of the first responder is an emotional rollercoaster, and its nature makes veterans susceptible to emotional numbness, hyper-vigilance, insomnia, cynicism, isolationism, disturbing flashbacks, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a host of other mental and emotional issues.
Spouses of First Responders Face Challenges
For the spouses of first responders, there’s a certain isolation and often an increase in home or family duties. The spouse may have to carry the burden of caring for the home single-handedly. Added to this can be the duties of caring for children, possibly without help of family in the area, as well as their schedules. And, once reunited, the spouse can feel alone and not able to help when the first responder does finally return home. While seeking to be a confidante or sounding board, the spouse can end up feeling more like an outsider than part of a loving, caring marriage.
Moving from the Breaking Point
First Responders are a unique class of individuals that we rely on to care for us, protect us, and rescue us. But, their dedication and extreme working conditions can stretch them and their personal relationships to a new breaking point. If you are a first responder or are married to one, you know exactly what we’re talking about. You may be stretched to a breaking point in your marriage. Contact us [LINK TO CONTACT] to discuss separation or divorce in confidence. This is one time when we can protect you.
About Findling Law
I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades. The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles. We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.
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By: Daniel Findling
Your First Responder Marriage: An At-Risk Relationship