I’ve read many a blog post and article, and even one self-help book (ain’t no shame in it!) about the struggles of being in a relationship with a firefighter. After all, firefighting is consistently in the top careers with highest stress, and stress can really affect a marriage. I’m even part of a Facebook group about helping fire families with all the struggles they face.
Despite all this, there are many positive aspects to loving a firefighter. I am going to keep it on the positive and share with you why I love being married to mine. Here are some of the struggles on fire marriages, flipped around to see the positive side.
The Alternative Schedule
Different cities have different schedules for their fire department. In New Orleans, they work 24 hours and then are off for 48 hours. When I worked full time on a regular 9 to 5 schedule, this could be very frustrating. He would be off during the week when I had to be in the office, and then we would barely have time together on the weekend while we were both off. And a lot of times, he would get overtime to work an extra weekend day, so we’d go weeks without a full day and night together. But there is a flipside. Now that I also have an alternative work schedule, we can enjoy weekdays together when we are both off. If we decide to go on a two day trip or do some outing in our city, the prices are lower to stay overnight and restaurants and downtown areas are less crowded.
The best part about the fire family schedule is mutuals. Mutuals are, in my simple way of understanding them, when firefighters trade work days with each other so they can take off on days that are more convenient for them and then make up for it later. This means that if an important event is coming up, it’s possible that my firefighter can get the day off for it (and then work an extra day sometime later).
Although I treasure our time together, every couple needs some time apart. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved my alone time. I loved to pretend and play alone for hours in my bedroom. As I got older, I continued loving my alone time to recharge, work on creative personal projects, or just veg out watching my guilty pleasure shows or taking long baths. Most married couples have their usual routine of coming home after work and spending the evening and night together. I actually like that every third night I can have my “me” time after I put the baby to bed. I open up my coconut La Croix and watch some old episodes of Dance Moms. Party time.
The best piece of relationship advice I ever received was this: Remember what made you fall in love with your spouse in the first place. Those same qualities will end up driving you crazy, so you need to remind yourself that you love them. Okay, I did not put that eloquently at all. But let’s say, for example, you love that your boyfriend is always on time and very responsible. Years go by, you get married, and he freaks out on you when you are getting ready for a social gathering because he fears you might be two minutes late. You get frustrated. But guess what? This is what you loved about him, so remind yourself of that and see the greatness of it again.
I say all that because most firemen have a wonderful innate quality of wanting to help others. It’s easy to fall in love with that personality trait. It’s so noble and romantic and brave. Until you are deep in love and can’t sleep at night while your significant other is on shift because you fear he/she is putting their life in danger for complete strangers. You need them to come home to you the next day, can’t they see that?
Of course they do. And your family is their number one priority. If your firefighter will put their life on the line for strangers, imagine what they would do for you and your children. And if your firefighter is like mine, he’ll help people without a second thought outside of work as well. Any time someone looks distressed on the side of the road, we are the first car to pull over. My husband is so selfless that he will take time out of whatever he has going on to help someone who is hurt or in need in any way. He doesn’t expect anything in return and has no ulterior motives behind helping. He’s just a good person. And that makes me incredibly proud. It also pushes me to try to be more like him in that way.
The All-Encompassing Lifestyle
Firefighting is more than a career. It often is the major part of a firefighter’s identity and also social life. Although my husband and I are homebodies and not big on night-life, others spend all their work time and then their social time with their coworkers. It might feel limiting and closed off, but it’s also a really wonderful thing. Your fire department compatriots truly become like a family. Even as uninvolved as we can be in the fire social scene, we still call many other firefighters and their wives our good friends. I feel very blessed that some of the fire wives I know became pregnant around the same time as me. Our friendships have blossomed a lot more from the shared experience of becoming mothers. I feel comforted, especially since I live far from any other family, to know that my kid(s) will have these built-in family friends to spend time with and feel safe around as they grow up. I also know my husband needs his coworkers as friends. Who else could understand what they see and go through day in and day out at work? It’s hard for him to openly talk about his job with people outside of the profession, and I’m sure it’s good for him to have people to vent to and joke around with that “get” it.
I imagine the lifestyles of military and police families are somewhat similar to the firefighter one. I pray that all of these families will stay strong, stay close, and see the positives through all the stress.