By Michael Sullivan
As law enforcement professionals our world is colored by our experiences at work. While you may not even be aware of it, the job does influence your relationship with your spouse or significant other. You drive through your village, town, or city and see an intersection where you handled a fatal accident, a shop where an armed robbery occurred, a home where a death investigation took place. Meanwhile, your spouse or significant other sees a gas station they stop at for coffee, an ice cream shop where they shared a chocolate dipped cone, and a beautiful home with a well-kept lawn. Their perceptions allow them to see a happy safe community, while your perceptions may cause you to see a vastly different community.
This difference in perception can cause a tension between you and your spouse or significant other. You wish you could see the world through their eyes, but that is not realistic. Their view of the community may seem foolish or childish to you. You may start to envy their “naiveite” and maybe even resent it. This resentment can manifest as tension between you, and may even lead to an argument. For example, your spouse or significant other wants to go to dinner. They pick a restaurant that they like based on the food and atmosphere. However, you have knowledge that the restaurant hires people that have been arrested by your agency. You do not want to ruin the restaurant for them, so you keep silent and go to dinner. During the meal you are tense because you are concerned you will be waited on by someone you may have arrested or knows what you do for a living. The way you are feeling effects the meal and you become envious of how your spouse or significant other is feeling.
Your spouse or significant other feels the tension and knows you are not having a good time but is not aware of why there is a problem. The more they try to get you to tell them the problem, the more you resist. You are doing this to protect their view of the restaurant or community, but the tension will have a negative effect on your relationship.
The best suggestion I can give you is to have an honest talk with your spouse or significant other. It is like the conversation you may have had when you began working Internet Crimes Against Children cases. You explained in general terms what you do and how you do it, but you did not get into the specifics. They do not need to know the details of the images, videos, and victimization of the children, but it is helpful for them to understand where your stressors come from.
Because you have had that conversation about ICAC they understand your moods at times. To help prevent the tension and envy of their world view, you must have a similar conversation. Again, you do not have to tell your spouse or significant other about the fatal accident, the robbery, or the death investigation. Simply explain that on the job you see things that impact your perception of the community. At times those perceptions may be in direct conflict with their view. Sometimes when this occurs you get anxious or envious and you do not mean to take this out on them. A conversation like this, helping them understand your position better, can help to navigate these emotions successfully.
As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Take the time to have a straightforward conversation with your spouse or significant other. That simple discussion could help mitigate, if not alleviate, your envy and any misunderstanding of your reluctance to be with them in certain public situations.
Michael Sullivan is a thirty-six-year veteran of law enforcement, who served as the Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office as the ICAC Task Force Commander. He has also been a member of the ICAC Advisory Board, and the Co-Chair of the ICAC Emerging Technology Group.