Being a first responder is not an easy career, but being the significant other of a first responder is just as taxing. First responders see people at their weakest and most vulnerable as well as their most dangerous moments. On the flip side, the significant other sees a first responder at these crucial points when they come home. There are many privacy laws in place which do not allow a first responder to speak about their day to those closest to them. This is a growing problem when emotional outlets come out in other ways.
Divorce rates among firefighters rank the highest of ALL first responders. Approximately one in three (33%) male firefighters will be divorced at least once during their career. Even more alarming is the one out of every two (50%) female firefighters will face a divorce during their career as a firefighter. Many are currently married but it has been reported that this is their second marriage. You are likely to find that 14% of firefighters at any given time are currently in the middle of a divorce. Firefighters are also the group of first responders most likely to wait until later in their career to get married.
Paramedics whether they work for a fire department or private ambulance company are not far behind the firefighters. 23% of paramedics marriages will end in divorce. The same is true for 911 dispatchers rounding out at close to 24%. This is still below the national average but relatively high when you compare them to the police department.
That’s right of all the first responders, police officers and detective rank the lowest on the scale. 15% for patrol officers and the lowest goes to the detectives at 12%. Other departments within the police trickle down from there and sit right around the 10 to 11% range.
So what’s with all of the divorce?
The stress of the job can get to a first responder, many spouses aren’t always sure what all a marriage to a first responder entails. Commitment, if there was ever a time to use that word this is it. The day might have been a rough one, they can’t talk about it. Emotions are running high that day and they are pushed to talk and suddenly emotions take a hold of someone who has been suppressing them all day when they couldn’t save someone that day. Maybe they had to watch them die. That would put a damper on anyone’s day. They can’t talk about so its pent up emotion with no place to go.
How can you help?
Engage your significant other in other activities after work. Go outside and play a favorite sport to let the stress out. Spend time with the family inside playing games. Help them get through the rest of their long day when they get home. Twelve hour and twenty-four-hour shifts are taxing on the body.
Don’t judge your significant other for missing a family event because of their hectic work schedule. Yes, they are working to save people’s families but it’s the nature of the job. They are not ignoring their own, their duty to the family also happens to be a duty to other families as well. They are providing for the family at the end of the day. That’s not discounted in other professions quite as often.
Be there, have patience, and help your significant other build a support network. There are also many resources out there for the spouses of a first responder that could help you work through tough times. You will worry, but what significant other doesn’t carry that little bit of worry each day? You can beat these statistics.