3 Tips for Being Married to an Emotionally Taxed Spouse

It’s no secret that I am a proud firefighter wife. My one-year old has been decked out in fire gear since the day he was born. He makes fire engine sounds and plays with his fire trucks constantly. We are thankful that my husband is so passionate about what he does for a living. He risks his life to help others, and for that, I am so thankful that my son has him as an example. He’s rarely home during any kind of tropical or snow storm because he is working – either because he is already scheduled to work or decided to pick up an extra shift so he can help with the chaos. I do not say this to brag on him – this is what our local police, military, firefighters, nurses, and other rescue personnel do to ensure we are safe. We (at least I) often take this for granted.

They see a lot every single day.

My husband is an EMT and Firefighter and currently in school to complete his Paramedic certification. Just the other night he and another EMT brought a woman back to life. Her heart stopped right as they were walking in the door. They literally saw the life just come out of her. The very same day, he pulled a man out of a house that was engulfed in flames. Unfortunately, the man was already dead. They run calls for 24 hours straight and see all kinds of stuff that my little small town heart and mind can not comprehend and process daily like they do. You imagine the craziest situations – they have probably seen it. I cannot even imagine the things our war veterans/military and police officers have seen and experienced.

Little did I know, my husband tries not to worry me with some situations he has been in. The one time I received a text that said, “At a bomb threat” and didn’t hear back for hours was my first wake up call. I texted him several times without any response. That was definitely a sleepless night. There was also the time riots were happening in the city he works for – I definitely hugged him a little bit longer when he arrived home from that shift.

I say all of this to say, that many of you are married to someone with an emotionally taxing job. Maybe you also have an emotionally taxing job. It does not mean one has to be a firefighter or police officer to have a job where they see and experience a lot – there is work in the military, social services, prisons, schools, just to name a few. Nowadays, traumatic situations are filling our streets and homes.

You can experience emotionally taxing situations in any line of work.

It is vital for our marriages and homes that we begin to take steps toward ministering to the hearts of our loved ones in emotionally taxing jobs and situations in general.

It is so easy for people in the “helping” field to become numb to their emotions, and if we pry and pry, they will often (inadvertently) mentally and emotionally close themselves off to us.

Here are 3 simple steps for being married to a spouse with an emotionally taxing job:

1. Let them know you are there for them.

It is important that people handling a lot of emotional stress know that they DO have someone to talk too or someone to just be around when the load seems heavy. They need to be able to trust their loved ones with the information. They need someone to empathize with them. Someone who will say, “I am so sorry you had to experience that” instead of “Oh yeah, I have seen stuff like that too.” Someone who says, “Wow, that’s a lot to process” instead of, “Oh, you will be ok” or “I’ve dealt with worse.” We need them to know that their emotions are valued and important.

Sometimes people who have experienced firsthand or secondhand trauma just need to process the information and get what they saw off their chest so they do not continue to replay it over and over. However, people have different coping mechanisms. My husband will (almost) never tell me the horrible stuff he has seen. He has gotten used to seeing stuff all across the board every single shift. It’s become his new “normal,” however, certain things are never normal to see. He always tries not to worry me with other things he has seen or experienced.

So, the first step is just making yourself available. Maybe they will talk, maybe they won’t. Maybe they just need a bear hug after experiencing secondhand trauma. Maybe they just need a gentle distraction.

2. Don’t force them to discuss traumatic situations. 

If we want to keep a pathway to communication open with our spouse and people dealing with traumatic situations regularly, it is important not to close that pathway with force. Do not force the conversation. Do not threaten that they must talk to you by using harsh or pestering language/tones.

Just let them know that you are available to talk when they are ready, but do not keep pestering them. Men and women are so different in this area – at least my husband and I are. I usually begin asking for his advice or telling him about things I am dealing with immediately and without hesitation. He is not wired the same way.

People are wired differently. It does not make anyone right or wrong. It does not make anyone weak because they process information and situations different from one another. Some people try to process it all themselves. Some people feel like they are bothering other people when they try to talk about things they are dealing with or bothered by. Some people feel weak if they are vulnerable. Some people like to discuss every single detail of first or secondhand trauma.

You need to base your conversation and approach off your spouse. Try to keep the conversation simple. See how they respond. I usually start with a, “How was your shift?” and usually follow with the question, “Anything crazy happen?” This way, I am opening the conversation if he wants to talk. Again, you have to do what is best for you and your spouse.

3. Just love them. A lot!

We will never go wrong in our relationship with our spouse if we aim to show more love and affection. We can encourage them with our words. We can hug and kiss them more. We can show them through acts of service and through random acts of kindness. We can write love notes on the mirror. We can send hand-written sentiments in their lunch boxes and gym bags. We can bake their favorite dessert just because. We can send a sweet “I love and appreciate you” text message. Little things go a long way and only open up that pathway to communication even more.

Gary Chapman (Counselor & Author of The Five Love Languages) said, “Encouragement requires empathy and seeing the world from your spouse’s perspective.”

1 Corinthians 13 reminds us to love our spouse through the beautiful moments and through the trying moments.

What are some things you do to show your spouse you love them? 

How do you handle the conversations with your emotionally taxed spouse? 

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