Station Pride Articles

Married to Firefighting

It is estimated (here) that 50% of marriages in the fire service industry lead to divorce. That statistic is pretty high. The dream of being in a relationship with a firefighter sounds pretty glamorous. Sharing a bed with this tough, good looking, risk taker firefighter appears pretty amazing until reality sets in that is. The reality of that life is quite the opposite and that firefighter is now replaced with a body pillow because you spend more nights sleeping at the station than you do at home and when you are home you are most likely exhausted because of interrupted sleep or haunted by calls. Not quite as glamorous after all.

What makes so many marriages fail?

There is a lot that can cause a marriage to break up and being a firefighter adds a whole new layer of potential issues. Picture this, you come home from a long 48 hour shift at the fire station and hear your partner’s question, ‘How was work?”. Your past 48 hours have been pretty brutal with calls. If you are being honest, you don’t really want to answer this question because work absolutely sucked and it was absolutely everything that cannot be explained to someone that wasn’t there. So you answer with the word, “fine” and just want to find your bed or recliner and collapse in it for a bit or throw yourself into a hobby to try to forget about it all. You know the word “fine” never means fine and often leaves your partner feeling neglected or left out of your life. This response can have some pretty hefty consequences when it comes to building and maintaining your relationships outside of the station.

How do you find a way to talk to those that you love about the work that you love?

Let’s face it, there are just some calls that you can’t talk to your partner about if they weren’t there and sometimes you probably shouldn’t talk to them about it. It actually isn’t healthy for your partner to be aware of every call because it can cause sleepless nights worrying about situations that are out of their control. Sometimes it is best that they don’t know everything but they do need to know some things. They need to be a part of your life outside of the home.

Your life as a firefighter is not just a career; it is a lifestyle so if you don’t find a way to incorporate your partner into that lifestyle it could lead to problems. So how do you include them in your firefighter life but also limit it at the same time? It is more about finding ways to connect instead of just finding better ways to communicate. Being able to connect to your partner is vital.

You need to find what you can talk to your partner about. Ask yourself what parts of your day can you talk about without making it just sound like sunshine and roses? Your partner will know if you are only giving them the good parts of your day. You can talk about a routine call and pull out some detail of significance that can help your partner feel connected to what you do.

What if I don’t want to talk about my day?

You can tell them you had a pretty horrific call and you feel pretty crappy and can’t bring yourself to talk about it right now. Let them know that you care enough to inform them that something is bothering you but that you just need some time to move past it. Here is a quick statement you can make, “I had a pretty rough call last night, we talked it through a lot at the station and right now I just want to try to forget about it and be thankful that I am home spending time with my family.” Sometimes you may want to talk to about it though, so take advantage of those times and talk to your partner about what is on your mind and how you are feeling.

Bottom line though, those bad calls are going to happen, the sleepless nights are going to happen, and your work is not going to change. On the upside though, by nature you are problem solvers, fixers, doers and risk takers and you can bring this into your personal life. So let’s look at what you can do to make your relationships at home just as strong as the ones with the firefighters at the station.

It’s about connection, not just communication.

Find new ways to connect when you do have time together. Instead of looking at ways to communicate about everything, find better ways to connect with your partner. Connecting with one another will lead to better communication in the long run.

You also spend a lot of time apart so take advantage of that and let your partner know you are thinking about them when you can. Start small, just text your partner and let them know you are thinking about them while you are at work. It doesn’t 2_grandeneed to be this long conversation because they should understand that you are busy and that might not be possible. However, if you have the chance to let them know you are thinking about them, do it. Keeping connected as much as possible goes a long way.

Not only is it important to let your partner know you are thinking about them when you aren’t together but spend quality time together when you are together. Schedule date nights at least once a month and get away for a few hours together to recharge and reconnect. Learn something new or take a class together. Learning together helps couples to connect. So find a cooking class, or go zip lining, or take a work out class together. Find something that you haven’t done before and learn it together.

It is important for your relationships outside of work to be healthy to keep your mind focused when you are at work. The fact is your work and the bad calls won’t change. The potential for strain on a relationship is there but you have the ability to take control of your relationships and connect with your loved ones. So find new ways to connect but also understand that you are only one half of the problem and one half of the solution. If your partner is not open to connecting with new ways or things just feel like they are too far gone, then it might be time to seek out some help from a marriage counselor. A counselor can help look at your relationship from an outside perspective to see what might be causing the strain.

You don’t have to be one of the marriages that lead to divorce. Start with connecting and go from there.


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About Ashley Brehm MS, MFT, NCC (5 Articles)
Ashley is a National Certified Counselor. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Social Work, a Masters of Science in Marital and Family Therapy, and a Masters of Science in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy. Ashley has respectable experience working with trauma therapy, recovery, rehabilitation, co-occurring disorders, crisis support, crisis intervention and crisis response. Ashley comes from a Firefighter family in Iowa and possesses intimate exposure to the world of firefighting. She currently lives in Connecticut where she works for a non-profit agency assisting families and as a Mental Health Clinician. Ashley has a passion for restoring antique furniture and curling up on the couch with her dog Bailey.

4 Comments on Married to Firefighting

  1. That is very true I’ve been a firefighter my whole life civilian and Military I have been divorced twice now marriage does not mix with fire fighting either you’re married to your job or you’re married to your wife


  2. I’ve been married for 12 yrs. Same woman, I was active duty in a job that was constantly gone for 11 yrs. I’ve been in the fire service for 3 yrs. My wife and I had our problems but we go to counseling as to make sure those problems to come back up. I disagree with the comment of you’re either married to your job or married to your wife. My dad did it for 35 yrs and my parents are still married. Many marriages do work in the fire service. My sisters husband has been a firefighter for 11 yrs they’ve been married for 12. It can work if people want it to work. Divorce rates period are up in our nation. People just quit easier.


  3. I’ve been married for almost 30 years and became a firefighter half way into it. This article is bang on about communication and letting your spouse into your fire world. She needs to know what you are doing and how you are feeling. My shift does lots of get togethers with our spouses which helps them “connect” with our Firehall family. Also bang on regarding date nights and making special time away from the fire world for my spouse. She knows how important your fire life is but she also needs to know how important she is in your world. Great article!


  4. Kelly Marsh // May 28, 2016 at 11:28 pm // Reply

    Let’s not forget those “rough and tough” firefighters are not just men. Lots of women firefighters as well.


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