For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice -- no paper currency, no promises to pay, but the gold of real service.
- John Burroughs
During most traditional wedding ceremonies, especially if they take place in a church or under the auspices of a faith community, the new couple vows "to forsake all others." Most of us take this to mean they vow to forsake intimate relations with anyone of the opposite sex who is not their spouse. They have chosen “to become one” emotionally, spiritually, and physically, and most assume the forsaking others part has most to do with preserving the physical oneness – and, in turn, the emotional and spiritual safety - sexual monogamy helps ensure. That is one correct interpretation of the vow but it is incomplete. What this vow really does is emphasize the first and most important principle for a successful marriage: that each person places their spouse, and by extension the marriage itself, above all other earthly relationships. This means your marriage comes before your parents, your siblings, the old buddies from the day, and all the hobbies that make you the individual you are. You are no longer operating solely as an individual. It comes before the kids. And it comes before the JOB.
For such a sacred vow, it is so easily broken when we take our eyes off our spouse and turn them to a distraction. How many LE marriages have you seen shattered by infidelity? The temptations are ever-present with the job, true, but are not always about another person.
Temptations take many forms and letting one become your mistress is every bit as dangerous as a physical or emotional affair with another person. Police officers, like everyone else, may be distracted from putting their most significant and intimate relationship first in their lives by all the most common temptations, but some of the most common for cops are:
Ambition – Attaining a plum assignment or ascending the ranks are both noble pursuits, and it’s certainly necessary someone chase them for the good of the department (so it might as well be you, right?), but usually require a lot of sacrifice on your part – and also of your partner at home. You might dream of chasing down drug dealers in the night but you’ll likely have to log a lot of patrol time working the busiest shifts in the hardest beats to set yourself apart from everyone else who wants that job, and this can wear on the home life, especially if you have three young kids at home and a spouse or partner raising them more or less as a single parent. Ambition is fine but weigh its dangers and proceed cautiously.
Obsession – It is easy to lose yourself in the job. Every dedicated cop knows how it feels to be caught up in uniquely fascinating case, or the overwhelming empathy for a crime victim that makes the push for justice irresistible, and how these feelings can drive them to obsess. The mind zeroes in on the case and everything else is shoved aside. That kind of focus is good… on the clock. When you cannot shake it on the drive home, at the family bar-b-que, during your kid’s band concert, or while you should be devoting your attentions to your spouse? Then you might just have a problem (or are about to).
Pursuit of the overtime dollar – This is another guy we all know (and, truthfully, maybe have been at times… or now): The overtime whore! No OT detail is passed by, no call for holdovers ignored. A truly dedicated OTW will abandon the family vacation and drive across three states to grab a 4-hour gig at time and a half, or elbow her best friend in the throat if she thinks he might be making a move to snag “her” overtime. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a little extra, but at what cost when the chase becomes all-consuming? Chase too hard or too long and pretty soon you’ll really need the OT bucks… to pay your lawyer.