The Strain on a Police Officer’s Marriage
Retired police officer Adam Davis says police work takes a toll on a marriage. From 12-hour shifts to having no friends except for other law enforcement officers, the stress of the job hardened Adam's heart and made him want to protect his spouse and family so badly that he quit communicating altogether. Something had to change.
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Retired police officer Adam Davis says police work takes a toll on a marriage. The stress of the job hardened Adam’s heart and made him want to protect his family so badly that he quit communicating altogether.
The Strain on a Police Officer’s Marriage
Bob: Being a police officer is a high-risk occupation, especially for marriages. Adam Davis was headed toward divorce with his wife until she lovingly confronted him about his neglect/about the isolation she was feeling.
Adam: I realized in that moment that the woman that I had hurt, whether intentionally or because I was so hurt, still loved me. We talk a lot about the love of God, and we talk a lot about how He loves us—we sing about it/these beautiful songs. But until another human being has demonstrated that love and mirrored His love for us, like she did for me—that’s the love that changes you.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, October 7th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. How can those who have pledged to protect and serve their communities also protect and serve their marriages? We’ll talk with Adam Davis about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You think about high-risk professions—I’m not thinking about your life being on the line, although that can be the case—I’m thinking about your marriage and family being on the line. The more stress/the more pressure you’re under, the more your marriage is going to feel that and have to be a shock absorber for that.
Dave: That would be marriage as a pastor—[Laughter]
Bob: Well, that’s true. I mean, you know the statistics; and it is challenging.
Dave: —very high. Or honestly, marriage in the NFL—80 percent divorce rate—but it’s not dangerous like you’re talking about; I mean, it’s dangerous in a different way.
But like putting your life on the line, that’s another whole type of danger.
Bob: We want our listeners today to recognize there are people around us, serving us, who are in those high-risk situations and have chosen to be in those high-risk situations for our good. We have a friend who’s joining us. Adam Davis is here on FamilyLife Today. Adam, welcome.
Adam: Thank you so much for having me.
Bob: Adam is an author; he is a conference speaker. The reason he is both an author and a conference speaker is because of what he did before he was an author and a conference speaker. How many years were you in law enforcement?
Adam: Six years.
Bob: What led you into being a police officer?
Adam: You know, if you ask a lot of people, they’re going to say, “I wanted to help people,” and that’s great; but really, I wanted to be like those good men that I saw—a man named TJ, who’s a retired sergeant—I wanted to be a man of character like that. That was who I wanted to be, and I wanted my kids to look up to me.
Bob: Adam has written a number of devotionals, one called On Spiritual Combat for men and women in law enforcement and in military/front-line military; Behind the Badge for police officers; and then, Bulletproof Marriage is the one that caught our attention, because of what it is that we do.
You know guys, whose marriages have suffered because of their career in law enforcement.
Adam: I is one. [Laughter]
Bob: Talk a little about that. I mean, what was the stress on your marriage?
Ann: I wanted to find out, too: “Adam, when you went into law enforcement, were you married; and how did your wife feel about it?”
Adam: She supported me 110 percent. Yes, we were married. We had been married, at the time, my goodness, nine years?—about nine years.
Dave: You waited a long time to get married; right?—came out of high school.
Adam: Yes; we go to college, have a good set career—no—I got married at 18 years old; my wife had been 18 a month. We had a lot of people in our family, that were very close to us, said, “I give it six months, and they’ll be divorced.” They weren’t badly wrong—I packed my bags about every week our first year. We were still growing up together; you know?
Got into law enforcement around nine years later; she supported me. But I changed; she didn’t. She didn’t ask for that; she didn’t sign up for who I became.
Dave: What do you mean you changed?
Adam: Yes, you become a little hard around the edges—hard hearted. For example, you go to work—and maybe your job is to write tickets all day, maybe your job is to work motor vehicle crashes, maybe your job is to run patrol, or you’re an investigator—with all of those things, there are inherent stresses that are going to occur. There are going to be some things on days that you don’t want to relive.
You go work at the bank, insurance office, hospital—go home—“How was your day?” “I had this guy come in and…” You want to talk about it most of the time. I got to the point I didn’t want to relive what I’d gone through. It took everything I had to make it home, and I didn’t want to talk to her about it for a couple of reasons.
One, I didn’t want to relive it; number two, I was exhausted; number three, I didn’t want her to know about it; because I wanted to protect her. I didn’t want her to see the world as I saw it: very evil, very vile, and a fallen world—a lot of threats. When you’re in law enforcement, you know things that are going on that are not made known to the general public all the time; and I wanted to protect my family. I didn’t want them to have that stress and that worry on them.
At the end of the day, I’d come home, take off my gear, sit down, stare at a blank TV/stare at a blank wall. “How was your day, honey?” “Fine,” and wouldn’t say anything else.
Ann: Did she push you a little bit? Did she feel that divide between you?
Adam: Yes, I think so; and she—
Dave: Do you see what my wife’s doing?—she’s doing it right now—[Laughter]—she’s pushing you; she’s getting more. This is my life! [Laughter]
Ann: And you love it!
Adam: I’ll tell you this—she saw me fading. I forget at what point in my career it was—maybe five years in/four years in, whatever—but towards the end/it was a Friday—I come home. She said, “Hey, Mom’s keeping the kids. I have your bags packed. We’re going out of town for the weekend, just me and you.” She said, “I know you need a break.” She didn’t have to do that. I mean, I’m the sole income for the house. She works harder than I do, as a homeschool mom of three; but I’m the sole income, and I knew that that took a lot for her to do that.
We went; we stayed in a hotel; we had a nice dinner; we rode horses through the mountains in north Georgia. I realized in that moment that the woman that I had hurt, whether intentionally or because I was so hurt, still loved me. We talk a lot about the love of God, and we talk a lot about how He loves us—we sing about it/these beautiful songs. But until another human being has demonstrated that love and mirrored His love for us, like she did for me—that’s the love that changes you.
Ann: Because it was unconditional?
Adam: Unrelenting—did not matter.
Now, we still had rough spots and bumpy spells, but she essentially wrestled home back to the ground/back to a normal guy, and she loved me through the storm. Sometimes that’s what marriage is. Instead of saying—“Hey, I have a rescue boat over here; I’m out”; and you go on your own way—you ride the storm out together. I owe everything to her for that; because when I look at the love that she’s shown me, I see the love of Jesus.
Bob: Did you grow up with a spiritual foundation in your life?
Adam: I grew up in a charismatic home. I was in church nine days a week. [Laughter] My stepdad was a pastor. I had this different idea of who God was, more so that He was sitting there with a leather belt, waiting on me to mess up so he could tear my hide up, or He was waiting to mash a button that I had to do good for Him to be good to me.
I remember signing my first membership card that said you could never go dance, you could never go to a movie theater, you couldn’t listen to whatever—I’m like, “Oh. This is going to be really hard.” [Laughter] That’s not who God is, man.
It took me becoming a law enforcement officer to discover that. Yes, I wasn’t there an entire career; I started because I was going to retire—I wanted to climb the ranks; I wanted to do everything. I don’t have a lot of years on me, but I had a lot of miles on me; for six years, I did a lot of stuff.
But if the only purpose He had for me was to show me His love in that—I’ll never forget, in my roughest moments, feeling—I never heard the audible voice of God, but I would feel the Holy Spirit bubbling inside of me, saying, “There’s nothing you can do to change your love for Me,”—hugging a toilet, drunk as all get-out—“There’s nothing you can do to change My love for you.”
Ann: Take us back to that, Adam. What happened? You get into law enforcement, where your walk with God was not that dynamic—
Adam: Yes, it wasn’t dynamic at all.
Adam: You know, for me it was performance-based like I said. I think, when you fight for your life and you encounter evil on a very real level—people that want to kill you, and kill your friends, and people that are hurting other people—when you see these things that are going on in the world, it becomes a moment that you have sort of a fork in the road. You can just pretend like you didn’t see it and keep going, or you can face it head-on.
I faced it; and there was something here that was like, “This isn’t right; this isn’t right at all.” Instead of just pretending like it didn’t exist, and saying a sweet prayer and carrying on, I went to battle with it; and it was a battle inside of me. I never doubted that God existed; it was, “If You’re good, then why? If You love me, then why?” He was taking me through a place to where, eventually—He had been showing me His love the whole time; I think that’s the miracle of life—if you just look, you’ll see it—but for me, I was so hard-headed/I was so stubborn that I had to sit down and essentially interrogate Him.
I started drinking; and that was sort of self-medicating, like we say, for the things that I dealt with. They teach you how to survive a fight. If somebody’s trying to stab you or kill you, they teach you all the tactics and skills. But what I went through is not so much about that as much as it is how you respond afterwards and how you handle the trauma. How do you handle encountering these things, seeing death from different causes?
I started self-medicating, and I drank; and I drank heavy. You know, it was never abusive; but I’d be silent, completely withdrawn from my family. One of the things we talked about earlier—I became a cop because I wanted my kids to be proud of me. When somebody said, “What does your daddy do for a living?” I wanted them to be able to blow their chests out and say, “My daddy’s a police officer.”
I had been so withdrawn; I mean, you can’t go to most of the ball games. Your birthday parties—you’re probably going to get called out. Christmas Day—I’ll never forget one Christmas Day, chasing cows through somebody’s yard—not the most violent thing I’ve ever encountered; but the family that was sitting there, eating Christmas dinner, saw a uniformed police officer chasing cows; but I’m still not with my family.
There are sacrifices that have to be made, and I was no longer willing to sacrifice my family. I’m willing to lay down my life for you, but I’m not willing to give my family life for you—that’s where it came—so I started drinking.
We lost some very good friends that I served with—I had a wakeup call and started writing instead of drinking.
Dave: What do you mean you had a wakeup call?
Adam: You can read about certain things: “That’s sad,”—flip the page—that’s what we do as a society. We read a headline, flip the page or scroll; but when it’s somebody that you know, and that you’ve had a relationship with, it’s different. We buried brothers that I served with for various causes; some inflicted, some not.
But for me, my wakeup call was in a patrol car. You’re not supposed to talk about this sort of thing; because if you talk about it, it shows a sign of weakness. I had gotten to a point where I was really, really tired in all facets—I was tired emotionally; I was tired mentally; I was tired physically—I saw no hope for my future; my marriage was on the rocks, mainly because of me. I had just pushed everybody in my life away.
It was a Sunday—working—I was working overtime. Marked car, uniform, sitting in an old—used to be gas station—parking lot. That was the day I was going to take my life: “I’ve tried to do it all. I can’t be good enough; I can’t answer these things. I can’t put two and two together and make sense anymore. I don’t understand it; I don’t have to understand it, but I believe in You for no other reason than I choose to believe, not because somebody else has persuaded me to”; and there was a change.
Now, it wasn’t an instant everything changed overnight, but the alcohol was gone—I didn’t desire it anymore. I wanted to do things differently, and I wanted pursue Him—so writing and listening to where He was leading me, following that still, small voice—and wanting other people to experience the same love that I felt in that car that day. You just don’t really feel that love, as a cop, anymore. I know for a fact where that love came from—Jesus was in that car with me—it’s because of Him that I’m here today. I don’t owe my life to anybody but Jesus; and I’ve become a bondservant of love, and I want other people to know that there’s hope.
Bob: Did you go home that Sunday and tell your wife what had happened?
Adam: Oh yes. What happened was—I no longer saw it as, “I have to do ‘A’, ‘B,’ and ‘C’ for Him to love me or to be a Christian.” It became, “Oh my goodness, this love! I want to live in a way that shows Him how much I appreciate it, and I want to give that love back to Him. I want to live in a way that, when my life is done, that He says, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant,’ and that I was a good steward of it”; because we’ve all been given a measure of it.
Bob: Do you remember what Amber said?
Adam: I really don’t. I think I was in a fog. She was grateful; she’s been supportive ever since. She saw a change, and she’ll tell you she saw a change.
Bob: What did she see?
Adam: I became softer. I became her husband again, not just Officer Davis. I became a father to my children again. Gradually, over time—it was probably a year after I left law enforcement—that it really fell off; and she was like, “It’s so good to have you back.”
Bob: What did your fellow officers see?
Adam: I’ve had so many tell me how proud they were.
I’ll never forget one officer—I’m not going to say what his relationship was—but he told me I’d be better off to go kill myself.
Bob: Explain that.
Adam: Well, when you’re no longer a part of what’s going on—and I wasn’t partying anymore; I wasn’t drinking anymore; I wasn’t part of the clique anymore—I wanted to go to work, do my job, and go home. That hurts, because he had no idea what I had been dealing with; he had no idea how close I was.
Having those conversations I think just drove me harder to go after God in that moment. Then to see my family and say, “I can fight for this job that in 20 years/25 years, whatever, I’ll be forgotten when I walk out the door; I’ll be another number. Or I can fight for my family.” I just shifted the priorities to where they should have been the whole time.
It’s okay to be a great cop and love your job, but don’t forsake—your wife or husband, your kids, your family—the people that are going to be there for you when you hang up the badge.
Bob: Explain for listeners how consuming the law enforcement culture is for those who are in it. It’s like: “Life is here,”—and everything else, outside of that, is not secondary; it’s third, fourth—it’s way down the line; right?
Adam: I can’t tell you how long of a time in there I had zero friends that were outside of law enforcement. That’s okay for a period, but you need to have those friends that are outside. When I talk to men today, I tell them, “You need friends that are not in law enforcement.” That’s part of my assignment: “You need to find and develop friends outside of law enforcement.” “They don’t understand what I go through.” “That’s okay; don’t talk about it with them. Find something to talk about—gardening, or golf, or the weather, or something. [Laughter]
But it’s consuming; because most of the time, you’re working 12-hour shifts. Alright, so if you’re going to work 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., you need to get up about 4:30 so you can be at briefing about 5:20—so 4:30. Now, you’re going to get home at 6, if you’re lucky/if you’re lucky. Most of the time, you’re going to catch a call right at 6:00; and you’re going to have to work late.
Your spouse is going to be preparing—and you’re going to go home; you’re going to go eat—or you’re going to meet them somewhere and go out to eat—you go, and you are still not present/your body may be there, but you’re not there—because you’re still thinking about if you have to do reports or you’re thinking about stuff from the day.
You work that; then you have court, and you may have court on your off days, when you’d rather be with your family. Then, if you’re going to go on vacation, you have to report that to your supervisor so they know you’re out of town. It’s completely consuming. It’s a lifestyle/it’s a way of life. I’m not apologetic; I’m not sorry for it—that’s the way it is—it’s the law enforcement lifestyle.
But there has to be an injection of gospel—of the Holy Spirit, of the Word of God in there, the love of Jesus—that changes that up so it’s a healthy lifestyle. We need men and women on the line, but there has to be a presence of God in there—because if not, the burden is—we try to carry it on our own, like I did. It will crush you; it will destroy everything about you if you try to carry it on your own. We were never created to do that. Take it and put it at His feet, and He’ll give you strength.
Ann: Adam, how did you bring Jesus into your family? He’s in you, you’re taking Him with you in the workplace. How did the look of your family change?
Adam: You know, it started just by, as silly as it sounds, sitting at church with my wife—or this is unique—grabbing her hand at night before bed in front of the kids and saying a prayer. It doesn’t have to be complicated/complex. When we become the authority in our home, under the authority of the Great Shepherd, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Pray for her daily. It’s amazing how the environment changes in your home. It’s hard to remain mad at your spouse if you’re holding hands and praying together. It was really simple steps.
I hate that I didn’t document everything, but I really wasn’t thinking about that at the point; but it’s a good idea. That’s what Bulletproof Marriage did—was introduce praying with your spouse every day for 90 days—it’s opened up a lot of communication efforts between spouses that have been shut down for awhile.
Bob: I was thinking about your book, and I was thinking, in the city where I live there are a little more than 700 employees of the police department.
Bob: I thought, what if a local church/a couple of local churches pitched in and said, “Let’s buy 700 copies of this book.”
Adam: That would be awesome.
Bob: Just make it as a gift to everybody who works for the police department.
What if, in every police force in America, people would buy the book and give it to police officers/people on the police force with a note inside. Even have everybody/somebody in the church just write a note, saying, “Praying for you;—
Dave: “Appreciate what you do.”
Ann: “Thank you.”
Bob: —“thank you for what you do. If I can ever help, here’s my number.”
Ann: Love it, Bob.
Bob: Give them a copy of that book.
Adam: We’ve had a lot of churches do that and a lot of businesses do that with Behind the Badge.
Adam: Obviously, about half are married; but it’s written from a cop, who has a testimony for cops. If you talk to cops, who’ve read it—the ones, who were contemplating suicide, who God did something in their life; or the ones who were getting ready to/they had already called the divorce lawyer and set the appointment; and they went through Bulletproof Marriage in 90 days, and God changed their lives—it’s laid out. He used what I went through—the mess—and turned it into a beautiful gift, literally.
We’ve had a lot of churches across the country do that in all 50 states; I’m so thankful for that.
Dave: I mean, what a great idea. You know anywhere they could get that book, Bob? [Laughter]
Bob: Well, as a matter of fact, you can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and Adam’s book, Bulletproof Marriage, which is a 90-day devotional, is available. There’s another devotional called On Spiritual Combat: 30 Missions for Victorious Warfare, and then a 365-day devotional for police officers called Behind the Badge. All of these resources are resources for you to look at/pray about. Do you know somebody, who’s in law enforcement? Maybe you want to buy a copy and give it as a gift to them; or again, maybe you or your church want to do something for the police officers in your community.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and look at the resources Adam has available. You can order them from us, online, or you can call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number—that’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Check out Adam Davis’s books and devotionals for people who are in law enforcement, and figure out what you’d like to give to somebody as a gift.
Let me just say, “Thank you,” to those of you who have made today’s program a gift for all of us—those of you who are regular donors to FamilyLife Today as Legacy Partners, those of you who donate from time to time—you’re the ones who have covered the cost of producing and syndicating this program so that listeners in your community/listeners all around the world can benefit from these kinds of conversations.
FamilyLife Today’s goal is to provide practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families. We’re grateful for those of you who partner with us and make that possible. If you’re a longtime listener, and you’ve never made a donation, or if you’re a regular listener and it’s been awhile since you donated, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and make a donation today, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. When you do, you’re investing in the lives and the marriages and the families of people all around the world; and we are grateful for that partnership.
We hope you can join us, again, tomorrow as we continue our conversation about the unique challenges facing people, who are in law enforcement, facing their marriages and their families. Adam Davis will be with us, again, tomorrow. I hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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