Divorce is a dirty word among firefighters. For years and years, the general thought is that Firefighters get divorced more than the general public.
Not only that but they tend to get divorced at astronomical levels.
Let’s look at divorce rate among firefighter statistics
some people like to exaggerate the divorce rate among firefighters , and it comes with some dangerous side effects.
Seriously. 85 freaking percent is what some people claim. We won’t call these people experts, because they don’t back up their stats, but it’s what they claim when they are talking about divorce rates among our first responders.
You add in that half the population dies by 40 and all of a sudden the chance of being single by 45 is 100%. Crazy right! It sounds like the firemen need to be rescued if that’s the case.
So that’s why I really started digging. Val Selby over at Wife Behind the Fire was the first one to ever suggest that the divorce rates were just rumors and I couldn’t have been happier!
Because if you look at the divorce rates among firefighters, a lot of what we hear is jumbled and doesn’t add up.
Let’s look at what researchers have to say about the firefighter divorce rate.
Let’s talk to the experts on Firefighter Divorce Rates
Let’s look first at a study done in 2009 relating to occupational divorces. Two doctors compared the divorce averages by your job, and found firefighters who had been married was 14.1 percent divorce rate.
That’s certainly not 50% like some Chiefs like to claim, and it also isn’t higher than the national divorce average, which comes in at 16.6 in 2008.
Diving in to the data deeper, we see that Male Firefighters divorce less than the national average. And around 90% of our Firefighters in the US are males.
Imma say it louder for the folks in the back “below the national average for the male firefighters”
But wait, there’s more!
Turns out that Female Firefighters do have a higher percentage of divorce in this line of work, up to three times higher divorce rates.
We can always speculate though that it has something to do with the job and the many stresses that come along with it. For anyone thats ever been in a relationship, you know that stress can play an impactful role in the success of a marriage.
In fact, this survey done in Canada shows half the firefighters said that “maintaining a relationship with one’s romantic partner” was a highly stressful part of the job.
Because let’s face it, being a firefighter isn’t always easy, and dealing with family stress on top of that can be hard to handle. Even with the addition of a stressful job, the stats don’t show an increase in divorced firefighters.
I mean- is it the woman leaving the firefighter because she can’t handle the anxiety and stress anymore? I don’t like to speculate so we’ll nix this now- but where is this coming from?
If the divorce is actually lower than the national average, where are the high numbers coming from?
Theory- Are the firefighter divorce rumors from unhappy firefighter couples?
Do Firefighters and their spouses hear about divorce because people are just unhappy and looking for a way out?
Like they just TALK about divorce constantly, but never actually go through with it and just stay in unhappy relationships?
That’s totally possible. You and I both know we know ‘that couple’ that’s in an on again/off again relationship.
So it could be that someone overhears that ‘firefighter so and so’ is having a hard time with their marriage and they spread rumors. Or two of the firefighters get together and realize they have the same problem- so they assume that everyone else does too.
Then compound this year after year- the salty old dogs warning the probies about bringing their wives around the station and it becomes an urban legend.
At this station- divorce is common place. (The whole, saving lives and stealing wives firefighter routine)
That’s one theory.
another one is this:
Or maybe it’s that when Then when we do hear about a divorce, from your home station or somewhere close by, people spread it like wildfire. Especially if it somehow involves another firefighter. Or the Wife showed up and tried to set something on fire (true story!).
Or there was a cheating firefighter spouse involved. Those stories spread and spread and spread so much that it turns into a game of telephone and you can’t even tell left from right.
In fact, I’m pretty sure half of those stories are grossly exaggerated by some gossiping old firefighter. Every station has one!
Do we really talk about divorce that much?
Kinda- We have a lot of misinformation out there!
Take this post from fire engineering by anne gagalinno. She cites EVERY SOURCE BESIDES the one about firefighter divorce. So her entire article has the stats to backup her data- but then when it says “firefighters divorce at 3 times the national average, second only to military” there is NO source. The article was also written in 2009 and probably spoke fear into many couples lives!
But if you ask me, I rarely hear about divorce OR unhappy relationships and neither does my husband.
Sure, the guys may need some advice here and there. The majority of them want a family and they want to be happy while they do it.
They don’t want to be a divorced firefighter.
I hear more about how hard it is to get a date! And how they struggle with finding someone that understands this lifestyle. In fact, I wrote a post for some of the guys to use to show their prospective girlfriends about firefighter relationships. Because it’s hard finding someone that really gets what this life is about.
The web is also filled with relationship self help books that prey on this apparent fear, that being married to a firefighter is hard.
Any relationship or marriage takes work, and you can find help in a book or a counselor. My problem is that I can appreciate the advice but a lot of it is unneccesary because they want to capitalize on the rumors.
I can say that its hard for the wives that have to deal with a husband who won’t stop obsessing over work. Don’t let the job sour your marriage.
Another good option is to look at couples counseling which is for people in every profession. Firefighters are not getting divorced anymore than the average Joe. Lawyers and massage therapists were at the top of the list- not firefighters. Not even close.
So are firefighters just unhappy?
Over the years we have become aware that Firefighters need more behavioral and mental health services because of what they see on the job.
It’s something that I’ve become pretty passionate about because many firefighters hide their PTSD and anxiety- and ultimately take their own life.
So I’m sure for some marriages (and some firefighter divorces) that plays a big part.
No, because both PTSD and happiness can be improved upon by a variety of factors. Counseling is a huge benefit to many- and of course, getting out of toxic situations is another contributing factor to happiness.
There was this mini survey done in Canada to compare males in fire service with males in other occupations. The comparison showed that Firefighters are on par with other people when it comes to marriage satisfaction.
So basically, being a firefighter doesn’t decrease the happiness in your marriage.
However, we don’t really have much data to show how other parts of the job (long hours, ptsd, being effected by a LODD) have on a firefighters marriage.
And MANY FIRE WIVES are completely unaware that the change in their spouse is not due to a decrease in marital satisfaction– but a mental health issue like PTSD or anxiety.
Stress is certainly a big factor in health problems and relationship issues. I want to encourage you to reach out to your EAP or other trusted professional if you feel like things are getting crazy. You can also look at some ways to reduce your stress on shift here.
What about the cheating Firefighters?
Let’s talk about the infamous “CHEATING FIREFIGHTER”
I won’t lie- when my husband first said he wanted to be a firefighter, I looked up stuff about firefighters and BAM.
One of the first things I came across was that Firefighters are big time cheaters.
You know, since they have all this time on their hands.
And they stay overnight with women.
And it’s an orgy free for all at the fire house.
And they have nothing better to do than hang out and screw around because they are gone for 24 hours and it’s a vacation.
Let’s get to the bottom of this.
Statistically we know that people who cheat are looking to fill emotional AND physical needs. We also know that Men and Women cheat at the same rates.
So what this is telling us is that the cheater was going to cheat regardless of what gender they are or where they worked- because they are filling an emotional/physically need.
Again, it’s not a matter of convenience.
So the cheating would happen inside or outside the firehouse.
But cheating at the fire house DOES happen, especially because we know about 30% of relationships involve some form of cheating (like messaging, sexting etc).
Unfortunately that is a problem that will happen wherever your cheating spouse works- even in they worked from home.
Divorce across the United States is decreasing- especially the under 45 crowd.
Have you heard the jokes about how millennials are changing things? Well, it’s not wrong. The millennials in their average mid 20’s to late 30’s and the Gen X’ers up to mid 40’s are getting divorced less and less.
It’s not because they aren’t married, its because they are waiting to get married till they have finished their education and found a job (which increases the odds of them having a successful marriage). And here I thought the future of divorce would be that you could buy it on Amazon.
In fact, the divorce rate for the under 45 crowd has reduced by a whopping 21 PERCENT in the last ten years alone. So while the divorce rate for 2017 for firefighters isn’t on the books, we can look at the general population and see that they are not getting divorced like the rumors suggest.
No longer is the chance of a marriage ending in divorce 50/50.
However, this doesn’t apply to the baby boomers, who are getting divorced at some really really high rates (maybe thats where the 85% divorce rate comes in!). Apparently baby boomers can’t stand their spouses so they’re trading them out- I’m only kinda kidding. The numbers tend to support this.
So lets clear up some Firefighter Divorce Stereotypes
Feel free to check the facts, but the numbers say that the divorce across the US is decreasing AND most (mainly male) firefighters get divorced at rates lower than the national average.
So if you hear rumors about firefighter divorce, you can know that they are not based on the numbers. Maybe you just live in a really unlucky area and the divorce rates have more to do with geography and not occupation.
And if your facing divorce yourself- you need to ask yourself.
Would you spouse do less (fill in the blank) if they weren’t in the profession?
Would they be nicer if they weren’t a firefighter or a whatever?
Some cases this IS true. We know PTSD is hemorrhaging our firefighter ranks. There are things we can do about it– it just takes awareness and getting honest to get the help we need.
There have been times I’ve wanted to throw in the towel, and dining room table meetings where our marriage felt like it would never survive.
But I am thankful my husband would pick me over his career (and I’m genuinely sorry for those partners whose spouse chooses the career over the relationship!)
After all, you love the person in the gear, not the gear itself.