Let’s face it, every relationship has it’s ups and downs.
Some of these problems are caused by external factors- like jobs, and probably wouldn’t be that big of an issue if they weren’t in that career. This is especially true for firefighters (both paid and volunteer) as their job impacts their relationship.
I point these out, not to scare people, or discourage a relationship, but to highlight the truth of the matter. No relationship is perfect, and being in the fire life can add some addition stress to a relationship.
So let’s look at these problems with an open mind, and hopefully find a solution (at least get honest!) about these problems!
Published April 2019, Updated November 2019
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What are the relationship problems that Firefighter couples face?
Let’s look at 7 common issues with Firefighters, and how we can combat them to make it work in the Fire Life.
Issues with Time Management
One of the big factors in a relationship is that each of the people pull their own weight. This is in every part of the relationship, from the communication to the sex to the budget.
But what if your partner doesn’t make time or really sucks at time management, and then things get put to the side because theirs no time left?
Yeah, it definitely puts a ding in the relationship. 🙁🙁🙁
This is especially true because many firefighters work odd hours, or two jobs. And don’t even get me started on a volunteer firefighters schedule! It can look CRAZY!
So many of these issues feel like a bigger deal than they are- but what it often boils down to, is that one or both of the pair have some serious issues with making the relationship a priority. It’s likely that many other areas of their life suffer from poor time management as well (late bills, high stress from lack of self care, house is a mess etc).
Personally, a good calendar is a must… and smart watches. With so many brands on the market you’ll find one you love, and my firefighter swears by this watch because it holds up so well.
the obsession is real
Even some seasoned wives who’ve been in this for a long time will agree, it’s hard to truly grasp the fire life.
Some days I just look at my husband and think, how can he be this obsessed.
Thankfully, I really enjoy his career (I mean I blog about it!) and I love him, so I do my best to really get in his head and see it through his eyes. But in the beginning we really fought a lot about how differently we viewed things and our expectations.
It didnt help that we both grew up in dysfunctional relationships (though I do recommend this book for some lite reading when it comes to stopping the arguing)
When the obsession for the Fire life takes over- it can leave the relationship hurt.
It can also cause the opposite effect, where the other person begins to hate the love the firefighter has for his career. It is truly a double edged sword.
Nobody really talks about resentment, but I’ll be the first to tell you that in the beginning I really felt like the Fire life stole my husband.
So think about it, can your firefighter turn off his notifications? Take a vacation? Not talk about the fire life for 24 hours?
Does it bother you when your firefighter CAN’T stop talking about firefighter stuff?
If it starts with a V and ends with acation…
Not many people understand this one. I KNOW that there are many many hardworking Americans in every profession, but there is something about first responders and military that makes it harder to take time off.
I mean, my husband was debating on if he should only do 4 weeks of paternity leave because the “guys will need him back”.
And we had to have an honest conversation about how I needed him, and the kids needed him, and he agreed.
Not all firefighters understand that. Or have had that explained to them. This is really true when the firefighters were doing their firefighter thing long before they had a spouse.
Sometimes its the lack of time off because they are short staffed, other times it’s because they feel they can’t get away. Regardless- it has an effect on their relationship. and sometimes that isn’t always a good thing!
You have to accommodate for a Second Family
This certainly isn’t always the case, but in many departments it truly is a family.
Which is great. I love the firefighters my husband calls his family, I know they have his back when they are in the field, and they treat me like family too.
Then why am I sometimes jealous of their bromance?
It does seem kind of silly, but it’s also completely honest. Sometimes I resent that my husband has a second family because it means that he will never be 100% loyal to me. I know that if they needed help, or there was a mass casualty or there was a natural disaster- He would WANT and feel compelled to be there.
This is a problem on my end, but a problem none the less because I will be angry or frustrated at him for being a loyal and dedicated worker to his people.
It’s one of those situations where you would check to see why you’re really angry or upset. Is it because he was gone for three hours to help out OR is it because you don’t feel like a priority anymore?
Dealing with PTSD and mental health
Let’s chat about PTSD really quick.
They estimate that the majority of firefighters will have PTSD at least once in their career– so it can be safe to assume that if you are in a long term relationship with a firefighter, at least one event will have some repercussions.
Then we consider that over half of Americans deal with depression or anxiety.
Those stats just made it really hard for a couple to have a “normal” life together.
Why? Because many people still view mental illness or PTSD as a weakness, and not something to get help for. When in reality there are many many things that can help, both big and small, for mental health.
If you are both feeling good, it is so much easier to have a relationship- but when things are hard mentally, or one of you is struggling with a battle in your head, it makes things so much harder!
can i get an AMEN!?🙌🙌
And with the risk factors of suicide for first responders, PTSD, anxiety and depression aren’t a lite topic to discuss.
Get honest with your partner about any hang ups you may have. If you can’t trust them, then who can you trust?
I wish I had a magic wand for PTSD and anxiety (though this little drops are like gold in our house) but the journey through it is NOT simple.
Spend more time away than together
Every relationship has “gaps” of time where the other partner is gone. As a firefighter, or a firefighter partner, you can guarantee that their will be gaps with a traditional work schedule.
But the special stuff tends to come up too. Forest Fires and other natural disasters can call Firefighters away from home for weeks or months at a time. Special events or schooling, conferences, classes for degrees or promotions can all lead to an excessive amount of time away from each other.
I know that when my husband was in medic school, and gone 6 days out of the week for most of the year and several months he only had two off days, about broke me. And if I was broken there would be no relationship.
Even just a traditional relationship, where both partners work, doesn’t allow for lots of time together. Though you can try to spice things up with some helpful text suggestions to send your Firefighter while they’re on shift.
Think about the wife working Monday thru Friday and then the firefighter working 24/48. That leaves MAYBE one full day a week and then some nights to catch up.
That’s simply not enough time to even invest in the relationship, and it is a pitfall you need to watch for so that you don’t grow apart.
Not having enough money
This isn’t meant to feel cliche- it’s the truth.
Consider two scenarios:
The typical rookie firefighter who isn’t making enough to support his family. (feelings of inadequacy, feeling like a failure, having to get a second or third job)
The volunteer firefighter who feels guilty about volunteering when he should have a second job to support his family. He knows the value of volunteering, but he also feels bad his main job doesn’t make enough (or his volunteering gets in the way of a bigger paycheck because he always leaves to take calls).
Those scenarios are not made up- they’re lived by firefighters all over. And not having enough money will always have an impact on a relationship due to stress, trust, health issues etc. When 80% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, it can be stressful just to take a day off- even if it’s for being sick!
Consider what you can do to get honest about your money problems, get a budget and work on a plan to get to a better place financially.
Did any of these problems stand out to you in your relationship?
These are all common issues that have been highlighted to me through my personal life, as well as talking to other couples that are in the Firefighter Circle.
Comment below if you have any thoughts, or better yet, helpful advice, for others in this fun and sometimes ridiculous Fire Life!