I think I’m gonna become a marriage counselor. What with the national average hovering somewhere around 50% and the firefighter rate something like 97%, I’m in what some may consider a “target-rich” environment. Plus, despite being untrained, unlicensed and prone to making up statistics like percentages, I’ve been married more than once and have thus been upgraded from “amateur” to “semi-pro”.
The fire service is prone to an exceedingly high divorce rate and I think this has to do with several factors. When you spend 1/3 of your life away from your family and surrounded by some of the most audacious mo-fos around, it’s hard not to be affected, and harder still to separate life in the firehouse from life at home. As I’ve watched several marriages fall apart around me in the department, I began thinking what any good co-worker might: “I need to compile a list and thus find humor in the misery. It’s the brotherly thing to do.” Here are a couple of things I’ve picked up –
Uli’s Surefire Marriage Salvation Techniques For Firefighters
- Spouses should not be called by the same name you address your brothers and sisters in the firehouse. Rare is it the marriage partner who finds the term “you one-dog, one-bone motherfu**er” endearing.
- Your better half is not going to get through life’s trials any easier when you adopt the attitude that all could be solved “with a thicker skin”. It never works in your favor when you tell them to “tough it out”, “get over themselves” or “grow a pair, for chrissakes.”
- Never, ever, and I mean EVER, take the advice of your crew-mates without a healthy dose of skepticism. There’s a good chance they’re rooting for your relationship to fail if for no other reason than to have something new to gossip about.
- If you don’t want her/him to know about it, don’t tell a firefighter. Especially me.
- By the same token, you can’t claim to your spouse that you don’t need professional counseling “because the boys at the station said……” . She will never accept this form of unlicensed therapy as legitimate.
- Whatever situation you find yourself in within the parameters of marital issues, never try and relate them to any aspect of the fire service. Just because you’re scared shitless of losing her, don’t tell her it feels just like you’re being abandoned by your back-up man (or woman) while you’re on the nozzle. She can’t relate, and nor should she. This only works if your married to a firefighter and that’s another discussion for another day.
- Drop the nonsense. Strangers on the street may be enthralled by the trucks and lights and sirens and too many viewings of firefighting-stripper calendars, but this is the person who has seen your hairy back, who’s willing to exaggerate your virtues to others and may well have bore your children. They deserve respect, not bullshit bravado. Save that stuff for the station kitchen where, while no one believes you, they’re willing to tolerate it, if for no other reason than they are assigned to that house and thereby stuck with you.
- It’s hard to instill in your kids table manners if you allow yourself to fart at the table at home. This is an awesome defensive technique when being ganged-up upon at the dinner table at the station, but is a little harder to justify off-duty. And don’t even try to explain it. It just is what it is.
- The realm of marriage is rarely subject to the laws of seniority. You can’t welch out of house chores in your own home by throwing out an “I’m promoted dammit! I got twenty years in this thing and I ain’t washing the dishes.” While you can earn the title “Grouchy Old Salt” in the firehouse and command a modicum of grudging respect, it just makes your spouse hate you that much more. Thin ice, my friends.
- Finally, we need to remember that while the crew is forced to spend time with us, our spouse has chosen to of his/her own free will (unless you’ve entered into it like I did, using deceit, trickery and blackmail; it’s no big deal). This is not to be taken lightly and I’ve found the best remedy is to leave the firehouse and it’s culture right where it stands. When shift is over, it’s time to be grown up for 48 hours. That gives you plenty of time to drum up more heinous immaturity for the next shift.