First Responder Relationships and Intimacy
Who are you gonna call? Not Ghostbusters… The first to respond are police, firefighters, dispatchers and emergency medical service providers when people need help. These first responders deal with crises and emergencies on a daily basis. Typically, they are not being called on someone’s best day, they are called on someone’s worst day. This can cause a lot of worry and stress not only for them, but for their loved ones as well.
Impact of the job on First Responders
Oftentimes as therapists, we see the negative impacts of the nature of the job for first responders and their families. Unique challenges therapists see are chronic stress, erratic/deprived sleep, caffeine overuse, chronic or complex PTSD, binge eating/drinking, social anxiety, sex, porn, or gambling addiction, depression, chronic pain and suicidal ideation. These negative impacts of the job can bring challenges into relationships, such as: outbursts of anger, unhealthy sleep and/or eating patterns, withdrawal from relationships, and feelings of no one understanding what they go through. These common issues can cause ineffective communication in a relationship, abuse, and divorce.
First Responder Relationship Challenges
The traits most admired and loved about a first responder (protector, helper, fixer, high energy and passion) can also be the traits that can bring challenges to a relationship with a first responder.
Oftentimes families or loved ones can feel that the “job comes first.” This can stem from the demands of the job, for example, scheduling and missing holidays or big events can bring up feelings of resentment or anger. This can also stem from lack of time spent with each other due to scheduling conflicts.
More Relationship Challenges
Many first responders tend to “stick with their own” meaning they turn to their coworkers when dealing with difficulty instead of turning to their family or significant other. This can lead to their loved ones feeling “left out” or alone and eventually to a lack of intimacy with their partner. Similarly, first responders learn quickly that compartmentalization of emotions is very helpful in their job. This learned behavior can happen with loved ones, which can distance them emotionally from the ones they love.
By nature, first responders are problem solvers. Constantly being a problem solver can lead to an increase in stress during off duty time and within their relationship. The best way to support a relationship is to express when you want empathy or listen to what is being expressed. This helps each person in the relationship to feel heard and understood, not just solving a problem and giving feedback.
What can a spouse or partner do to support their first responder loved one?
The best thing a spouse or partner can do is let them know you are there to listen to them. Not solve their problem, you are there to listen and gain an understanding of their experience.This provides a support space for them. Be gentle with questioning and attempt to convey interest and support of your first responder’s thoughts and reactions.
As a loved one, details are not necessary, supporting them in their emotions is priceless. Creating a plan with your loved one to cope ahead for any challenges that may occur can be helpful. This can be a discussion around consistent self-care, how a loved one can point out noticeable differences in behavior that will be well received, time spent together outside of work and explore types of support that can be called upon for both first responder and loved ones.
How to best support yourself as the loved one of a first responder
As a loved one of a first responder it is important to have your own support system. This can be in the form of family, friends, spirituality and/or a therapist. Experience and time changes us over the years. As partners or family members, it is important to stay curious, ask questions, and continue discussions with your loved ones. Recognize changes within your own emotions and thoughts. Look for patterns that change due to stress, anxiety, or depression. Make time with your partner for the two of you to reconnect and maintain intimacy. Enjoy healthy leisure activities as staying engaged in activity and with others is an important piece of mental wellbeing.
How can Emma Schmidt and Associates help?
Being a first responder is an important and rewarding job that many are grateful for and families are proud of. At Emma Schmidt and Associates, we want to help cultivate healthy relationships that can lead to deeper levels of fulfillment, satisfaction, and personal wellbeing.
If you would like more support relating to first responder relationships, first responder mental health, or any other first responder related topics, the therapists at Emma Schmidt and Associates would be happy to help. Please reach out with your questions and concerns. Let us know how we can support you!
1. Contact Emma Schmidt and Associates to request a free Counseling consultation.
2. Meet with a skilled therapist for Counseling through our HIPAA compliant platform.
3. Begin online Counseling and begin your journey towards mental wellness, health, and happiness.
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The therapists at Emma Schmidt and Associates are skilled relationship and sex therapists. However, that’s not the only mental health service they offer. Our therapists treat general mental health and relationship concerns. We offer anxiety treatment, depression treatment, trauma and PTSD treatment, EMDR, and relationship and couples therapy. In addition to offering online therapy in Ohio, we also offer online therapy in Kentucky, and online therapy in Indiana. Contact our office to learn more about the many ways our team of skilled clinicians can help you thrive.