As a former EMT and a now a Mental Health Provider, I found being the significant other of a firefighter a challenge akin to climbing Everest, a feat requiring a truckload of adjustments. It must be even harder for others, both men and women, spouses and parents and children as well. As someone who talks to firefighters all the time, more than I talk to anyone else, I know they reveal things to me they don’t share with the people who love them and I know how they feel and think. I also know how much they don’t tell their life partners and how unaware they often are as to how those partners might be feeling. There are almost 30,000 fire departments in the United States with more than 1,160,450 career and volunteer firefighters. That makes for a lot of significant others. I don’t think anyone else can address those significant others–others like you—from my perspective as a spouse and a counselor, on a professional as well as a brutally honest personal level.
I’m thankful my marriage survived the fire family lifestyle. Many relationships don’t. I had to learn by trial and error. Why should you? I want significant others to know that what you’re going through, we all go through. We’re all having the same fights about the same things. And with the right outlook and skills, your relationship, like mine, can survive this crazy life.
If this sounds serious and painful, I assure you that I’m bringing you a very mixed bag and not a sack of woe. I hope you’ll have some belly laughs, a few gasps of surprise, a tear or two when you think of your own memories or empathize with others’ stories, and plenty of tales that will make you think.