High Stress Marriage
About the Guest
Victoria NewmanVictoria M. Newman is Founder and CEO of How2LoveYourCop, an organization that encourages and equips law enforcement families to thrive relationally, emotionally, and spiritually. She is author of three books, including A CHiP on my Shoulder and A Marriage in Progress, both books on law enforcement relationships. She speaks all over the country to law enforcement families, mentors several spouses, and works with wounded law enforcement couples through marriage retreats in Monta...more
Victoria Newman talks about the stresses that can invade a first responder’s marriage, and opens up about the circumstances in her own marriage that had her considering divorce until God intervened.
High Stress Marriage
Bob: After more than a decade of being married to a highway patrolman, Victoria Newman was tired—tired of the lifestyle / tired of her marriage.
Victoria: He was a captain at that point. We’d been married for a long time; the kids were teenagers. He was at the Academy, where he was the commander of the Academy. And we were tired; we were very tired—things had gotten very rough. I saw him isolate, because he was under a lot of pressure. I started thinking about me.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, February 27th. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I'm Bob Lepine. In law enforcement, the divorce statistics are much higher than they are in the general population. How does somebody beat those odds?
We’ll talk about that today with our guest, Victoria Newman. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re talking about marriage—when things are high stress. I’m just thinking we should have Barbara in here and interview her about the high stress that she’s been under for decades now, married to you.
Dennis: No; it’s no big deal. [Laughter]
Bob: Oh; it’s easy? [Laughter]
Dennis: I chill out. I chill out!—[Laughter]—hit the pause button.
Bob: Let’s book a session with Barbara, and let’s find out if that’s true; okay? [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes; on weekends. [Laughter]
Well, Victoria Newman joins us. “How to live with a high-stress cop”; right?—no; that’s not it.
Victoria: Yes; basically; yes. [Laughter]
Dennis: That’s not it.
Bob: Actually, your website—what’s the organization you started?
Victoria: How to Love Your Cop.
Bob: How to Love Your Cop. Folks, we have a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com if folks want to go to your website and see the work you’re doing, because your heart/your desire is to really help the spouses of law enforcement people and the law enforcement officers themselves—
Dennis: —and their families.
Bob: —know how to do marriage and family in a healthy way.
Victoria: Yes; absolutely.
Dennis: Well, you’ve written a book called A CHiP on My Shoulder. Your husband is a California highway patrol.
Bob: That’s the CHiP reference; right?
Dennis: That’s the CHiP reference in case our audience missed it, because I read the title of the book the first time and I didn’t get it the first time.
Dennis: I’m going, “They failed to capitalize the ‘i.’” [Laughter] How to Love and Support Your Cop.
Your marriage started with a real eye-opener. First year, you thought it was going to be a piece of cake to be a cop’s wife; but he started bringing home his junk. In fact, he would undoubtedly come home in some interesting moods.
Dennis: Describe some of those moods.
Victoria: Well, he was exhausted, for one; because he’s working nights/swing shifts—different shifts.
That in itself—when he’s working all night and he’s coming home in the morning—that’s rough. You never quite get enough sleep that way, so he’s exhausted. And then, I think he was sad about the things that he was seeing; you know? There’s a lot of evil going on out there—a lot of things that people do to each other. That’s hard—that’s hard to see, especially when you love the Lord and you live your life as someone who is a believer.
Bob: You were living in L.A. He was a police officer when, in the early ’90s, riots broke out in Watts, and Compton, and South Central, and that whole area of L.A. You’re kissing your husband goodbye to go off to work, and that’s where he’s going. You’re watching on the TV what’s happening, and your husband’s putting on his belt and his cap to go be in the middle of that; right?
Victoria: Yes, yes; that was a significant time. We saw what was going on—on TV. We’d actually been out of town. We came back, and he was ready to go. He’s putting on—you know, getting his things together to leave—and I’m sitting on the bed, just shaking.
Dennis: Bullet-proof vests back then?
Victoria: Oh, absolutely; yes. But the bullet-proof vests only—you know, that’s—
Bob: —only does so much.
Victoria: It only does so much.
Victoria: At that time—I don’t know if it’s still the same or not—but a rifle blast—it doesn’t help, or it didn’t back then; I don’t know if that’s changed. But we had a conversation, and he put my mind at ease. He said: “Look, if anything happens, I have faith in Jesus. You know, if I get taken out somehow, I know where I’m going.
“You know, we just need to just trust God here.”
Dennis: Did you have a calling from God that you felt like, “This is what we’re supposed to do”?
Victoria: Yes; because we had prayed about this. We were all in.
Victoria: And even though it wasn’t exactly what we had bargained for—and I was reeling from that for a while—and then we found some sense of just coming alongside each other and working it out. No; it never even occurred to me that, “This isn’t what he’s supposed to do.”
In fact, that five-year thing, where we’re in this to get our hearts broken, and then we’re going to go into ministry, I think it was about seven years in—we had this conversation in a drive-through. We were going through a drive-through—like Wendy’s® or something like that—and he says, “You know, God’s really blessing this career.” I said, “Yes; He is.”
And he said: “You know, we’ve talked about we would only do this for so long. What do you think?” I said, “Yes.” I said, “I truly believe that you’re where you’re supposed to be, and I’m with you.”
I had my faith. I think that grew through that—you know, just trusting in God: “If he shouldn’t come home, then He would take care of me.”
Dennis: Let me assure you, based on Scripture—Hebrews, Chapter 11—you did grow; okay?—because it says: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” If you’re walking by faith, He’s going to reward you. Your faith muscle’s going to grow—you’re going to grow—you’re going to have a better perspective of life.
You were starting to have kids, at that point—being a mom. That added another dimension to this whole story too.
Victoria: Yes, yes; it did. At some point, we moved from L.A. We moved up to Northern California—to the Sacramento area. At that point, we had little ones—a two-year-old and a six-month-old when we moved up there. I got involved in a Bible study at church and started really growing. It was a Bible study—it was Precepts Bible studies. It just gave me a foundation for my faith; and seriously, that is where the rubber met the road. It was—it was being grounded in Scripture for, really, the first time. I mean, I had heard Scripture; but I had never really studied it for myself.
At that point—with a six-month-old little boy and two-year-old little girl—that was where things really started to grow in my walk with Jesus; and I think in our marriage as well. You know, that changed things for me.
Bob: You know, you talk about that; and we’ve already talked about the fact that 75 to 90 percent of marriages in law enforcement don’t make it. I’m thinking of law enforcement officers, who don’t have any faith foundation in their lives—they’re relying on their own resources / their own strength to try to make it through. They’re on the edge of society every day / they’re going near evil every day, and they start to get comfortable in some of those spots; so even in their down time, they’re drinking a lot—maybe to medicate what’s going on—or the other guys say: “Hey, why don’t we—there’s this club down the road. Why don’t we go there after—you know, we’ll go there with our badges off. We can go do what we want.”
You can see where guys, who are on the front lines, day in and day out, can pretty easily get pulled in a direction that is going to be a harmful direction that’s going to threaten their marriage and their family situations.
Victoria: Well, and add to that—I would say—probably in the last five years / maybe seven years—there has been significant strides made in emotional care for law enforcement officers. Before that, not so much.
Bob: Yes, yes.
Victoria: In 1988, that was unheard of, not to mention the needs of the family. So, when my book came out, and I had other gals that had been on the same amount of time as me, they’re going, “Where was your book 20 years ago?!” I said, “It was being written back then.”
Bob: Yes; “It was being lived back then.”
Victoria: “It was being lived back then.”
Because they’re saying: “You wrote my story! This is us. We were struggling too. We didn’t know—we didn’t have anybody to talk to. We thought we were the only ones!” I said, “Yes; I thought the same thing!”
Bob: Seven years in / eight years into your marriage—you guys wound up at one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. Did you come to the getaway because you were starting to see cracks in the foundation—you said, “We better go get some help,” or did you come just because you said, “We better do the right preventive maintenance on our marriage so that we can face what may be ahead for us”?
Victoria: Yes; being a part of the church—even though it was difficult for him to go, being on shift work and what not—we understood that we needed regular input into our marriage. We got that through the church—our church had told us about the Weekend to Remember. We took the time, and we had friends who watched our kids; and it was wonderful.
Bob: I’m just thinking: “What would it be like if a church went to their local police precinct and said: ‘You know what? If any of your officers want to go, we have people in our church who will babysit their kids for the weekend. We’ll scholarship people to go.’” I mean, I just start to think, “That could be revolutionary—for a church to adopt a precinct and say, ‘Let’s help with the marital health of our officers in our community.’”
Victoria: I would love to see that happen, but I will be honest with you; because law enforcement officers isolate, and they don’t trust—
Bob: —they’re not going to go.
Victoria: Most of them won’t.
Victoria: Even with the things that I do, it’s hard to get people there. It’s the trust factor. They’re not going to leave their kids with people they don’t know.
Dennis: And I just want to comment on this, because we have had churches and business leaders that have made this offer available to police officers and their spouses.
The race here is to the tortoise—you just have to keep on asking / keep on going. We’re not going to ask them to do anything in public; we’re not going to recognize them in any way—it’s a chance for a couple to get real with one another.
That’s what you talk about in your book—the great need is for husbands and wives to let each other into the interior of their lives.
Victoria: Yes; I can’t agree more. It is a building of trust. It’s slow—but the churches, and chaplaincies, and what not—it takes a while, but they will trust if you’re trustworthy.
Bob: And that foundation that you had at a Weekend to Remember did help you several years later, when your marriage hit a crisis point. You wound up in a very dark place, thinking, “This might not make it,” yourself; right?
Because we were in a regular church and small groups, divorce had never entered my mind—never entertained that. We talked about: “That [divorce] would never be brought up,” / “That was never an option.”
Dennis: So you never uttered the words, threatening them, with Brent?
Dennis: Had he with you?
Victoria: No; no. That was a place where we would not go. But, I will say that as—he was a captain at that point. This was, oh, I want to say probably seven years ago—where we’d been married for a long time; the kids were teenagers, and different things; and then he was at the Academy, where he was the commander of the Academy.
That was a wonderful job, but it was also one that was demanding.
He was given just unbelievable demands. We were losing a lot of people—fallen officers, at the same time. We were tired—we were very tired. I saw him change again. You know, over the years, he had recalibrated; and his faith had sustained him; but at that point, things had gotten very rough. I saw him isolate. I saw him—for the first time, actually—where he would retreat to himself, and he was grumpy. I want to be respectful, because he was under a lot of pressure.
I started thinking about me—you know, he would be unkind at some points; and I don’t like that. I started thinking, “You know, I don’t deserve this!” It was a progression of where—you know, it was all about me and how he was treating me.
What I failed to see is that he was going through some really difficult things—spiritually/professionally—and he was trying to keep up with them.
We had gone on vacation down into the San Diego area. We were staying at a beach; and we had gone to the zoo, and all kinds of things, and we were not in a good spot. I was considering leaving, for the first time ever. It was seriously about: “I just don’t want this anymore. I am tired of this. I don’t like who he is anymore, and I want out.”
Then we got into an argument about chips at the zoo, and I was done. Again, I didn’t understand where he was; but I had gotten to the point in my mind where: “I’m done. We’ve been here, done that, and I’m done.”
So, we had kind of a testy dinner; and then I went out for a walk on the beach that night and had come across this beautiful sand castle. The tide was coming in and was lapping up against this sand castle. As I’m watching it—I sat down and just was watching it—and I realized that it was washing it away. The Scriptures—from Matthew—building your house on the sand and building your house on the rock.
As I’m watching this sand castle slowly wash away, I heard God say to me: “Are you going to do this to your husband? Are you going to do this to your family? Are you really going to leave?” I said, “No; but God, I just—I need things to change.”
And He didn’t say, “Well, they’re going to change.” He said: “Are you really wanting to do this? Do you really want to leave?” As I watched that sand castle completely wash away, and all that were left were the rocks around it, I realized: “I can’t do this. I don’t want to lose what we have.”
God was there / He was very present—He almost turned my head towards these condos that were built on these huge rocks. I looked over at these rocks and these condos that were just, you know, majestic; and He said, “This is not going to be you [sand castle], because you have not built your house upon the sand.
“You have built your house on rocks—on Me.” As the waves—I watched the waves go up against those big old rocks and go back, it was steady / it was sound; and I was encouraged. The Lord was there; and He said, “You’ve built your house on Me. Go back.” I said, “Okay; but I need Your help.”
Things didn’t change for, at least, a week. I had to keep reminding myself: “Okay; I’m not going. I need to retrain my mind away from the leaving and the d-word.” And then I realized, two weeks later, that he was undergoing—he was fighting off some depression and some things that he was dealing with; and he actually needed me more than ever.
At that point, I was in—I was all in again.
You know, that’s been—yes; I’d say probably seven or eight years ago. I look at our life since—and I look at all the wonderful times that we’ve had and what we’ve shared—and I almost missed it! [Emotion in voice.] I almost missed it; but God was there, and He was so gracious. I put that in my book, and I’ve told that story before to other people / other couples who are there on the beach. It has greatly encouraged them to say: “Yes; I was there on the beach too,” or “I’m on the beach now, and I’m willing to go back.”
Dennis: I want to pray for those who are on the beach right now.
Father, You have unique ways of getting our attention. You meet people in their helplessness, and You bring them hope in a sand castle—and the image of seeing what’s been built over a decade / two, three, or more—vanish because of a decision to dissolve it. Would You help listeners right now?—maybe just one—see it for what it is and turn to the One, who is the rock, Jesus Christ, and turn back to Him, as Vicki has so beautifully illustrated here. And would You give them hope through this story?—because You are a God of great redemption. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Bob: Victoria, you mentioned the stories in your book; and again, we have copies of the book, A CHiP on My Shoulder: How to Love Your Cop with Attitude. Again, I’m thinking about people who know people in law enforcement—get a copy of this book and give it as a gift to somebody you know who is married to a highway patrol officer, or a police officer, or whatever the sphere of law enforcement they’re in; because marriage is hard. It’s a harder environment to maintain intimacy, just because of the level of stress that an officer faces that most of us don’t face on a daily basis.
I’m also thinking, Dennis, about scholarshipping a friend / a couple to go to a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. It’s a great way to invest in their lives and to open up spiritual conversations as well. Find out more about Victoria’s book, A CHiP on My Shoulder, and about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
We also have a link to Victoria’s website if you need more information about resources available. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
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Now, tomorrow, we want to continue talking about the stresses that families in law enforcement are facing and how God provides grace, and strength, and support for those families. I hope you can be with us for that conversation.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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