Firefighters and Romantic Relationships
There’s no denying that every single firefighter working to save lives is a hero. They put their safety on the line each time they bravely enter burning buildings. It’s one of the most stressful jobs out there. So, it’s no surprise that the demands of being a firefighter can take a toll on personal lives, particularly romantic relationships.
According to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, firefighters are at a higher risk of experiencing work-family conflict compared to other professions and a study by the Journal of Traumatic Stress showed firefighters have a higher rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to the general population.
Three Common Issues
Firefighters often work long and unpredictable hours, and then, when they do have free time to spend with their loved ones, the stress and trauma of the job can make it hard for them to put their work aside so they can relax and connect with their partners. This can make their partners feel like their loved one isn’t truly present.
This doesn’t mean that firefighter’s relationships are doomed. With commitment and time, they can develop intimate, connected relationships that can help combat a lot of the stress and pressure their jobs bring.
There are three common issues first responders and their partners can focus on to help strengthen their relationships:
Communication is vital in every relationship but especially so for firefighters. Honest communication only happens when both parties feel like they’re in a safe space. It’s helpful for both parties to understand their communication styles to avoid common communication pitfalls. Understanding your communication style can also help ensure you’re communicating effectively. When couples communicate effectively, especially those in relationships where one or both are firefighters, they close the emotional distance that’s often experienced as a result of working in a high-stress job where witnessing or experiencing traumatic events is unavoidable.
Boundary setting, such as designating a time for work and time for family, can help both partners feel more grounded. Finding ways to incorporate work into home life, such as discussing each other’s’ experiences or supporting one another in your respective careers, can strengthen the relationship.
Support in various forms is crucial for firefighters’ mental health. Because firefighters may experience a wide range of traumatic events on the job, such as witnessing death, injury, and destruction, they need to remain open to seeking professional support for their mental health. On-the-job trauma can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and a sense of not being able to “turn off” the trauma and therapy can be extremely helpful. This can include cognitive behavioral therapy, one-on-one counseling, or support groups specifically for firefighters.
Having a partner who’s supportive of their emotional needs can help alleviate some of the stress and emotional toll of the profession. Again, this won’t be possible unless both parties are communicating effectively and honestly. Partners can take steps to educate themselves about PTSD and trauma so they can understand PTSD signs and symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, and avoidance and gain skills to help both themselves and their partner cope.
Seeking Guidance and Support
These aren’t the only issues faced by firefighters in their romantic relationships, and every relationship is unique. But, if you’re experiencing any of these issues, seeking guidance and support can help you build stronger, healthier relationships.
At This LoveWorks, we can help you and your partner gain the skills and education to navigate the choppy waters and learn how to nurture, soothe, and help each other. We can help you heal your relationship and build the deeper connection that you are looking for.