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Challenges of the Firefighter’s Significant Other

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A firefighter is a hero to many people. Most people who have been involved in a fire accident tell stories about an able firefighter who helped save their lives and their property. However, most people forget that after the firefighter removes his uniform, he goes back to his normal life, which may include being a spouse/partner and a father.

Unfortunately, firefighting is a demanding job that needs one to be working almost all the time. As a result, people who need the firefighter away from his working station, such as his significant other, suffer the consequences of having a rarely available partner.

For this reason, the responsibilities of a someone in a relationship with a firefighter may differ from those involved with people working in other professions. Due to the strain brought on by the work and demanding schedule, many marriages end in divorce. However, a partner who understands the nature of the firefighter’s job can help them become a better First Responder without jeopardizing their relationship. Here are some of the common challenges that firefighters’ significant other may face.


Long Working Hours

When one is a firefighter, they spend most of the time working. Even though they are not constantly saving somebody from a burning building, the job is demanding and time-consuming. Very long shifts of 24 or even 48 hours are par for the course. Additionally, a firefighter’s partner spends about ten nights a month alone while their loved one is at work.

This long working hours deny you the time that you would love to spend with your significant other, enjoying your relationship or marriage. When their shift is complete and they are finally free to come home, they may be too tired from the long working hours to spend much quality time with you.


Firefighters Have a Second Family

One characteristic of firefighters is that they are always close to each other. They consider their fellow firefighter family, and they are always there for each other. Sure, this is a good thing—someone supporting your partner is indirectly supporting you. However, this can become a problem in the long run because it may seem they are choosing that family over you and yours.

This can grow to mean that your partner chooses to spend time with colleagues when free from work instead of being home with you. Additionally, they may occasionally invite their ‘second family’ over to the house. This may eventually feel like they are crowding your space and taking up more time that could have been spent on your own family.


Stressful Calls

Almost all firefighters’ partners hope phones will be kept off when they are home and off duty. This concern stems from the fact that a firefighter rarely goes several hours without receiving a call from work. What hurts most is that, more often than not, these calls carry bad news. In addition to ruining your special moments after receiving the call, it may cause more stress depending on the content of the call. It could mean having to rescue someone from a fire.

Additionally, knowing your loved one is leaving your home to go into a burning building or to the scene of an accident is no easy pill to swallow, regardless of how experienced they are. This can create a lot of tension in the relationship and household.


Sleepless Nights

Those stressful calls and simply being the partner of a firefighter can also cost you a good night’s sleep. When your loved one is not at home, it is hard for you to comfortably sleep when you are not sure of whether they are okay or not. This is especially true when he is out saving somebody from a burning building.

Other challenges that you may face as a firefighter’s significant other may also affect your sleep quality. This eventually affects your productivity in other areas and puts your health at risk due to the lack of sleep.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Most people picture a firefighter as a courageous person who always saves lives and property from fire. Unfortunately, the firefighter’s significant other is the one who deals with the aftermath and effects of the accident on their partner. Although firefighters are trained to go in and come out of a burning building without getting burned, there is no training given on how to deal with their emotions. Like soldiers in a war, your partner may come across a traumatizing situation when on duty.

They probably saw or underwent something that seriously affected their emotions. As a result, they can develop post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. It is difficult to live with somebody suffering from PTSD, especially if they are unwilling to seek help. Symptoms of PTSD, such as anxiety, flashbacks, and depression, are stressful to witness. Someone with PTSD may also become destructive, angry, and hostile.


Interjected Communication

Communication is paramount for any relationship to work, and even more so for a marriage. However, in a fire marriage, affording effective and uninterrupted communication is easier said than done. The firefighter partner has little time to spend away from work, meaning that there is limited communication time.

Additionally, when you finally have time, they may be too tired to communicate effectively, or are busy trying to catch up on some of the things he may have missed. This may include spending time with the kids or catching up on sleep. As a result, it is tricky to have serious and uninterrupted communication, even on some critical issues. This forces most firefighters’ partners to have the courage and make serious decisions in the family alone.


Missed Holidays

Firefighters’ holidays may differ from everybody else’s holidays. Although they will still have time for a break, it will not be at the time when you would expect them most. For instance, your partner may be working on Christmas Eve and Christmas.

Even if they have other days off after the Christmas season, they will not be as enjoyable as they would be on the day of the holiday. This forces families with children to celebrate such holidays without one.


Unpredictable Schedules

Sure, there is a specific time when your significant other is expected to leave the house for work and come back home. Unfortunately, in the firefighting job, few are the times when these schedules are observed. There are unexpected issues that may come up and force your partner to stay at work longer than they expected to.

For instance, if they were on their way out and there is an emergency call about a fire outbreak, they will be asked to assist. This frustrates many partners when their plans are cancelled, or they are informed them that their significant other will be late again. These unpredictable schedules make it hard to plan surprises or other special moments essential to keep the flame burning.


Emotional Distance

At work, your partner is constantly exposed to danger. This forces the body to produce adrenaline to help them rescue themselves and those in danger. The constant rise of adrenaline in the body has adverse effects on the brain. When the brain is affected, several body functions are affected, and the emotional part is one of them.

You may realize that your partner grows emotionally distant to a point where you feel that they do not love you anymore, and you eventually become strangers. Additionally, their busy schedule and the state they arrive home from work may interfere with your intimate moments.

Lack of intimacy affects many aspects of your relationship, which, when not addressed appropriately and on time, can put it on a downward trajectory. When your relationship is at this point, saving it is almost impossible unless you both commit to making some serious adjustments.


You Deal with the After-Effects of Their Job

Every job has its after-effects, which are not always positive. However, the negative after-effects of a firefighter’s job are extreme. For instance, if your partner lost someone in a fire, it can be extremely traumatic for them. In case of such recurring events, they may eventually end up depressed or highly disappointed in themselves.

When your significant other comes home in such a state, you will want to try to help them out of the depression they may fall into. Additionally, when your partner is in such a state, everything else in the house becomes highly affected. It is also tricky to do or talk about anything concerning your family when dealing with firefighting after-effects.


The Job Is Risky

Most of the jobs that people do to earn a living involve taking a risk. However, some jobs are risker than others, and firefighting is among the riskiest. For this reason, a firefighter’s partner always has a hard time as soon as their loved one goes to put off a burning fire somewhere.

It is impossible to do anything else until you hear from your partner that the fire is handled and they are safe. As a firefighter’s partner, you keep hoping that you will not receive the dreadful call someday that something happened to them when they were saving people from a burning building.


Various Health Risks

Firefighting may cause some serious health issues. For instance, as mentioned above, some episodes may cause PTSD. Additionally, firefighters are constantly injured when in the line of duty. There are also invisible injuries that could have life-threatening effects, including heart problems from a lot of inhaled smoke.

At the same time, a firefighter is also prone to other health problems, like constant coughing, cancer, asthma, and lung damage.


You Are Not Alone

Being a firefighter’s partner is very challenging. However, it is possible to make the best out of the situation. You can achieve this by joining others who are going through the same challenges you are.

You exchange information on how you handle various problems and issues that you face. Additionally, you can get information from blogs and learn how others have managed to keep their relationships happy with a firefighter significant other.

You can also consider talking to a therapist if you feel that the challenges are overwhelming you.

If you feel your loved one who works as a firefighter may need some professional help, Granite Recovery Centers offers the Uniformed Professionals Treatment Program, or UPTP, for active and retired uniformed professionals struggling with substance use disorders, depression, anxiety and other issues. Please give us a call today and we would be happy to walk you through the treatment options we offer. Please give us a call today at 855.712.7784.