First-responders don’t wear capes and they can’t fly—but they’re the real superheroes of our communities. They rush in when everyone’s rushing out and they’re the calming voice you need when you feel like your world is spiraling out of control. If you find yourself in a relationship with a first-responder, it’s probably proven to be a challenge. After all, they don’t have a typical 9 to 5 job, and they don’t always have the weekends or holidays off like everyone else. Not to mention, their work can be incredibly dangerous. If you’re in this boat, here’s some tips on how to survive dating a first-responder.
Understand What Their “Bad” Days Are all About
Assuming that you’re not in the same line of work as your boyfriend or girlfriend, understanding what they go through every day can be a little difficult. Some days are harder than others in their profession. Some are slow and easy, while others are non-stop and filled with horrific details. This can take a toll on even the strongest person. The hard days are when you need to take a step back and think about what they need as your significant other, not a first-responder. Yes, sometimes it’s hard to not be disappointed when they turn down a party invitiation or ask to reschedule a date night. Understand that your hard day is different from their hard day, and some days they need to just relax or blow off some steam. Don’t be afraid to ask if they would like to talk about it, but respect them if they need time to process before they open up.
Give Them—and Yourself—Support
Always let your first-responder know you support them and their career. Be there for them when they need to talk about the great day they had, or just sit in silence to debrief. You are now part of the team that he/she surrounds themselves with to make that transition from being always alert to being able to relax a little easier.
Also, remember that not only do they deserve support but you deserve support, too. This lifestyle is not easy, especially if your relationship turns serious. The hard truth is, it can get lonely and that’s why you shouldn’t be afraid to make friends with other first-responder significant others who know what it’s like. Support is never a bad thing, and you can never have enough. When you have a friend who understands why you’re frustrated, why you worry, and even why you are super excited about a day off, it can really help the loneliness disappear. Be open to joining groups, both in-person and online, and read books that can offer support. They can show you that your worries and stressors are not that out of the ordinary and ease some of those thoughts.
Patience is also a big help with this career. Sure, they’re supposed to get off work at 8 pm and you may have prepared dinner that’s ready for them once they get home—but it’s a rare occurrence that they will leave work when they’re supposed to. They’ll often get caught up at the station or on a late call. Establish early on in your relationship how to handle them being home from work late so you’re not worried or blindsided when they don’t show up on time. This coule be sending a text when they get a chance or even just using one emoji that you both have designated as the “I’m okay and will be home soon” message.
Also, be open to plans changing. A lot. A picnic you’ve planned for the first Saturday they’ve had off in a long time doesn’t mean anything to the giant event in town. Working overtime is part of the profession, so always have a backup plan. Since they don’t work typical hours, don’t be afraid to sometimes say no to plans with friends or family. When schedules finally allow for you two to spend time together, don’t feel pressured to fit everyone and everything in. Make time for your relationship, even if it’s only for a couple of hours. As a result of them not having a normal schedule, don’t feel like you need to wait for them to do things yourself. Find a hobby or spend time with friends and family. (Having friends with significant others on the same shift can also help since they will also be alone during the same time.)
This relationship of yours is different than others because you share your loved one with the public. It takes a special person to be in this line of work, and it takes a special person to love them. It can be hard, but it can also be amazing. You’re with someone who has a rewarding job that the community looks up to. Talk with your significant other. Be open with them about what you like in your relationship and what you want to work on. Communication, honesty, and planning and can make this relationship easier and flourish in the end.