Being His Safe Place
About the Guest
Victoria Newman, a policeman’s wife now for three decades, tells wives what they can do to encourage, love and support their first responder husband.
Being His Safe Place
Bob: People in law enforcement have times when they’re on duty and times when they’re off duty. But Victoria Newman says, if you’re married to someone in law enforcement, even when they’re off duty—they’re never really fully off duty.
Victoria: The big joke is—you know, when an officer and his wife goes into a restaurant, the cop will always sit with his back against the wall; so he can see all the exits. That is something that a girlfriend or a fiancée—that’s something that you’re going to have to learn—is that your back will always be against the exits.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, February 28th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Law enforcement officers go to work every day to protect and to serve their community. But what can we be doing to help protect, and serve, and care for the marriages and families of those in law enforcement? We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I don’t think most of us recognize that all around us every day are men and women who go to battle on our behalf—in our communities / in our cities to protect us and to keep crime at bay. We take for granted the work that police officers do in most of our communities.
Dennis: Yes. I was at Five Guys® hamburgers the other day with Barbara.
Bob: Yes; did you get the regular or did you get the single patty?
Dennis: I’m sorry; I got the double.
Bob: You got the double; yes. Why are you sorry? [Laughter]
Dennis: Well [Laughter] I’m paying the price; now, I have to scoot closer to the microphone. But anyway, I was there, and there was a police officer who was off duty. I thought: “You know, they’ve kind of gotten a tough—some tough words, here, recently in the news.
“I’m going to go over and just thank him.”
I walked over to the table and I said, “Officer, I don’t know what your responsibility is; but I just want to thank you for keeping me and my family safe. I appreciate you. I know you have people tell you that all the time, but I just wanted to tell you.” His response was a lot like the TSA agents. I’ve been on a campaign to tell TSA agents that I appreciate their work. They say they’ve been spit on / they’ve been cursed—they’ve been abused by the traveling public. You have to believe, Bob, that police officers, and their spouses, certainly undergo a good deal of abuse.
I’m glad we’re talking about this subject. We have the author of a book, A CHiP on My Shoulder—that stands for California Highway Patrol.
Bob: That’s the CHiP we’re talking about.
Dennis: That’s the CHiP we’re talking about. How 2 Love Your Cop—
—that is the name of the organization that Victoria Newman founded. Thank you for starting that ministry. Thank you for coming back and allowing Bob and me to pound you with questions. [Laughter]
Victoria: Thanks for having me. I’m so honored to be here.
Dennis: It’s really a privilege to have you and to hear of your ministry. She gives leadership to the organization that equips law enforcement officers, and families, and their spouses to thrive relationally, emotionally, and spiritually.
All this week, we’ve been listening to you share a great story of how God reached down and got your attention, at multiple points, as you became an officer’s wife and got more than you bargained for. I’ve been wanting to ask you this question, not knowing how you’re going to answer it. You don’t know this about me, but I have a favorite softball question.
Dennis: Our listeners, who are really faithful listeners—the really good ones—
Bob: —the really good listeners. [Laughter]
Dennis: —know what it is.
It’s this question: “What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done in all your life?” And courage is doing your duty—you should know a little bit about this—is doing your duty in the face of fear. I’ve now given you a chance to / I’ve now stalled, in other words, to give you a chance to process. [Laughter] What would you say is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done, Victoria? And the answer is not “I’ve never done anything courageous,”—that’s not the answer.
Victoria: There’s actually quite a few; because this role of mine, as the wife of a law enforcement officer, has brought out a lot of things that I didn’t really have the strength to do—I’m stalling now too. I think the most courageous thing is to be vulnerable for other people.
When I started out writing A CHiP on My Shoulder, we were losing a lot of our own officers in the California Highway Patrol on duty—we had several in just a short period of time; but at the same time, there was also—
Dennis: Wait. Are you talking about quitting, or are you talking about dying?
Victoria: Dying; yes.
Victoria: Accidents/shootings—there’s about 120 to 150 officers in America lose their lives on duty every year. It’s about the same amount of suicides.
We were experiencing several suicides at the same time that this was going on. It was brought to my attention because Brent—he had heard one more suicide had happened.
It upset me—I think we had lost 15 in 4 years, but it was increasing in frequency. Everybody kind of woke up and said, “You know, we’ve got an issue here.” This was probably back in 2006/2007. At that point, I realized, as I did my own research, that a lot of times—for the suicides that happen—the last thing is a significant relationship ends.
We had been married, you know, 20-some odd years; and I decided that what I needed to do was to write this book. I put myself on the page—I think that was pretty courageous. It was a calling—
—so I didn’t really think about it at the time. The story that I told the other day about the sand castle—that’s on the page. Our struggles and our realities went on the pages of this book. I love what I do, but it was hard. It was hard to write that book—it was hard on us / it was hard on me.
Bob: Transparency requires a level of courage, but there is blessing when you get honest; isn’t there?
Victoria: Yes; yes.
Bob: And you’ve experienced that since you wrote this book—blessing, not only seeing how it’s helping other people—but blessing in being able to confront, honestly, what’s going on in your own life; and knowing how to deal with it; and God helping you through it; right?
Victoria: Absolutely; I’ve grown immensely. The courageous parts of it—God’s been stretching me ever since. When I wrote this book, I didn’t realize how many of me were out there.
Then I decided, at that point, to be vulnerable as well. Because the one thing about the law enforcement community is—when I have been vulnerable about the struggles and the realities of this career and the relationships that surround this career, they respond in like kind. I become a safe place. So, when I meet people who have read my book, they feel like they know me and, all of a sudden, they’re going to tell me their stories.
Some of these stories have been heart wrenching. I never thought that I would be walking alongside women who are being abused. I never thought that I would walk alongside women who have had affairs—you know, through their husbands having an affair or they themselves have an affair. God has given me the grace, along the way, to be able to talk with these people.
You know, I’m not a counselor. I’m just a law enforcement wife, and we’ve found things in common. That, to me, is complete blessing—in the growth but also the results.
Dennis: We’re talking with Victoria Newman. She’s written a book called The CHiP on My Shoulder: How to Love and Support Your Cop.
Victoria, what’s the best and the worst of being the wife of a cop?
Victoria: Oh, the best is just being part of that culture. I love the uniforms and the guns and the—[Laughter]
Dennis: You’re a warrior!
Victoria: I love all this stuff! [Laughter] I love the smell of leather in the morning. [Laughter]
Dennis: Do you have a gun? Do you shoot your gun?
Victoria: I don’t!
Dennis: Really?! I’m stunned!
Victoria: I have shot my husband’s guns in controlled environments. I’m not built for that.
Dennis: So, have you seen Brent shoot? Tell me the truth. He’s been on the force now for 30 years. Is he a good shot?
Victoria: Absolutely; he is.
Dennis: So I wouldn’t want to be a bad guy around him.
Bob: So the best thing is being around the culture / being a part of the fraternity. It really is a fraternity of people who understand one another’s lives in a unique way.
Victoria: Yes; it is.
Bob: What’s the hardest part?
Victoria: You know, I’d say the hardest part is the emotional toll. They’re dealing with a lot of stuff. I saw it early / early on—and we’ve already talked about that—that emotional toll. There are officers that will go and they’re good; they’re good; they’re good; and then, all of a sudden, something will happen and they’re not good. Things pile up on top of each other, and there’s that emotional peace that is very difficult for officers.
Dennis: You know, when things aren’t good in the field—when they’re on the streets and they run into a bad situation, immediately, they call for a backup.
Dennis: I love what you’ve done in your book—talking about how a wife can be a backup, even when her husband isn’t calling for a backup. Would you mind sharing those four ways that a wife can be a backup for her man?
Victoria: Yes; now, the first thing is—safe place. For an officer—when he’s on duty, he is hyper vigilant. He’s not safe and that goes over into even when he doesn’t have the uniform on. He’s always hyper vigilant.
Dennis: Unpack that word more because I think there’s a lot more behind that than Bob and I, or our listeners maybe understand.
Bob: He’s looking around and assessing every situation he’s in; isn’t he?
Victoria: Yes; he is. And head on a swivel—that’s one of the lines that they say. You know, they’re always watching to make sure that those around him and himself are okay—that everything’s good.
The big joke is—when an officer and his wife goes into a restaurant, the cop will always sit with his back against the wall; so he can see all the exits. That is something that a girlfriend or a fiancée—that’s something that you’re going to have to learn—is that your back will always be against the exits.
It was the funniest thing the other day that I saw. An officer, who was a woman—she was on duty—and her husband / you could tell he was a cop too, but he was not on duty—they went to go sit down. They actually kind of looked at each other, like, “Oh wait, who’s going to sit where?”
Bob: “Who gets the right seat here?” Yes. [Laughter]
Victoria: And she won, because she was on duty.
Bob: When you talk about a wife being a safe place, you’re talking about her being an emotionally safe place for her husband?—a physically safe place? What do you mean?
Victoria: All of the above. Emotionally; yes—being able to listen.
Then also just having a home that is peaceful. That has been something that’s been very important to me—is to have our home be that safe place, where Brent can come home and just relax.
Dennis: Now, tell the truth. He’s come home and told you some pretty grizzly stories. Have you had to purposely hide your shock, at times, from him—
Dennis: —so it doesn’t run him off?
Victoria: You know, the only ones that I have to be careful about now—and this is part of being a safe place—is if someone does something to him. There were times where I get angry, and I’ll be outward about my anger.
Bob: If he’s treated unfairly / if he’s not—the momma bear comes out?
Victoria: Momma bear—momma grizzly. [Laughter]
Dennis: “I don’t want to see that look.”
Victoria: No; you don’t!
Dennis: “I don’t want to see that look.”
Victoria: No, you don’t. And that is not safe for him.
I learned that; because he came home, and he had told me about something. I got very angry, and it shut him down. We talked about it later—he goes: “I can’t deal with your emotions, because I’m dealing with my own. I know you feel this way; but if you could really kind of keep that to yourself, because I can’t deal with your anger and my anger at the same time.” I appreciate that—I’m an adult / I can change. That is something that I am willing to do, whether I need to vent it somewhere else or my journal—I do a lot of journaling—but that is part of that safe place.
The second one is a compass. I heard an officer talk about how his wife is a compass, because she knows him. She knows who he is—when he’s good / when he’s not so good. That compass—knowing when you’re off course.
We, at home, are very good at being able to tell when something is off course; and then, respond—whether it means “I need help,” or talking directly to him—it just depends on how open that officer is.
Bob: Wait; you have to be shrewd about how you recalibrate the off-course person; because sometimes you can say, “You know, you’re off course here,” and that’ll throw things even further off course. A wife or a husband, for that matter—when we’re dealing with one another, we’ve got to have wisdom. We’ve got to be prayed-up. We’ve got to know how we’re going to handle this; so that, as we try to gently correct the off-course party in a marriage, we do that with great care.
Dennis: Last Saturday I was sitting on the couch with my compass—
Bob: —with your compass?
Dennis: —Barbara [Laughter]
Bob: Oh, I got you. Okay; alright.
Dennis: —and my compass gently, graciously helped me understand.
Bob: —that maybe you were a little off course.
Dennis: I was just a little off—180 degrees maybe—off course. [Laughter] Anyway, she masterfully did what you just described. She did it in a way so I could hear. There is a way you can do that.
Victoria: Yes; that leads me to the third, which is the voice. We are a voice as backup. There are some cop wives who have to find their voice. I was one of those who—I grew up where conflict was a rough thing for me. I’ve had to find my voice, and I’ve found that. Then, there are those cop wives who have no problem voicing what they feel inside—no problem telling them how off course they are. That can get pretty loud and boisterous at times. I’ve seen cop wives do that, and they’re very good at that.
What I encourage wives to do is to find your voice and use it wisely—there is a way. It does require listening, and unselfishness, and maybe a little journaling or prayer before it. I mean, there are times where I couldn’t speak outwardly, because it would come out really bad; but I would certainly take a piece of paper and just journal, journal, journal, journal, journal. Then you get all that goop out of the way and then you can pinpoint, “Okay—okay; this is the issue,” and then be able to come back and say something that is constructive. I learned that on the fly in these years—finding that voice.
And then the last one is balance. For law enforcement officers—they’re spending eight to sixteen hours with mad, bad, and sad people.
Even the most wonderful people—cops will see them at their worst. That tends to jade an officer’s perspective on the human population. They’re being lied to: “People are awful.” A wife—if they’re not law enforcement—can let them know that not everybody is a dirt bag. There is that balance. They need us, and we need to know that there are dangers out there and be aware. I like that, as backup, we provide a different perspective that is needed.
Bob: Am I hearing you say that it is common for a police officer to begin to look around at everybody and think everybody is a bad guy?—
Bob: —just because that’s who their seeing every day. They’re driving up and down the neighborhood and thinking the worst about everybody just because of their experience.
Victoria: Yes; if they do not have other means of dealing with the general public, it definitely happens at some point—maybe not right away—but they see it all, and they hear it all; and that gets old. That kind of degrades down into, “Ugh; I don’t believe you.”
Dennis: Well, I want to tell you—I really appreciate your authenticity in sharing your story with us and our listeners. I’ve got a couple of assignments for our listeners. First of all, if you know a cop’s wife; okay?—and maybe she’s a cop; okay?—get a copy of this book and just give it to them. Just buy it and say: “You know what? I heard this wise woman on FamilyLife Today, and I would like you to have Victoria Newman’s book. I think it might be of some help,”—
—then—“If you’d like to talk about what you’re experiencing, as a cop’s wife, I am a safe place. You’ll understand more about that after you read the book.”
Dennis: And then the other thing I’d encourage our listeners to do—next time you’re eating a hamburger at David’s Burgers—
Bob: —or Five Guys.
Dennis: —or Five Guys—[Laughter]—find a cop and thank them. Don’t just let them brush you off—say: “No; no. I really want you to know I appreciate you. I really do. Thanks for your service on behalf of me, my wife, my family, and our community. It’s a safer place because of you.”
Thanks for being with us.
Victoria: Thank you.
Bob: The book Dennis is talking about is the book you’ve written, Victoria, called A CHiP on My Shoulder: How to Love Your Cop with Attitude. You can order copies from us at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request a copy. Again, our website: FamilyLifeToday.com.
I should also mention—give an officer you know and his wife or her husband—give them a gift certificate to attend a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. What a great investment in their marriage, which is under a lot of stress, for the two of them to get away. Offer to watch the kids. I know we’re asking for a lot, but these are folks who do a lot for us; right? Again, find out more about the Weekend to Remember gift cards. They’re available at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call us if you have any questions at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, as we’ve talked about struggles in marriage today and stress in families, ultimately, the only thing that is going to provide real help for couples, who are experiencing challenges—ultimately, you need an encounter with the God who created marriage.
You need to know Jesus Christ; and you need to understand God’s design for life, and for marriage, and for family, and for all that we’re doing here. I mean, there are strategies and techniques you can employ in a marriage that can help improve a relationship; but to achieve the kind of intimacy that marriage is designed for, you need to have a relationship with God through Christ to make that happen.
Our goal, here, at FamilyLife® is not simply to help build stronger marriages and families. Our goal is to make sure that those marriages and families are anchored in what God teaches us in the Bible—anchored in a relationship with God through Christ and through the gospel. We appreciate those of you who support the work we’re doing. Every time you make an investment with FamilyLife, you’re investing in the lives of husbands and wives / and moms and dads—helping them come to know Christ and helping them grow spiritually in their walk with Christ.
In fact, I was in a meeting, just the other day, Dennis, where somebody held up a jar of beads. They said, “Do you know how many beads are in the jar?” We took guesses and turned out there were 1,338 beads in that jar. They said: “You know why there are 1,338 beads in this jar? Because last year, at the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, we had 1,338 people who made a first-time profession of faith in Christ.” That’s what this ministry is, ultimately, all about.
We’re grateful for those of you who invest so that husbands and wives / and moms and dads can hear the gospel and respond to the gospel. If you’re a regular FamilyLife Today listener and you’ve never made a donation, why don’t you join the mission / join the team and help us strengthen marriages and families and anchor people’s lives and marriages in Christ? You can donate to FamilyLife Today, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can call to donate: 1-800-FL-TODAY; or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about your wedding—your upcoming wedding. Are you planning a wedding for this spring or for this summer?—or maybe for the fall? We’d like to talk with you about how that wedding ceremony can ultimately be Christ-centered. Linda Strode and her daughter, Catherine Parks, are going to be here to help us with that. I hope you can be with us as well.
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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry.
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