What to expect when marrying a firefighter

We are a stubborn breed, but manage to get home safe far more often than not


Saying “I do” to a firefighter is not the same as with a cop or paramedic.

Firefighters are a unique breed all our own and, as such, have certain cultural expectations of our spouses. It can be a real challenge to adapt to but, in the end, you'll be glad you did.

Here's what to expect when marrying a firefighter:

You're about to get 10 nights a month alone

While this may excite many spouses, it can be a huge adjustment especially for newlyweds. You'll eventually get used to that giant empty spot in the bed every now and again, and it'll make the days when they are home far more enjoyable.

You're not just marrying your own firefighter; you're adopting his coworkers

"Hunny, could you set a few more plates at the table tonight?"
"Hunny, could you set a few more plates at the table tonight?" (Tumbler/FDNY)

While any police officer will tell you firefighters are just giant children (jealous?!), we are a family. When you marry a firefighter from Station 22 you are also adopting the entire company, part of the battalion, and I'd wager to guess a few folks from the neighboring division as well. They have embarrassing stories about your spouse and will no doubt tell them at the most inopportune times. Consider them adopted children and you'll do fine. You don‘t have to like them, but you need to love them. After all, who do you think watches over your partner when you‘re looking at that empty spot in the bed?

You won't need to cook all the time

And you'll have plenty of leftovers. We only know how to cook for 10 men.
And you'll have plenty of leftovers. We only know how to cook for 10 men. (savannahnow.com)

While police spouses may get relief from cooking when grilling weather comes around, your firefighter spouse must be ready to cook every shift and it has to be good. Or else. When they're home you may find their skills useful. You won't have to carry the burden of constantly planning the menus and doing the shopping. Your firefighting spouse is already used to completing those tasks and can effortlessly make any number of delicious dishes.

We help out around the house

While paramedics may clean a sub station or an ambulance, I have never seen a cop vacuum. Except this one time when I was helping a cop buddy move some furniture in his own house, but his wife was hurt at the time ... I digress. Firefighters start every shift with housework. Toilets, kitchen, floors, vehicles, everything. It is an easy habit to continue from work to home and you‘ll be glad that our touch of OCD is there.
 

The adoptive kids are a needy bunch of whiners

"Where the hell is that man?"
"Where the hell is that man?" (Flickr/timsamoff)

There will be mornings when your spouse is delayed coming home by a late relief. There will be station trips to do exciting things that you are not invited to. But there will also be birthday parties, anniversaries and other life experiences to be celebrated and mourned with your adoptive firefighting family. Enjoy it while you can — these are some of the best, most loyal friends you will ever have.

Call off Christmas

"We're gonna need to move Christmas to after New Years. Christmas Eve will be on New Year's Eve."
"We're gonna need to move Christmas to after New Years. Christmas Eve will be on New Year's Eve." (Flickr/Alan Cleaver)

December 25 is just a day on the calendar to the firefighter's spouse. While there may be a year here and there when you'll have both the 24 and 25 off duty, there's a 2/3 chance you work one or the other. And remember, these are 24-hour shifts, so if they work the 24th you won't have them home on Christmas morning. Luckily for you Christmas can be moved rather easily, as can your anniversary dinner, birthday party and grandparent‘s rededication dinner, which you were kind of hoping to get out of anyway, right?

we're just a little bit odd

Despite all the good things about marrying a firefighter, there will also be some odd behaviors that you'll notice. We are not insane, or in need of medication — Well, now that you mention it, what do you have? — we simply bring home some quirky behavior you'll need to learn to live with. For example ...

1. We back into parking spots, like, religiously.

You may back into a spot from time-to-time, but we do it all the time, every time. We back into the spot at the mall, the burger joint, and especially at home. It can get frustrating, but when you need to leave, BOOM, car is ready to go.

2. We wear blue T-shirts pretty much all the time.

There's always gotta be one guy who goes crazy and wears a different shade of blue.
There's always gotta be one guy who goes crazy and wears a different shade of blue. (lynnwoodtoday.com)

As the laundry pile grows — and we're likely to do it when you're gone — you will notice that a normal person's arrangement of varying color garments has been replaced with all manner of navy blue T-shirt and sweatshirt. Blue is a nice color; get over it.

3. We love tying stuff down.

"Who needs a U-Haul?"
"Who needs a U-Haul?" (walmartwall.com)

If something needs to be tied down it will be done so with such care and expertise you would think an 18th century ship's rigger had stopped by to make sure the small cooler in the back of the truck doesn‘t move a centimeter on the way to the firehouse.

And finally, the most important thing to expect: growing old with your firefighter 

"Just don't ever expect us to stop telling our firefighting stories."
"Just don't ever expect us to stop telling our firefighting stories." (Flickr/francisco_osorio)

We are a stubborn breed, but manage to get home safe far more often than not. And we'll always keep our eye on what is important. So give us a warm, welcome home to back the truck into and we'll prove to be a loyal partner in the decades to come.

This article, originally published January 2014, has been updated.

Next: Fully involved: A guide for being in a relationship with a firefighter

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