How Do I Survive On Only 15 minutes of Conversation with my Firefighter Each Day?

by | Communication, Everyday, Firefighter Marriage

This conversation in our private wives group was just too good to not share.  We’ve all been there.  And a big thank you to Lisa Green for her view and for summing it up so nicely.

The request:

I am feeling so let down and emotional right now. I’ve spoken to my firefighter a total of 14:43 mins today. I’m feeling like he’d rather play blackjack with the fire boys than have an actual convo about my day. I’ve sent him countless pics and texts and have gotten very little or no reply. I hate this!!! This is the time I start to question where I stand in this relationship with him….does he truly care??  I’m so sad disappointed and tired. And when I send him a message about how nice it was for him to take 15 mins out of his 24 hr day to talk to me I get nothing back. ~A Sweet emotional lady who loves her firefighter.

2013-07-13 12.25.46

(Relax, this is a fictitious text 😉 )


Lisa’s Response

My firefighter and I are the “old goats” of our firefighter wives group: I’m 45, FF is 55, married 16 yrs, sons are 14 and 11. I have worked out of the house, from home and been a SAHM.

Firefighter life is all we know.

My firefighter is so busy at work he doesn’t have time to get on the phone, if he does he can’t give 100% attention.

There are times he can get to his phone but can’t focus enough to reply to a text with anything more than “OK.” I asked if he thinks of us while at work and he said, “all the time.” At the fire department they talk about spouses/kids, his lockers is like a family shrine, he has pictures in his duffel bag.

My husband and I got together in 1996 – no cell phones or texts. We had pagers & landlines.

It was common to go an entire shift without speaking much less seeing each other. We, too, lived/live too far from the fire department to visit.

Before you get upset with him and/or your marriage, think about this:

What can you do?

What can you do to ensure you have others you can call so your firefighter isn’t the only adult with whom you have contact?

It doesn’t have to be someone in the fire service and it doesn’t have to be a best friend…just someone you can meet at the library with the kids, or at a McDonald’s playground, a park, a mall. You may have to do a few of those things on your own at first and it might be uncomfortable but it gets easier, and once you meet another mom/parent it will be worth it.

It doesn’t mean this other person will get our firefighter wife life but you will be able to get out of the house.

I don’t eat McDonald’s but the air conditioned playground was great when it was raining or 98 degrees outside. The mall was also a great air conditioned place the kids could run around and burn some energy.

I can’t tell you this goes away…even after 16 years (with cell phones, texts, e-mail) my firefighter and I still don’t get to talk.

He is is in the middle of working 56 now and we exchanged one text message and spoke for 3 minutes last night – then I heard the tones and he said, “I have to go.”

For my firefighter…just because he is in the station doesn’t mean he can or wants to talk.

He wants to eat, use the bathroom, take a shower, clear his head.

I think about being home with the kids when they were very young. If given the opportunity to shower, nap or sit on the toilet alone….I would take it over anything else. This is no different from our firefighters.

Just because they are not on a call doesn’t mean their brains aren’t churning about the “next” call.

Most of the time when not on a call my firefighter is in a class, training, or giving a fire department tour.

We are married to firefighters. The only thing you do have control over is your mindset.

Don’t wait for things to get better, you make them better.

In your head say, “My life is falling together.” Do that enough and it will happen. This is one of the reasons we firefighter wives are a special breed.

Thanks for sharing, Lisa!  We don’t all come into the fire life primed and ready for all.the.chaos it brings.  It’s this kind of encouragement that our newbies need to know that they too can master this fire life with patience, time, and developing great communication skills with their firefighters.

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On a mission to be and inspire us all to be better humans, to strengthen fire families & marriages, to nurture and encourage fire wives, do "good business" in all areas of my life and of course, love on my 4 kids.

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  1. Chris

    There are a lot of busy work to do at the fire house. We are not just “hanging out.’ The job we love is a dynamic changing beast.

    • WnaBeAFirefighter

      Why is there no female firefighters? I’m 15 and want to be one but I don’t see any in my state.

  2. Dominique

    Good article. Probably a reality check for “new” wives. I plan my days as if he will not be apart of them. So I’m grateful and excited when he is and not devastated when he isn’t. The fire station is so many things for him but it is his job first. When I was working at an ofc there were plenty days I didn’t have 5min to “catch up”. He’s just at work. Period. No matter what he’s actually doing besides making runs, its his place of business for 24hrs. I have to respect that.

  3. Cyndi

    LOL! My hubby and I sometimes fo DAYS without speaking. He works 72 hours over four days 500 miles form home and doesn’t always get to come home on his 72 off. It’s exhausting for him, and financially not feasible. He works with a prison crew and obviously can’t pick up the phone or answer a text very often. And you certainly don’t want the inmates to know anything about your family – so phone calls are in the evening, very early am, or when he’s got his 24 off and has check into a hotel when he’s on a strike team. This is what it’s going to be like – and it’s not gonna change. I would hope that most “new” wives realized what they were getting into when they say “I do.”

    • Samantha Nelson

      Cyndi, I agree that you really have to understand what your getting yourself into; I thought I did but I may have underestimated things. I’ve been with my FF long before he was hired on full time, and that was a recent change, and it is HARD. My guy also works far from home for days at a time, and has just been sent on his first strike team today! So I have at least 3 weeks to fully understand what I am marrying into.

  4. Michelle Cohen

    On the other side of this same coin – I wish others would understand that during playdates and other outings, if the Hubs calls, I WILL answer the phone because it might be the only time in 2-3 days that I will get to talk to him. If I am busy, I don’t answer the phone for anyone else, but I will ALWAYS answer when the hubs calls.

    • Erica

      That’s a great point. I will ALWAYS answer the phone when he calls if I have the opportunity. I myself am a paramedic so I know that it’s not possible sometimes but I won’t give up the chance to say hello to a voice and not a text or voicemail 🙂

      • Vanessa

        I’m trying to date a firefighter who says he’s too tired to talk after working 72 hours. I ask if we can talk later and he texts that he wants to walk his dog and go directly to bed. ??

  5. Heather Isaacs

    This is a great conversation and Lisa nailed it. Something I am still learning to deal with, but I knew when I married him that was how it could be sometimes.

  6. Megan Nadalet

    Great response. I feel like that some days. But I also understand that when he’s there, he’s THERE. And luckily he really makes the effort to be home when he’s home. If that makes sense!

  7. Laura Houghton

    I think what helps me is that Lt views the station as a job. When he is there, he is there and when he is home he is home. Plus we made a pact that we would talk twice a day (if possible). I always get a morning phone call whether he is going on or coming off shift. The second is before bed. This one can be really late at night, but I don’t care. Both of these calls let’s me know everything is ok at his job and he will be home soon. Yes, I do text Lt when there are things going on or what he might need to know about, but I know he will respond when he can (even if it is during his phone call) and I do not overwhelm him with texts. I think you just have to learn not to take no response from your ff personally. I can’t talk to him when I am at work, so I use this same logic on why he can’t talk to him at his job. I also agree with Lisa’s response-you need to have other people to help out. Lt can’t be there to get the snake off the porch, so I call my “snake-getter” to take care of it. No hard feelings on either side. Lt feels good that someone can help with things I can’t when he is not there and my friend feels good to help out when needed. Now mind you in three years I have only needed help twice…both snake issues.

  8. lb

    I too have lived in this ship for 20 years. All of the above is too true and too much reality. Our lives drifted apart so fast and continued to move in opposite directions. When he worked I visited about twice a year and took goodies for all the guys. I really enjoyed them and loved my FF. Home was the same. I had to go search for him when I wanted to be near him. Even scooping poop together became time together. He withdrew from me more and more until 2009 when I felt more alone than ever… and begged for help. We continued in this path for years. In the summer of 2011 I left. Believing he did not love me anymore. Not understanding why he always chose to be away from me. Its been two years. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. About the good times. I hope you are able to grasp hold of yours and never lose. It still hurts. Both of us.

  9. Emily

    I agree with Laura-having a set time that he calls can really help. My husband calls before bed every night he’s gone; even if it’s just a five minute conversation it’s nice to reconnect and it keeps me from worrying. Regular date nights also really help in keeping us connected.
    One thing that wasn’t mentioned was the need for a firefighter’s stress relief. I know my husband sees some pretty awful things at work. Part of being able to continue doing the job is being able to process these awful things- be it through exercise, joking around, or hanging around the firehouse with the guys. Sometimes calling home can add to stress-he wants to be home with us and can’t, maybe there are things going on at home he would like to help with but feels bad because he can’t, or maybe he feels guilty for being away from his family and enjoying his job. Having the “I miss you so much and I wish you were here and we need to reconnect” conversation is not a good idea when he’s at work. Wait til you’re face to face, talk about your concerns and make a plan 🙂

  10. Christee Ichiyasu

    Can totally relate right now, but much harder as this will be all I get for this 14 day tour. My ff/wff always calls or texts when he wakes up and calls before he goes to bed no matter what time it is, because that is what we have agreed that he can do and what I need as a minimum. Usually when he is on shift at his Fire Department job that isn’t a problem, but if it is, I know he has a reason.

    However, during fire season, he is a single resource and gets called out regularly for 14 day tours. This is the first tour he has had in Northern California where he has no cell service, can’t text and has to call if and when he can from the ICP phone which as you can imagine is very non-intimate and semi-business like as he is talking with an audience listening.

    I am surviving as this isn’t new anymore, but it sure makes it hard with little contact. But his excitement every time he gets to go out and work a wff and leave his regular fire department job makes it all worth it, he is like a kid in a candy shop…lol. Additionally, I learned the hard way my first summer of being a wff wife, that you do not talk about anything stressful or how lonely you are, etc. as it just makes my guy feel helpless as he can’t do anything about it while he is out and rather than feel helpless, he would just disconnect and that was even worse.

    So I am just focusing on the mini honeymoon we always have after he returns and sleeps a couple of days, plus the OT he gets is well worth the pain, especially in the winter when his regular fire dept. job makes it tight sometimes.

  11. Trina Hilton

    My FF and I have been together for 10 months and I am really a rookie at this. This article made me cry. I am soo happy to know that there are other women out there that are going through what I am. I seriously thought that I was being jelous. He has told me that he has had women leave him before because of his job. I cant imagine how much that hurts and knowing him since high school, I want to be the very last person to hurt him. I am so happy I found this site. I think it is going to be good for us and our relationship. I did not realize dating a ff would be so different than dating any other man. Thank you soo much…

  12. Kim Smith

    Judge him on how he treats you at home. Find yourself good friends to share your day with when he is at eork 🙂 married ti firefighter for 26 years… he is now the Chief.

  13. gaby richmond-reck

    I have a special ringtone (pager sound) for my husbands calls and texts. No matter where I am, what I am doing. His call have absolute priority. Our husbands work is so intense, they need to know that we take care of whatever happens at home.

  14. Michelle

    I have been married to my FF for 11 years, there have been good and bad times. The most important things to remember is that Yes he does love you!
    One thing that is important for us wives to remember is that it’s not all fun and games at the station. I know I read comments about feeling like we were not important, playing blackjack with the guys was a priority over us, this is not the case most of the time. Sometime when they do have downtime they could be decompressing with the guys over a call that really shook them up. It’s not that they don’t want to share their day with us, it’s that they can’t talk about their calls to us because of the HIPPA laws and other regulations that they have to follow.

    There is so much that actually goes on in the station that most don’t realize. They are constantly training, checking the apparatus or meetings and on top of that running calls.

    I do believe communication is very important in a relationship but so is understanding. You need to be secure in your relationship with your FF. If you have this, it makes going days without hearing from him easier.

  15. Irma

    I use the time my ff is at work to do fun things with the kids, spend time with friends (do girlie stuff) and get the necessities taken care of. The only agreement we have is a phone call within an hour of him getting off work (I say hour to allot for late calls). The most important part of the day for me is when he comes home. I pray the morning never comes when instead of seeing him pull in the driveway, a chief shows up to notify me of an accident.

  16. Gretchen

    Been dating my FF for 2 years & we try to talk/text every night. Sometimes he’s busy & can’t talk but I make a point to find something silly to text him when he’s at work – just to make him smile. They aren’t always sitting around watching tv & are often tied up doing things so don’t take it personal when he can’t text back. Enjoy the time you have with him away from the firehouse!!

  17. Christa

    Dominique, exactly what I was thinking. My husband usually checks in with me once a day to ask how my day was, but that’s it. I hope this wife finds some hobbies or activities to keep herself busy. As a teacher the not talking to my husband doesn’t usually affect me until summer. But even then I go about my day and usually find that I get more done on days when he is not home. Sweet girl, you gotta rein it back in or you are going to drive him crazy to the point that he is not going to be desperate to get home and spend time with his wife.

  18. Lavere

    YOU have to make a CHOICE to accept this lifestyle . As black and white as it may sound, it’s true. You have to CHOOSE to accept that you may not hear from him for hours and days on end. Change your mindset, make it about you, not him. You have the power to make these choices for yourself. Nothing is ever easy but try to look at it differently. Good luck

  19. Dawn Vecchiarino

    I am a 27yr FF wife, a child of, niece & sister of A Ff. Don’t take it personally if you don’t get a chance to talk. They are not supposed to text or talk until they are off the truck & back in quarters. So if they get a lot of runs it could take a while. The biggest key I’ve found is to have a great support network, with family & friends. Also I would state anyone in these type of 1st responder relationships needs to either be or learn to be extremely independent & self-sufficient.

  20. Jessica Chester

    It is one of those things you just have to accept. Honest I work FT, and often miss my FF calls while at the office, so I understand why he often can’t reach mine. I am either in a meeting or busy, etc. So days like today where has been at two different stations, pulling back to back 24’s, we only spoke for about 7 minutes 5 of those was last night before my phone died & today we have played phone tag. He has no service at the station he is at today so, I send a text occasionally reminding him that we love him & say a little prayer as they have of fires at the station he is at today. Be patient and realize that even if they are not on a run, they have Station duties or sometimes just exhausted. 🙂 With time it does get easier, and on occasion, you hate when you have a last minute question and you can’t reach them, but you get over it.

  21. Denise Roberts

    Fire gf here. Im 1 1/2 in. Luckily his firehouse is only 20 miles from home. I can go visit for supper, etc. Summer is the worst for me because I’m off work. I dont have friends and kids are grown. I also have some medical problems. I feel so alone whwn he’s at work and I can’t go visit. I have no one I can call, hurting so bad I can’t clean or even hold a book and read. Days like today I just sit and cry. Help!

  22. Annie

    You must know in your heart that he uses you as his stability. We in the house are his constant. Nothing at work is, and he must comply. Take pride that he shares his life with you and what you can do for him. You are a strong woman, and without you, his world would not work as efficiently. Also know that he has the faith and confidence in his homefront that all is ok. It let’s him do his job.

    There are times though that he need reminders. Do something small to remind him of that. Tell him. An empty text always works for me! He’ll wonder and we’ll have a great conversation that evening.

  23. Jenn

    I am so thankful to have found this site on Facebook. I am not a FF wife but in a committed relationship with one for the last 2 years and he is the love of my life.

    We each have our own homes so much like the away time a FF spends at the station, I spend at his house on the nights he is home. Living out of a suitcase for 2 years has been difficult and being new to the lifestyle and in my 40’s I question what is really going on and why when he is home do I get so much attention but when he is away I feel like I am forgotten?

    Thankfully I found this site and it helps me understand so much and appreciate him more. He is the love of my life and I want this to work and with the help of this site, I believe it will. So thank you for all the wonderful articles and advice and for helping me understand that his actions are normal in this lifestyle and that we really do have something special.

  24. Carolyn McCaig

    Even though my husband was volunteer for 31 yrs. most of his time was at the fire house I tried to remember what made me love him ! And thought of myself as the mistress ,not the wife. And that when he got home I had him !!! Not the wife. So every moment was quality time.

  25. Carolyn McCaig

    Now he’s gone and and I miss his alarms going off. I miss him so much!!

  26. Mary

    Hubby is a Wildland firefighter, he’s gone sometimes for months on end.
    We just celebrated our first anniversary August 21st.
    He chose to be a Wildland Firefighter because he loves it!
    I have accepted that and it’s hard, SO very hard to be away from him!
    We try to contact each other daily (or nightly) but there are times when there’s no cell service or he’s working long hot hours and is drained by the end of his shift.
    I have come to expect that there may be times when he’s not going to be able to contact me.
    But, I know he loves me.
    Yes, the life of the wife of a firefighter, both structure and wildland is rough, but one thing you must remember is that he loves you. Another thing you learn really quick is how to be independent and how to handle multiple issues on your own. It’s rough at times, especially if there’s something seriously wrong like pipes bursting, roofs leaking, etc. It’s ok to panic, it’s ok to cry and it’s ok to feel disappointed. But don’t let that disappointment keep you down.
    Get up, dust yourself off and realize that you and only you are in charge of how you feel. It’s a hard thing to just do an about face when you’re used to him being there all the time and then suddenly you’re all alone and going “aack! what do I do now?!?!” Focus on you. Focus on being there for you and your family. But mostly, focus on the fact that you’re strong enough to handle this.
    Peace and Hugs to all of you fire wives, sisters and families.

  27. sarah

    My FF does his best to call every night to make sure to tell me he loves me. Just make sure I work in the ER as a nurse every B shift I can just in case he gets to bring me a patient and a kiss. Otherwise I know he’ll be home in the morning. I’d much rather go with no call than a call from the chief.

  28. Dean

    It gets stressfull. Vol Fireman have it a bit easier .but we still also have issues
    . We run calls where we miss holidays and dinners. We are on call sometimes at the firehouse and during that time its run calls train eat sleep workout. For 5 years of my 10 years i was in a relationship engaged and everything was good.She used to run ems she understood.Everything changed when i got married. She wanted me to quit the fireservice..we moved out of the area i ran in. So yes i was going to.change houses but she wanted it done..No FOOLS nothing. I spent more time at home put us first but it came to.a point that.she because of other reasons we are seperated.I love the fie service i wont leave it. I spent much more. Time comsitrating on our marrage and at the end it bit me
    .i wonder after being together 6 yrs why did it change i had apic of her in my helmet turnout gear and has been confusing..

  29. jacquie

    Being married to a fireman is definitely, very hard and not for the weak. My husband and I have been married for 25 years. He will be retiring in 4 months with 35 years on as captain. When we were first married, I had a very hard time, couldn’t talk to him. I am a very independent person, been on my own for a long time. We got married when I was 28. I had to practice remembering that my loneliness was nothing compared to a family in need. I had no family within 9 hours of our home and he wasn’t very close with his family. And as you know he had his side job, on days off. I had a part time job and tried to stay busy. It got much easier, as time passed by, for me to be alone. Fireman are a different breed. BUT! So are fire wives, we are the handyman at home, the mom and dad quite a bit of the time. At church I wasn’t included in married things cause he wasn’t there quite a bit of the time.
    On that note, it seems grim! But it isn’t! When I see my husband get ‘fireman of the year’, or I see a letter from a family he has helped, or he is electricuted while using the jaws during the rain, when he is in his uniform and all the checkers at the grocery store giggle around them, when they go to school with their children and how proud the children are, and when planning a retirement dinner for a man that has never called in sick, in all that time. My husband always treats me with great respect. I don’t like the comments ‘suck it up’ and the like. Because it is VERY hard to be married to a fireman. The feelings of being alone and not talking to our firemen are real. BUT you will get better at it. Friendships with other fire wives is always the best, nobody really understands like a sister.
    The most difficult parts get easier. You’ll begin to enjoy the house to yourself.
    Sending texts all day and calling only distracts them. I’d feel terrible if my call or text caused my husband to not give 100% while on the job. Be strong ladies, because some day they are going to be home ALL THE TIME.

  30. susan linville

    my husband was a firefighter and I read it to him and he said you make up the time when off duty and when he retired we are now together all the time

  31. Mad

    Wow! This article helped me a lot. I’m not married to wlff but I’m dating one that’s in training. I’m in Indiana and hes in North Carolina. It’s so hard not being able to talk to him everyday like we used to and it’s been a month since I’ve seen him. I’ll get to see him for for Christmas and then after that he’ll be on call and I won’t see him for 5 months after that. I look at this as a way of getting used to and learning how things will be when he does officially become a wlff.

  32. Leslie Rhodarmer

    As a fire wife for 11 years now it is very hard planning the schedule and doing fun things without him. The kids miss him dearly and so do I. I still have days where I just need to hear his voice and talk and even if he just calls and says Hi and I love you,it is the best feeling in the world. When we first got married I had a tough time with him leaving for sometimes days at the fire department. But as we have got older I know it has to happen and I just go on with my days with the kids, sometimes we even stop in and say hi. I used to just LOVE being a Firemans wife, it was the title. But now I truly Love every part of being a Fire Wife. (Well maybe not so much when the volunteer pager goes off right before we are doing something special) But I deal and move on. FIRE WIFE FOR LIFE?????

  33. A Wife. Not just a firefighter's wife.

    The majority of these comments are useless bullshit.

    You will never hear a husband/wife say that they are a “teachers husband/wife, a Human Resources husband/wife, a physician’s husband/wife.” Being a firefighter is a job he/she chose to take. Each spouse may not have known that their husband/wife would eventually change careers and be a firefighter, regardless of the impact it has on their husband/wife, family, future etc.

    The real heros are those who stick by their husband/wife who decide to be a firefighter. They are the ones who do not get enough credit. It isn’t and shouldn’t be normal to not hear from your significant other for 24 hours at a time. Everyone is busy regardless of their occupation, and I can guarantee that firefighter’s are not busy 24/7. They may need time to process the terrible things that they witness, but what about the firefighter’s family who has to endure not knowing if their loved one is alive, who has to deal with their own anxiety and fear of their loved one being in danger, all while they have to act strong for their firefighter because they must have it much harder even though it’s what they actively pursued.

    the firefighter’s significant others are the heros. Anyone who disagrees (who lives that life) is naive, lacks self-confidence, and doesn’t give themselves enough credit.

  34. Bridgette Marie

    Ty for this i recently started dating a fire fighter and some of my friends say he doesn’t talk much because he is not interested, but he is sweet to me every time he sees me (flowers, helps around my house, etc). This really gave me good insight and i understand more now!!! He’s a keeper it seems so I don’t want to blow it!!!!

  35. Terry

    My Firefiighter and I have been married almost 5 years. Some days it’s a kiss and shower and off to bed. All to do it again the next day. See I am an ER nurse.. so there are some weeks we only get. A couple of hours together. It’s tough. Thank you for the very useful information.

  36. FirefighterWife

    We hear you, all 🙂 The ability to communicate on shift varies so much firehouse to firehouse, and even among rank. A lot of stations are no phones at all during “Business Hours” even. So our best advice is talk to your firefighter and ask what is to be expected on shift days. This isn’t something that will be the same for all firefighters.


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