5 Reasons Why Cops Struggle In Relationships

Are you my friend?

Everyone knows the value of a good friend.

In today’s world, with the advent of social media, the term “friend” has developed into something entirely different.

Not to bore you or make you feel small, I currently have over 600 “friends” on Facebook. Heck, some of you may even say those are loser numbers.

Out of the 600, maybe 20 or so are what I would call legitimate friends. Taking it even further, an even smaller group, 5 or fewer, would gain the title as good friend.

Prior to becoming a cop, I maintained regular communication with those I considered my “good friends.

Until one day I realized that I no longer talked to anyone but fellow cops.

“Body Worn Camera: The Pictures that Proved a Thousand Lies”

And it didn’t matter if they were male or female cops.

Police officers, male or female, black or white, gay or straight, American or Australian, all speak the same language. It’s the language that can only be understood by those who have worn the badge. To the outsider listening in, the words are no different but there is something slightly amiss.

Like we, not them, are in on the joke.

This bond and connection between cops is strong.

But like anything, balance and moderation are the true pillars that keep your outlook in check without losing your sanity. Especially considering the climate and culture of today’s modern policing.

Having “normal” friends is strongly encouraged to keep this balance. Sometimes, just to hear regular people talk about their day-to-day activities and struggles without any expectation from you the person and not the cop is refreshing.

But maintaining these “regular” friendships is not easy.

Can we still be friends?

It’s not easy maintaining good friendships outside of police work.

Everyone is so damn busy spending un-godly amounts of time either at work or on their phone.

Cops are no different in that regard.

There are, however, distinct barriers and hurdles that cops must overcome in order to have friends and a social life outside of police work.

“5 Strange Rituals of a Seasoned Cop”

Here are 5 reasons that seem to be the most prevalent with other cops I know and also from my own experience.

The list..

1. Your eyes are wide open – Veteran cops know exactly what I am referring to. Once you have been doing the job for a few years or even less, your vision and worldview has drastically changed based on the events you have witnessed.

I mention frequently to my wife that I am looking forward to the day where I can stick my head back in the sand and live in ignorant bliss like everyone else. This makes it extremely difficult to connect with “normal” people.

2. You become hyper-vigilant on every word or “like” they give on Facebook – Lets real talk this one. You do it. I do it. In the last two years, people have taken sides. Unfortunately, we are caught in the middle.

People either hate us or they love us.

There really is no middle ground. Remember, your “normal” friends have absolutely no personal stake in the argument. When we see the vitriol aimed towards us, we get mad. We may not say anything but we don’t like it.

Someone who you may have thought was a supporter of you and your profession may throw a like at an anti-cop post or page. That friend is now essentially dead to you.

You move on without him or her.


3. The schedule – This one really is a no brainer. I can’t tell you how many times I have been invited to meet up with my “normal” friends just to tell them that, once again, I have to work.

They then ask me to meet up after work when I have to tell them that I have to work again in the morning, a 12 hour shift.

“Why don’t you just take off,” they ask at the last minute.

“6 Strange and Weird Character Traits of Cops”

I don’t have the patience to tell them how low our staffing has become and to do that could get an officer hurt or killed.

I’ll save that rant for another day.

4. Your off putting and sometime sick sense of humor – This one gets me in trouble. Most “normal” people in general play it safe when expressing humor or when giving their friends a hard time.

Not so with cops.

We are brutal with each other.

When we try this vulgar teasing with our “normal” friends it may come off mean-spirited or downright weird. I have gotten better at gauging my audience but now and again I will slip up.

I usually know when I have slipped up when I realize I haven’t heard from that friend in a while.

5. You don’t know when to turn off your “cop” – I have to admit, guilty as charged. Some of you may be scratching your head on this one. Good, bad, or indifferent, the job has become the larger part of who you are.

The reason why you seek out “normal” non-cop friends in the first place is to have a break and escape this persona.

It goes down something like this; your friend has expressed a problem or concern to you and instead of just trying to listen, you instantly morph into “cop” friend mode.

You essentially hijack the conversation with either concrete no-nonsense advice or go straight into “you’re lucky you don’t have to deal with this AND work the streets like I do let me tell ya…”

We’ve all done it. Some of your normal friends may even like this approach. I’m betting most don’t.

You can find other ORIGINAL articles like this one and more at The Salty Sarge Facebook Page.


  1. Retired 20 years and when I meet someone new I still have to hear about the rude cop or one that gave them an undeserved ticket. Pretty sick of hearing this crap.

  2. Or when you do try to relax with a “normal” friend, you hear them ask if you can get a ticket disappear that they got. Or if you’re at a party & after they have a drink, they ask if you’re going to give them a ticket when they drive home & laugh! Not worth it!

  3. Or when they whisper in your ear that they need to talk to you for a second and immediately start in with “I know you probably can’t do anything”….which usually means they need you to “fix” something.

  4. I’m a police chaplain so I’m on friendly terms w all the officers, but am not really a friend to any of them. Perhaps you can do a follow up article offering suggestions on how “non-officers” can be friends to officers.

    • 100% YES!!!
      I really do believe I “get it” a lot more than the average civilian. But as much as I do understand, the more I realize I can’t understand about your life, the officer.

      My fatherfwasntwain my life growing up, but the man who was more of a dad to me than anyone else, is a 30 year veteran officer now retired.

      I have several friends I grew up with who are currently officers.

      I was on a team in (don’t laugh…) Tactical/scenario paintball for around 10 years and about 25 or so out 30 we’re all active law enforcement and/or military. I’ve also worked security for the states largest gun show ride alongside of officers, for years.

      So I’ve probably spent more time around “cops” than I have around “normal people”.
      (….hmmmm. …that may explain why I don’t hang around or relate to most “normal people”… something to think about…)

      But anyway, all this has given me a deep appreciation for the human beings behind that badge. It’s also given me a little insight and understanding I believe. Being on a team with mainly cops, all sitting around a 3-5 day campsite(as relaxed as cops can get) just being theirselves, or being in the home of an active and now retired officer who was very candid, they relax with you and don’t hold back the “punches” LOL

      BUT even with all that, especially in today’s times and the level of insanity and hate that you folks face every day….. There’s no way I can truly know, understand…..

      But I want to. I want to “give back” by being the best friend I can be. I want to be the non judgmental, non assuming, honest but understanding friend that they can be themselves with, and that they can trust to have their back, figuratively and literally.

      So yes, if you can, please do an article on how non LEO can be better friends to LEO.
      What we can do to be that friend they can trust enough to feel relaxed with, and just be themselves. What we can avoid so we aren’t “that friend” that THINKS they get it, but are clueless, and therefore avoided.

      To me, some of them are obvious. Don’t see your LEO friend as “the cop friend”, your personal “fixer” or “magic name” to drop or your personal “cop story” teller.
      Don’t tag them in Facebook posts that are LEO related. Don’t introduce them as “this is _____, my friend …..he’s a cop.” Just be a friend, know that they are humans with emotions, fears, concerns, and issues just like any other human, they are your friend ….and they happen to also wear a badge. They face the worst of society everyday and just might not want to focus on that over the burgers on the grill in the backyard…. But when they do…. LISTEN.
      (Maybe you can help us better understand HOW to listen)
      But I know some of the things that are obvious to me, aren’t to others. And I know there are things that probably SHOULD BE obvious to me, but aren’t ….and even some I think are obvious, but I might be wrong about.

      So if you can, help us be better friends to both our friends who are LEO and strangers who are LEO.

      • Oh good grief….. How do I edit my last post?
        AutoINcorrect and fat finger syndrome has betrayed me….

  5. Tony I know what you mean by thinking like an old Cop. Retired from Police Work. 1999 still at times miss it though. Stay healthy my friend ??

  6. Great article. Being a 15 year officer now that started at 21 years old I have lost a lot of friends over the years. When after being diagnosed with depression and so other stuff now it’s harder for me to make friends. Thank you for the read

  7. > I worked in patrol for a large city for 31 years. I retired 5 years ago. I’m very guarded and vigilant still. Aside from the alcoholism, anxiety, depression and PTSD, I don’t get out of the house very often. I made a decision to stop drinking, maybe that will help. I can go on and on. I’ll leave it at this. THANK YOU.

  8. a view fro the other side: I guess you cold cal me “normal”– meaning, I’m not a cop. But I have friends & family who are, and have been in EMS; so I can understand the mindset. There are plenty of us “out There” who want to befriend you guys (& ladies). But we also don’t want to offend or appear to be condescending… how does a ‘little person’ (in my own eyes), go about befriending a hero? is it okay to … I dunno, just ask about hobbies?

  9. I am the widow of a veteran police officer. When he retired we moved to the top of a mountain in Northern Pa, away from it all. Luckily, I loved living in the mountains and was always supportive of the police and volunteered helping police families. We remained there for almost 20 years and in 2015 relocated to AZ. Sadly, he passed away November 2016 of lung cancer. As a police wife of 45 years, I can relate to many of the statements in the article. He never talked much about his job, as when I wanted to know something I’d ask another officer! It’s hard for the families also. Until my last day on this earth, my heart will always be with police and their families.

  10. To the non-cops wanting to be friends, to be honest, I’m sorry, but…. we don’t trust you. Many people that are friendly to us have ulterior motives, and even with the new troops they haven’t yet proven themselves, except maybe previous military, as that person that will run TO the danger and risk themselves to save their brother/sister officers, or even total strangers, it takes a while. Our world is a very dark one, that most people don’t want to hear, or know about, and/or can’t cope with learning the grim reality of our society. There were some things so dark I wouldn’t even share them with my significant other in order to protect them.

    • You know what…. as a civilian, I get that. It’s not that you don’t WANT to be able to trust others, it’s just that it’s nearly impossible to do so.
      It’s not always their fault, not your fault, it just …is.

      I remember one time I felt truly honored….
      I was sitting with a group of friends, all but me we’re LEO. We we’re just sitting around talking, cracking, having fun. (at each other’s expense of course…)
      One of them was saying something and the punch line involved a radio code I didn’t know.
      They all laughed but me, and Im sure I had the typical “duuhhh …what??” expression.
      My buddy looked at me and said, “oh, I’m sorry man, sometimes I forget you aren’t a cop.”

      That may me feel great, that I could be a civilian that was a good enough friend that they could relax around, and forget that I wasn’t a LEO too.

      Because when anyone else joined the group or if we were around public, they were all much more reserved, and totally different.

      So yeah, I can understand a little, what you mean there about trusting non proven LEO friends.

  11. My best friend is my former FTO and that was from some 35 years ago. My other friends are mostly other LEO from that time. And mostly by Facebook. Although we did go shooting recently.

  12. Do some ride alongs. My agency a civilian can participate in a ride along where they ride with the officer for a shift to see how they police. They are limited to only a few per year but this is the best way to connect. In essence walk a mile in their shoes and you’ll be on the same page. It’s a lot easier to connect when you know how they think, act and perform on a shift.

  13. Sarge, I have to disagree with you on your number and type of friends. Let me tell you why.

    Many (about 50) years ago, my wonderful “little ol; lady” next door neighbor told me that when she was about five — we’re going w-a-y back now — her grandmother had told her that “If, when you die, you can say that you’ve had THREE really good friends, you’ll have lived a good life”. I didn’t say it, but at the time I thought, “Wilsie, I have a lot of good friends”.

    It’s only in the past 15 years or so that I’ve really understood what she meant. I’m 83 and can honestly say that I’ve had those THREE. Unfortunately, God had other plans for two of them and I’m down to one now.

    Grandma of a LEO Wannabee

  14. I understand. I, though, however am not a “cop”. I am in fact just the opposite, an “ex-criminal”. I have seen, heard, and experienced things throughout my journey that have given me a completely different outlook on humanity. Truthfully I have been through some extremely dark places in life that have ruined me to some degree. I have become cynical which I know most cops can understand. I do, however obtain a strange liking to those in law enforcement. Why? I’m guessing because they were the ones who were always a phone call away when I needed help. Not only that, they answered and responded to my call. I’m alive today because of what they do. The “blue bloods” saved my life on more then one occasion. And for that I’am forever greatful.

    • Thank you for sharing this; police officers have a calling to help people, and sometimes that means slapping stainless steel bracelets on them. I have had former “clients” come up to me years later and tell me “Thank you”. Sometimes good people get themselves into bad situations and they can’t find their way out. I am so glad to hear you are doing well.

  15. I volunteer as a reserve with my local PD and feel very fortunate to do so. After nearly a decade and 1,000+ hours in a squad, I’ve developed enough trust among the real cops to consider a few of them as good friends and I THINK it’s reciprocal. Hard to really tell, though. Cops are a guarded bunch.

    I know I’ll never truly be part of the team and that’s okay. Jumping in on a few fights with them gains trust. But it’s such a unique work environment and culture – developing LEO/non-LEO friendships is a different beast.

    Volunteering and working with cops in the field AND truly respecting the boundary between sworn and nonsworn has given me a whole new appreciation for the LEO universe.

    I’m on duty tonight with the team and I appreciate whatever the heck “friendships” I have within a pretty interesting group of people.

  16. I have been retired just over 2 years after over 28 in the trenches. I still don’t trust people. I am proud of my career, and am not the type to want to completely leave it behind. But so many folks just don’t “get it.” They are shocked by these mass shootings. Most cops are not, because we KNOW enough isn’t being done to stop this. I loathe being introduced at a house party where my career was my last name, then you just stand there and watch people freeze up. Many folks at that point either 1). Won’t give you a fair shake and are guarded around you, or 2). Insist on spilling every bad cop story they know at you.

  17. Hey, I have a Normal friend….Abby Normal….. Thank you, Mel Brooks. I’m counting two. One I’ve known since fifth grade, the other a civilian fraud investigator.

  18. Even though I’ve been retired for a lot of years, the friends I have are few and far between and are cops or retired cops. Basically I have found so called normal people boring and mostly idiots. Still take the same precautions when I’m out and about. You’re right, it’s an engrained lifestyle that may stay with you forever.

  19. Having been out there for over 30 years and retiring I have found nothing has changed, I still am over vigilant and don’t relate to so called normal people, actually they are boring and irritating. The few so called friends I have are retired cops, I don’t even relate to this so called new breed of law enforcers. But then I didn’t care that much when I worked with them either. You never loose the stuff that has or will become ingrained over many years. Unless you are one of the gathers and office bees and not the warriors on the street

  20. How about when your at the bar with your “normal” friends and all the want to do is announce your a cop to the world. All I want to do is disappear into the background.

  21. I’m not a LEO but I have many friends who are and I think this article is bang on. It took me a long time to understand what seemed like very unusual behaviour among friends who became police officers—many of my LEO friends were friends before they became cops. But, conversations over the years with some of them who are relatively good at discussing their feelings and experiences has helped me understand to the best of my ability (let’s face it, only those who do the job can truly understand what it’s like and its effects on their lives).

    There is one thing I’ve noticed among male LEO friends that isn’t mentioned here and, because I appreciate the honest and candid approach on this page, I’m hoping someone might be able to provide some insight to help me navigate it. I have a few make friends who are cops who are very open with me about the job, feelings of PTSD, issues at home because of the work and the changes the job has brought about in them etc. For clarity’s sake, I am female and I’m also a therapist. In combination with being a long time friend, I think it’s likely safe to assume that they feel I’m a safe place to vent, unload and solicit opinions because I understand better than most civilians and I never judge. However, I have found myself in some situations where they have started to misinterpret this safe feeling for other desires and I find cops the most difficult to navigate this space with—often a very defensive outburst and stonewalling follows me trying to tackle the issue. I’m always very cautious and gentle in my approach, albeit I balance that out with dark and horrific humour because I know better than to make them feel like they need to go soft or feel weakness, especially if they are actually contending with a feeling of vulnerability.

    Does anyone have advice for how to be a better friend and help them navigate this space? I know that for a million reasons, this situation looks a lot different when a cop is involved than with any old guy. And don’t get me wrong, I also know that the difference in how emotional situations are handled comes from a place of necessity. This is why I feel it might be good to seek out some feedback on how I can handle such things in a less threatening way for them. Thank you so much in advance for any insight you might be able to offer.

  22. It’s an interesting predicament that you find yourself in with wanting to be a better friend but also maintain healthy boundaries. I’m a veteran (not LEO) as well as a mentor in a local veterans treatment court. I now have battles raging in my head that may have occurred before I was even born. As you well know, being a therapist, it’s dark and gruesome a lot of the times.

    Needless to say, when I met the LEO who recently entered my life, I was a little surprised with how quickly I became his safe space. I am deeply honored to have this almost immediate level of trust. Of course, we also did a grounding exercise to get to this level-on our first date, no less. (Stand and without touching/talking, stare into your SO’s eyes for five minutes or more–it builds all sorts of re/connection immediately.)

    This is how I separate the two categories of professional and personal:

    The vets I mentor stay in professional settings, don’t sit in my car (liability issues) but know that my cell is my office 24/7/365. I will answer the phone when they call. None of them come into my personal space, i.e. not my home, don’t touch me, etc. I do this for my safety, professionally and personally since they’re in the vets court for some legal issue, are often well-versed in combat and have broken or absent social filters and, as you well know, are vulnerable emotionally. (I also never ever want the LEO in my life to stop by and be surprised to see some guy walking out of my house/car.) Furthermore, I compartmentalize the ones with whom I must stay professional to maintain clear, healthy boundaries. I remind myself about HIIPA and my professional code of conduct. Yes, I am here for you but I will shut you down in a heartbeat if you cross the line of professionalism. I am your friend, I am NOT your fuckbuddy.

    Whenever those lines start to get a little blurry, I step away for a while to give myself clarity on clear, concise and healthy boundaries. I literally imagine this person with a serious case of cauliflower-like genital warts which helps put an immediate damper on any fluttery thoughts of lust. There’s no cure and you have to freeze dry those mofo’s off on a regular basis—I did a stint at Planned Parenthood, lol. And no, condoms will not protect you either.

    Then, I provide clarity to the other person which is in your case, a LEO. S/he’ll get it if they have an ounce of respect for you as a therapist and if s/he doesn’t get it, then why would you want to be friends?! They’re emotionally vulnerable and you, as a therapist, CANNOT take advantage of your LEO friends. You just can’t. You must have clarity and self-discipline as a therapist and remove your personal feelings from the situation. Trust is a one-time deal with these people and you will never regain it after you take advantage of such vulnerability, even with your LEO friends.

    I hope this helps. I am available to help you further on this forum if you’d like to converse further.

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