Guessing, imagining, wondering…these are words that people on the inside use to describe what it is like when trying to maintain a relationship while they are in prison. Unfortunately, all of these feelings are unavoidable when you cannot be part of your spouse’s or partner’s daily life.
However, a lot of these feelings can be reduced (and sometimes eliminated) through some simple steps. Whether you are on the inside now, or preparing to leave for time in prison, you can make some very positive changes that help to reduce your anxiety or worry, and to even strengthen the relationship.
- Discuss what it will mean to go through the prison sentence together. Remember that both partners are “serving” the time, and if one is not truly willing to endure the hardships and challenges, it is best to recognize this as soon as possible. (Santos, 2008)
- Make communication a major issue – No matter how long a prison sentence might be, it is a great time to strengthen your communication skills and to create a strong communication system. Both parties must write as much as possible, email if possible, make regular phone calls when this is available, and to visit whenever they can. Communicating during visits should be healthy and not just making conversation. If you both work to keep each other informed about your daily lives, you’ll have plenty of “real” issues to discuss: kids, school, work, hobbies, family, home and more.
- Decide what life will “look like” for both of you – If you have a sentence with an end date, decide how life is going to look when you are out. If not, discuss what life is going to look like for both of you over the long term. When you have discussed this, you should both get busy making this vision a reality.
- Be honest about anxiety – When you are inside it is natural to worry about your partner. You may worry about their finances, the household chores and maintenance, the kids you share, and their life in general. You may worry about the fact that you are not there physically, too, and that is something a lot of people feel anxious about. The only way to alleviate this is to talk to them about it. Be clear on how they will live, who is helping them, what each day might look like, and so on. Doing this removes the guesswork and eliminates unnecessary, and often harmful, anxiety.
It is never easy being on the inside and in a relationship, but it is not impossible. Work as a team, and you will succeed.
Santos, Michael. Maintaining Relationships While in Prison. Prison News Blog. 2008. http://prisonnewsblog.com/2008/12/maintaining-loving-relationships-while-in-prison/