Dating someone in prison is not for the faint of heart. Aside from the many physical constraints that come with a prison relationship, there are also limitations to the ways couples typically get to know each other. Keeping these limitations in mind and being honest and straightforward with your partner in prison will help as you navigate the obstacles you will undoubtedly face.
For those who are dating or are married to someone who is incarcerated, it is crucial to not dive into the relationship headfirst. As you get to know your significant other, here are some important things to keep in mind.
Write Letters to Each Other
In a world that offers immediate rewards for everything, writing a letter to your partner in prison might seem dated, but it is one of the best ways to stay in touch and show them you are thinking of them. Letters require forethought and intentionality, both of which shows the recipient that you care about them. Letters also are long-lasting, as they can be read over and over again. Make a goal to write letters to your partner as often as you are able, even if it’s a short note or thought, they will mean the world to them. You can send your letters out often or store them up and take them with you on your next visit. Click here to read more about writing letters to your partner in prison.
Setting boundaries is important for every relationship. Without it, you cannot expect the relationship to thrive. Like any relationship, and it’s important not to rush into any relationship before getting to know the other person. If you are newly-dating, you should spend more time writing to each other and less time visiting in-person. Note that if you are already married to them, this one may not need to apply.
Every relationship is a leap of faith, but its important to set parameters on your prison relationship. It can be tempting to spend more than you are able: videos, technology, music, clothes and food just to name a few. Limiting your spending to essential items only (calls, meals, etc) and budgeting out what you are comfortable with is a good place to start.
Get to Know Their Prison Rules
There are dynamics to every institution, and it’s helpful to know what they are in order to navigate your relationship. From prison visits and phone calls, to dress code and acceptable items to send, it’s important to know what you can and cannot do and what they can and cannot do. Don’t be discouraged by these limitations. Make it a priority to learn them and operate within their parameters. This truly will make your time and correspondence less stressful and more enjoyable.
Don’t Ignore the Big Questions
No one can deny that there are challenges to dating someone in prison. Whether you are married to an inmate or just started dating, it’s important to be open and talk about these barriers. Talking about your fears, hopes, expectations and plans for your future are all essential conversations to have. Take some time and write out some of these big questions. This will allow you to be ready to talk about them the next time you see each other
Help them Grow
The biggest challenge men and women face as they come home from prison is their re-entry. From learning technology and adjusting to a new environment to avoiding old negative patterns, it is vital they overcome their old habits and work towards rehabilitation. Finding programs like TYRO or other programs on their prison tablets is one of the ways you can help your partner become ready to face the outside.
Get to Know Their Family
Like any relationship, getting to know the significant other’s family is a big step in the relationship. Don’t skip this stage just because your partner is in prison. Now more than ever, it’s important to get to know their family along the way. If you already know any of their family, go in a prison visit with them, write a letter with them together or make dinner plans with them. Just make sure you have the approval of your partner before taking this step in the relationship.
Dating someone in prison has its challenges, without question, it can be a long and sometimes lonely journey. But it is not impossible. And with new technologies, and resources it is becoming easier to stay connected with loved ones in prison. Don’t be afraid to share your hopes, fears, hesitations, and expectations with your significant other.