Friendship is crucial when your husband is in prison.
I am not talking about having friends that support you on the outside. I am referring to a deep, meaningful friendship with your man. Creating a deep friendship between you and your husband will build the foundation for your future success as a couple. Without friendship, your relationship will not last.
There are two BIG reasons you need to develop your friendship: you and your partner. Navigating through a prison experience is challenging. It takes a significant amount of energy and grit to overcome all of the challenges each of you will face. Suppose you are trying to do this alone. In that case, you will struggle even more, and the everyday obstacles will soon look like insurmountable odds. You will become dissatisfied with your life and, therefore, your relationship. No romantic relationship survives prison without friendship.
"Prison is a highly volatile environment for your partner."
The culture of incarceration does not allow prisoners to forge genuine friendships easily. It is emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically draining for prisoners to navigate new relationships. Inmates must keep their guard up while carefully assessing whether the relationship is healthy or unhealthy. While in prison, your husband is in self-survival mode. This often causes him to build walls around his emotions to protect himself. You must be intentional about connecting with him and building your friendship. Otherwise, your chances of making it through with your relationship intact are very slim.
Prison culture can become a challenge for you on the outside. Many social norms in prison create barriers for you and your family. People may judge you harshly for your association with a “convict”, ignorant of all that you are going through. People who may judge you cannot relate, so they separate. You will quickly discover not many people understand the journey you are on with your husband. But one person knows very well how prison has impacted your family; your husband.
This crisis can bond you together like no other experience in life. To experience a renewed commitment to each other, you must focus your energy on your friendship. Each of you desperately needs a best friend who understands the scary adventure of prison. Your best friend is your partner! You are both on a similar journey and can support each other more than anyone else in the world. If you intentionally connect, the love you share, experiences, and loss can become the most substantial ties in your relationship.
"A friend who is there to encourage, support, and challenge you will be the difference between becoming a victim or a victor of your circumstances."
This type of friendship is not easy. You will need to commit to working together to help each other and become the CEOs in each other’s lives. A CEO is a Chief Encouraging Officer. As the CEO, you serve as a sounding board, coach and fan as you hold up your friendship as a shield against bitterness and resentment. There is no better best friend than your partner.
As I write this blog, I cannot help but feel the tug of emotions at the flood of memories of our journey. Ron was my best friend. Because of his friendship, I overcame many fears, set goals for our lives, and accomplished many dreams. I cannot imagine where I would be today if Ron had not become my best friend. He often tells me the same thing – he cannot imagine what he would be right now if I had not been a faithful friend to him during his incarceration. Friendship is the best gift you can give to your partner.
Here are some tips on how to be a good friend to your partner while he is incarcerated:
- Don’t make him your ONLY friend. Yes, he needs to be your best friend, but having other friends will keep your relationship healthy. If he becomes your only friend, you will soon find yourself in a co-dependent relationship scarred by insecurities, jealousy, and control.
- Treat him like a friend. It is easy to put your relationship in a compartment as a romantic involvement and not see your partner as your friend. That will not work. Take time to consider your interactions together. Then, ask yourself if you would be friends with someone like you if they treated you the way you treat your partner. If not, you need to change your behavior.
- Create fun together. Having fun together while he is in prison may seem impossible, but I promise you it is not. Share jokes, silly stories about what is happening in your life, or play a game together. Check out this blog for ideas on games you can play together.
- Share your dreams, accomplishments, and challenges with your partner. Allow them to become part of your life by trusting them with your secret aspirations.
- Listen to your partner. I have had times when I hear Ron talking, but I am so preoccupied with my own stuff that I wasn’t really listening to what he was sharing. Friends show they care by listening to what the other is experiencing.
- Plan together. Friends plan get-togethers, trips, dinners, movie nights, and a whole host of other activities they want to share. Plan something for a phone call, a visit, and when he comes home. It is fun to talk about what you will do, and it builds anticipation for when you will be together.
- Include others. Share how much you care about your husband with others. Tell others what a good friend he is to you to build a bridge between inside prison and outside. Including others also reinforces your positive attitude toward him. This will make others more likely to accept him your partner they are released. Friends love sharing how great their best friend is with others.
I know it is hard to be apart and lose the physical intimacy you shared before they went to prison. You will miss your man being included in your daily life until he comes home. In the meantime, do not miss out on beautiful memories you can create by building your friendship while he is in prison. You will make an excellent foundation to support your relationship across your lifetimes.
I am rooting for you!