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How to build a relationship over the phone

tyro blog talking on the phone

Your husband is in prison.

Suddenly, your primary way of communicating is no longer face to face, but over the phone.  And not by text, snapchat, or Instagram messaging.  Yikes! Talking on the phone together was probably not something you did often before he went to prison. Talking on the phone is now the most important activity for you to build your relationship stronger.

While Ron was in prison for those 15 years, we learned how to build a strong, thriving, healthy marriage.  But it didn’t come naturally, nor did we start out that way.  We started out building a marriage that would work for a prisoner and his wife.  While that would have been just great if we didn’t want to spend the rest of our lives together, we knew it wasn’t going to get us where we wanted to be; together for the rest of our lives.  We had to do something different, so we could make it on either side of the gates. I didn’t want to just be a great prisoner’s wife, I wanted to be a great WIFE.

I had to learn the difference between being a prisoner’s wife and being a wife.

It was complicated sometimes, because I had to play both roles while my husband was in prison.  The first thing we learned was that communication is King. If your communication is terrible, your family will fall apart; if it is healthy, your family will thrive.  That is a lot of pressure to get it right!  You must learn to use the phone to build your relationship stronger.

With so much technology at your disposal, talking on the phone has become almost archaic.  But now, talking on the phone is your number one way of building a stronger relationship. You must use this bit of technology to your benefit. You need to leverage every opportunity to get stronger if you want to come out of this experience together.

ron & Cathy Tijerina dating someone in prison

I had to learn the difference between being a prisoner’s wife and being a wife.

There are secrets to building your relationship stronger over the phone.  If you don’t know the secrets, you will create a marriage that works great as long as he is in prison, but it won’t survive once he is released.  Knowing how to build a marriage that will thrive on the outside in spite of the years you are apart is the secret to creating a relationship that will last for a lifetime together.

Here are some of our secrets for building a relationship over the phone:

1 - Don’t waste time fighting.

If you disagree, you can discuss the issue, but do not use your time to fight over anything. Avoid using your precious time talking on the phone as an opportunity to argue.  It is the equivalent of using Date Night to argue. Resist the urge to do it.

2 - Listen carefully for understanding.

Listening is not just hearing the words spoken, but also tuning into the unspoken.  Listen for voice inflections, tone, and choice of words. All of those nuances are creating an intimate experience between the 2 of you that you miss out on in texts, emails and letters.  Take advantage of the opportunity to connect verbally.

After spending over 10 years visiting my man in prison, he was being released. I was ecstatic—and I was so nervous. So many questions were running through my mind. Could he love me the same now that he was free? Could this nightmare really be over?

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dating someone in prison Ron Tijerina Cathy Tijernia

3 - Share your life with him on the phone.

Involve him in your decisions, your worries, your joys.  Put him on speaker phone to talk with the whole family, to be part of singing happy birthday to your children, to hear exciting news, to share sad news or a challenge.  Making him a part of your outside life will make the transition much smoother when he comes home.

4 - Use different tones of your voice deliberately.

Use your voice inflection to convey more to him than your words alone can. Just as you are listening for those cues when he is speaking, let him hear your heart and soul though your vocal tones.

5 - Never criticize over the phone.

You need to see each other’s eyes when you offer constructive criticism.  If you try to do so on the phone, it will not go well.  It is too easy to take things personally and dwell on them after the call. Better to avoid this altogether by setting a rule that you will share corrections with each other at a visit when you can look at each other.

6 - Always affirm over the phone.

Find something that is good about what is happening, or who your partner is and comment on it. Set the tone that you see good in him and you are a witness to his greatness as well as his ability to overcome the challenges he is facing.

7 - Share a memory of a time you felt close.

You do not have to repeat the entire memory, just simply saying like, “ remember the time we___________, wasn’t that so much fun?”  He will know what you are talking about and you will relive that moment together through your shared memory.

8 - Share something you are looking forward to doing together in the future.

When you share desires for the future, you reinforce that you see your lives intertwined across a lifetime together.  You are creating an expectation of staying together for the rest of your lives.

These are some tips to help get you started on building your new legacy of a stronger family together. Remember that practice makes permanent, so whatever you practice now will become a permanent part of your relationship.  Make the good stuff permanent by creating a relationship that lasts.

I am rooting for you!



  • rlee
    Posted December 18, 2018 at 11:27 pm

    Thank you. I’m about to go away for a while and this has been my number one, crazy-ass concern. Prison is prison and that’s going t be fine but being away from my wife and trying to figure out what that will look like is driving me fucking insnae. Thank you

  • Catherine Tijerina
    Posted December 19, 2018 at 10:54 am

    It is never easy to be away from your spouse. Prison adds even more stress to your relationship. Even though it will be a challenge- you can get through this and be even stronger than you are now. It will take effort and dedication, but it is so worth it. Before you leave, take some time to talk about how prison will change your relationship and what you will do to stay connected. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask me or Ron. You can find Ron on Facebook TYRO365 every night at 9:00 pm ET. Don’t give up. We are rooting for you.

  • Catherine Tijerina
    Posted December 19, 2018 at 11:04 am

    One more thing- share this blog with your wife and encourage to read it. I do daily updates to my blog with information to help couples overcome incarceration— I share links to other support groups, information to help her navigate prison, and encouragement for her as she is on this journey.

  • Sarah McCafferty
    Posted September 9, 2020 at 5:31 am

    Thanks so much for this, my significant other is across the country for work for a couple weeks. This is hte first time we have been separated for this long of a time. I want to make sure we don’t lose touch and keep up our intimacy as much as possible while he’s away.

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