Dealing with your partner in prison is hard.
Your entire life has been tipped upside down and you are hanging on for dear life. You are trying to process all the areas of your life that have been furthermore affected by his incarceration. It is a lot to process!
Although your heart is broken, your relationship was probably not healthy before he went to prison. As you recover from the shock and overcome the grief, you will have two major adjustments to manage. First, how to deal with the pain of having your husband in prison. Second, how to deal with your partner while he is in prison. Neither of these will be easy, but you must navigate through both of these new issues in your life and relationship.
Let's talk a bit about the first one.
How can you manage your pain, grief, and loss in order to continue to function while your partner is in prison? You will need to decide what the most important things are in your life and then get to work to build those things stronger. Working hard to accomplish your goals—keeping your family intact, getting a better job, fixing up your house, etc.—will keep you focused on doing something positive during this season of your life.
Set small goals to mark your progress toward your big goals.
Reaching these smaller milestones along the way toward achieving your goal will keep you inspired, motivated, and thus will help to bring healing to your hurt/pain. As you reach your goals, make new ones. Continually move the marker forward and you will find that your strength and courage are increasing.
The second new issue you will face is how to deal with your relationship with your partner while he is in prison. It will be very different than it was when he was home. You are both in a painful place emotionally, but you are now in the position of having more power and control in your relationship. You are one who holds all of the cards when it comes to communication with you, and with your children. In fact, it is important for you to recognize your power. It is also very important that you NOT abuse this power.
There is a lot that goes into preparing for a prison visit. If you have never had a loved one in prison, you may think it is easy to stay in touch. From the outside, it seems like all you need to do is get in your car and go visit your loved one prison. But, that is an illusion. When my husband Ron Tijerina was was in prison, we learned there is a lot that goes into preparing for a prison visit.
Having the power to control your relationship also carries a great deal of responsibility with it.
You are responsible for creating opportunities for your family to thrive. You must determine how you are going to stay connected to your husband and how you will start working to build a stronger and healthier relationship. It will be up to you to begin to break negative patterns in your relationship. Moreover, unhealthy habits can only continue if you let them.
Do not let your partner control you from inside the walls. If your relationship was dysfunctional before he went to prison, now is the perfect time to work on turning it into a functional and healthy relationship. In order to build something worth having, you will need to set boundaries and stick to them. Be firm, friendly, and fair. Furthermore, as you consistently set the tone for a healthy relationship (notice I didn’t use the word dictate!), your man will be faced with a decision to make.
Your partner will either work with you to rebuild your relationship, or he will let his ego cause him to ruin it. This is the really hard part: you cannot make your relationship healthy all by yourself. He has to be willing to work on it with you. Even if your partner initially resists the changes, do not give up. Stand firm in seeking a collaborative relationship. When you remain calmly steadfast, chances are that he will realize he must make changes with you in order to rescue his family.
Dealing with a partner in prison is not easy. It is messy, painful, and exhausting in every way. However, it won’t always be this hard. As you work on creating a new legacy, you will be unleashing your passion to DO something to fix the problem. Doing the right thing in pursuing your dreams will build self-confidence and thus begin the healing in your heart. Working on your marriage and relationship is the best first step in using this time wisely and investing in your family’s future.
I am rooting for you!