I am married to an inmate.
Wow. I kept saying that in my head over and over again. I am married to a convict! How in the world did this happen? I never imagined that I would marry a man who was in prison. I was in shock that my husband was in prison.
As the shock began to wear off, and the reality of my situation began to sink in, my thinking also began to change. I stopped saying my husband is an inmate; thus changed the way I saw it. I married Ron. I was the wife of Ron, not an inmate.
What is my identity
Then I realized that I was taking away part of my own identity by allowing social prejudice to define my marriage. I became determine to define my own family and my own relationships, on my own terms. I refused to de-humanize my husband, my marriage or my family.
You see, your husband is still the same person he was before he went to prison. You are married to your man, who is in prison right now. That may seem like semantics, but it is a very important distinction. He still carries the role of being your husband before he is anything else. This is important for you, and it is important for him.
Being married to a man who is in prison is a huge challenge.
Certainly there is the social stigma, financial burden, and loneliness that you battle every day. Your life intersects with the crazy world of prison, but you can’t let it infect your life on the outside. You have to be strong, focused, and resilient.
Remember that you have to hang onto your identity with everything in you. You must decide what you stand for, what you and your family are fighting for and never let the system define you. It is OK to stand out, to be different, to be unique. I am not suggesting you ignore rules; but I am insisting that you find your own way within the constraints of the rules you must follow. That means taking advantage of every opportunity to assert the value of your family above the stigma of prison.
It took us a while to understand the importance of “dating” the best we could while Ron was in prison. Our prison visits began with both of us totally focused on the legal process of appeals and motions. There was very little updating each other on what was happening in the outside world.
Strengthen Your Marriage
Here are some ways you can keep your marriage the top priority (instead of the fact that your husband is in prison)-
- Share things about your husband with your friends as often as you can. Talk about your partner in “normal” life situations; remember to share positive things to keep him in your everyday life. Share how he says silly or kind things to cheer you up when you are down; how he looks at you with that special smile; or how his eyes crinkle in that super sexy way when he smiles. Be intentional about not mentioning the fact that he is in prison every time you talk about him.
- Send him cards, letters, and e-mails to let him know what is happening in your life. and yes, I do mean all three—cards, letters and e-mails. Keep him in the loop of your daily activities, challenges, and victories. By keeping him in the loop about your life, you are not only making sure he feels connected to you, but you are also keeping a place for him in your busy life so when he comes home it is seamless.
- Decide together how often, and for how long, you will talk about prison. If you spend all of your time together bemoaning the struggles, you are putting the experience of prison before your family. I know this is hard, but be deliberate about sharing your dreams, goals, and problems that are a part of normal life. This helps both of you remember that the terms of inmate, convict, or prisoner do not define who he is—just where he is.
I am rooting for you!