You might be surprised that I am actually talking about the impact of prison on sex.
No one really talks about how prison drastically affects intimacy. When Ron went to prison there was one important part of our relationship that stopped. Sex. Naturally, sex had been an important part of our relationship, but it wasn’t in the top 5 reasons why I was devastated when Ron went to prison. Everyone else seemed more concerned about this when we were! This was one of the questions that people asked often. “What about sex?” Suddenly, so many people cared about my sex life! So crazy; so weird. I often wondered why people thought it was appropriate to ask me about sex. I wasn’t talking to them about their sex life. One thing I discovered is that when your husband goes to prison, people feel free to ask you anything.
As I was adjusting to being a socially single mom, navigating the prison system for visits, and trying to figure out how we were going to make it through this, sex was the last thing on my mind. “Sex? My family is falling apart. I don’t know how I am going to survive financially, emotionally, and spiritually for the next 14-25 years, and you think the number one thing I should be concerned about is that we cannot have sex?” People were totally clueless. But their questions made me realize that sex could become an issue. It made me aware of how I was feeling and helped me put boundaries around my life and family to keep us safe and together. I knew that even though it wasn’t important to me right then, it would certainly become important sometime soon.
Just because it wasn’t near the top of my list, doesn’t mean that it never became important.
After the shock and denial wore off, I grieved the loss of intimacy with my husband (read more about our story). It became yet another loss we suffered together. I missed the connection that only comes from physical intimacy. It wasn’t SEX that I missed, it was being intimate with my husband. There is a big difference. People who miss sex look for opportunities to satisfy a physical longing, which inevitably leads to seeking out sex with someone else. Affairs and sexual encounters become a diversion from the pain of the loss. I have seen far too many families destroyed because of affairs.
When you miss being intimate with the person you are committed to, being faithful is easy. That is not to say that it doesn’t hurt. The absence of physical expression of love causes pain. We deeply felt the loss of touching, holding, and kissing. It is amazing how much we longed to be able to just hold each other for more than 30 seconds a month! We were longing to have a full marriage including sexual intimacy, and that perspective kept our view of sex in the right context.
So, what about sex after your spouse goes to prison?
Sex is an important part of your marriage, and it is totally worth saving for your spouse to come home. Ron served a total of 15 years in prison. I never had an affair or a sexual relationship with anyone else, and I am so very glad I kept my promise to be faithful. Speaking from experience, I promise you will not die from not having sex, but you could kill your marriage if you decide to engage in sexual activity with someone else.
In order to keep your focus on your goal of building a healthy marriage, you must be proactive (here are some tips). If someone tells you, “It cannot be done,” or “It won’t be worth the effort,” they are lying to you. It absolutely can be done and it is so, so, so, so worth the effort!! Been there, done that, and reaping the rewards!
Tips to protect your marriage
Here are some practical things you can do to protect your marriage and stay faithful:
- Define what you want by writing it down. Put your written goals in a place you will see them often.
- Choose your friends wisely. Do not spend time with people who erode your commitment to your goals. If they are not encouraging you to remain faithful, they are not your friends! Spend time with people who are helping you reach your goals and who are supporting you in your vision.
- Invest in your relationship. Block time for your relationship by setting aside time for letters and visits.
- Guard your heart and reputation. Practice NOT being alone with another man. Not in a car, an elevator, or a room. This simple rule will stop any ill-intentioned advances, because they will not have the opportunity to make an advance.
- Be intimate in the ways you can. There are still some things you can do to keep the fire smoldering while you wait for each other. Hold his face in your hands when you kiss hello and goodbye. This provides more skin to skin contact than a simple kiss. Write “date night” letters dreaming of how you will spend a date night together when he comes home, or write a letter sharing a memory of an intimate date you had together that holds a special place in your heart. Find ways to share moments together – whether it is a shared glance, a letter, or a treat from the vending machine. Those moments help you create your own private time to connect you to each other.
- Share about your life on the outside. Keeping your spouse as involved as possible while he is gone conveys to him that you are saving a place in your life for him. Not only does it provide room for your relationship to be front and center, it also provides an extra layer of accountability for you. This will help you stay focused on your relationship and keep you from becoming prey to men looking for a sexual relationship.
- Be appropriate. When you set a high standard by being appropriate in the way you dress, talk, and where you spend your time, you are setting yourself up for success.
- Get involved in a church. Being involved in a church (not just attending, but becoming involved!) will minimize loneliness by meeting your emotional and social need to connect with others on a common goal. Plus, most churches are full of kind, older women who love to hug, and we all know that extra hugs can be a lifesaver some days!
Practice these tips in your life, and you will find that it is easier than you ever imagined to be faithful and wait for your spouse. What about sex? Sex is an amazing gift, sizzling hot, intimate, and a beautiful part of your relationship that is worth protecting. If we can do it, you can do it. We are rooting for you!
Standing with you,
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