“I do not know why I even come to see you! All we ever do is argue. Every. Single. Time. I cannot wait for this visit to be over so I can get out of here and away from you!” If you were with your husband before he went to prison, I am sure you have either said these words or had this thought during a prison visit. Visiting is hard. It is demeaning to be treated like a potential criminal while going through security; it is even more emotional after you enter the visiting room! You expect that security will analyze every move you make. You did not expect your husband to interpret every word you say. As a result, you found yourselves in arguments that started as simple misunderstandings. Things got hot before you realized the trigger, and you were in a significant disagreement over it. You were defending your point on something pretty insignificant compared to everything else you are both facing right now. You are probably asking yourselves why you keep fighting at every visit when all you want is to be together.
Here is the reason- it is easier. It is easier to walk away from someone you are mad at than leave someone you long to be with. It is easier to disagree about the finer points of daily life than to deal with the big issues that threaten your relationship, legacy, and family. That molehill is not nearly as intimidating as the mountains all around it. So, you fix your sights on the molehill and make that the place you stand your ground because it is a battle that seems easy to win. The other issues loom as enormous dark shadows all around you. It is scary, painful, and difficult to muster the energy to tackle them. You subconsciously convince yourself that you cannot win the war, so you focus on the inconsequential and make it into a battle you can control. Because you know that the only thing you have any control over is yourself.
"You cannot control how often or how long you get to see each other or when your man gets to come home."
You cannot control how often or how long you get to see each other or when your man gets to come home. However, you can manage your attitude. When you decide to tame it, you will find joy in the most difficult times. If you let it run wild and react to every challenge with an attack, you will remain miserable and in conflict with your spouse. Honestly, the fights are not worth the lack of effort they require. Read that sentence again. It is true. You will change your behavior when you realize that allowing your emotions to dictate your actions and interactions with your spouse is tearing your relationship apart. It might be too late to repair the damage. You must adjust your attitude and behavior to save your marriage and family.
"Changing your focus is a skill you must develop to save your marriage."
Saying goodbye over and over and over and over and over again SUCKS. I know what it feels like to have your life controlled by other people. The sense of helplessness and hopelessness may even attack you at every visit. I also know the joy of pushing through to find the precious moments during prison visits. I know how to build connections and focus on MY RELATIONSHIP instead of my hardship. Changing your focus is a skill you must develop to save your marriage. Even more than that, changing your attitude will develop resiliency. To thrive, reach your dreams, and build your legacy, you must activate resiliency in your life. It is a matter of hope vs. despair, success vs. failure, triumph vs. tragedy. You have the power to establish your family’s legacy.
If you want to change your goodbyes into an experience that encourages you, you need to change your attitude. You must see your farewells as a time to invest in your relationship. When you do that, you leave with your hearts filled to overflowing. This fullness in your hearts will carry you to your next visit. Neither you nor your partner will feel empty and lonely. The end of your visits can, and must, hold the promise of “until next time, my love!” When you leave the presence of your spouse longing for them, you can hold onto that fulfillment as you face every challenge you encounter between your visits. Your new goal is to fill up your partner and yourself during these visits so you leave feeling completely satisfied.
I know it is easy to get caught up in focusing on everything you do not have right now.
You will need to work hard to change your perspective on investing in your family. But I also know you can do it. The investment of your time and energy will be well worth it! Here are some things you can begin to do right now that will help you end your visits on a high note (without leaving you in a pool of grief!)
- First, plan your visits. We have all heard the saying, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It is especially true when it comes to visits. You cannot just show up and hope for a great visit. Take the time to plan what you will wear, what you will eat together, and what you will do or topics you will discuss during your time together. I used to think of this as our family getaways or dates. That mindset helps you get excited about making the most of your time together.
- Involve your husband. It is vital to include your husband as you plan the visits. There will be things that are important to him that you will want to plan to include in your time together.
- Decide when to resolve conflicts. Take the time to discuss with your partner how you feel about leaving angry and how committed you are to making your relationship strong. Together, decide when you will resolve conflict so it doesn’t overtake every visit. Ron and I used to have a weekly call to discuss the conflict. We could write letters to each other between those weekly discussions. Still, we did not poison our relationship by pulling conflict into every interaction we had with each other. Keep the battles contained, and you will find that your time together will be so much more fulfilling!
- Be real. Do not pretend that you are OK if you are not OK. Give each other permission to cry, be sad, happy, or excited about things that do not involve the other. It is normal to experience the full range of our God-given emotions, and you need to acknowledge that you are not constantly experiencing life similarly.
- Be grateful. This may sound trite, but I mean it. You can choose to live your life being grateful for the things you have and the time you get to spend with each other. You can also live to be ungrateful, disappointed, and bitter as a victim of your circumstances. Nobody else can make that choice for you. So, choose to be grateful and watch your satisfaction with your relationship increase dramatically.
- Remember the most important thing; your relationship is the most important thing. Being right won’t matter next week, but how you treat your spouse will matter even years later. Focus on kindness, compassion, and connection during your goodbyes.
Keep working toward your forever family and lasting legacy!
I am rooting for you!