Marriages are hard enough. Add incarceration into the mix, and they’re even harder.
People already have numerous struggles to deal with in marriage without having to work through the difficulty of a spouse being locked up.
Marriages can be rocky all on their own between communication issues, financial problems and differences in opinions. Marriage is a lot of work. So, how do people survive it when their loved one is in prison? It’s not a walk in the park.
When a couple decides to stay together through a prison sentence, they will both need to actively work at the marriage consistently. It won’t be something that can be managed without additional effort. They’ll have to make an effort to communicate with one another often, whether that’s over the phone, through the mail or in person.
They need to be willing to be open with one another and allow each other to express their thoughts, feelings and life with one another. Building strong communication and emotional intimacy can help couples stay connected.
They need to emotionally support one another as well. Both individuals in the relationship will be fighting battles. The one in prison may feel shameful which could hurt their self-esteem. Both individuals may feel lonely. The loved one on the outside of the prison walls may feel hurt and angry about the crime that the loved one committed. It’s important to carefully and gently work through issues, showing loving support and understanding.
Beyond being willing to communicate with one another and showing understanding and support, you need to invest in yourself. Each person in the relationship should work towards trying to improve themself, taking steps to be healthier mentally and physically. It’s also beneficial if both are working on their spiritual wellbeing. This allows each of you to be in a better headspace.
Another thing that can be helpful is finding support. If your loved one is in prison, counseling can be beneficial to help you work through your feelings. It can also be beneficial to both of you upon reentry since you’ll both have likely changed some since the sentence was served.
Don’t try to do this alone. There are support groups that can help you work through things and provide you advice along the way. Also, try to make connections with others who have spouses that are incarcerated so you can share stories and support one another.
It won’t be an easy road to travel, but it is possible with strength, dedication and understanding. It will require a continual effort to stay together and to stay hopeful.
[Monalisa Johnson is a licensed and ordained minister of the gospel and a certified life coach as well as a mother and entrepreneur. In no way is anything that she writes, speaks or shares considered medical advice or clinical therapy. Consider all that you receive to be life coaching and guidance.]