Relationships AFTER prison: Do they work?
Technically this is my third blog today, because I posted a couple earlier today, so I hope you take the time to check them out. But officially this is my FIRST because I am not using one of my past blogs on this one.
I have to be mindful of my limit when writing, because I blog on 7 different sites (at the time of this blog) and one of them puts a limit of only 5 blogs every 24 hours… I have one left to blog at least until later on this afternoon.
I encourage you to read my past blogs, email me and ask questions about prison issues. I promise nothing in answers, but I can at least try to address it.
That leads me to an issue one of my readers was mentioning that I think is worth talking about. Lots and lots of people have loved ones in prison, whether husbands, boyfriends and pen pals. I have noticed that about 99% of all readers on virtually every prison support site, ministry and other place are women, so we are basically talking about the relationship of guys in prison to those women outside of prison.
Basically what is being asked is, “does love change after prison”?
Answer…yes… and no…and yes.
You see, that answer is clearly not something I can officially answer for any one person, and remember, I cannot speak for any inmate, but what we can do is talk about this.
Let’s make this clear from the beginning; the moment a person goes to prison, his outlook on life IS changed, it is just a matter of how much is changed. A guy doing 2 years in prison may not have a big change on his life as a guy who just finished doing 25 years.
So how does that affect his loved ones OUTSIDE of prison?
I have received many, many emails over the past 5 years, and have read numerous posts about how guys do time with a loved one waiting for him, and when he gets out, he “changes” and wants to go in a different direction. This often ends up in a strained relationship, and eventually the guy leaving that woman who was so supportive while he was in prison.
What went wrong? Who is at fault?
Well, the natural response is that the inmate is at fault, after all, he had the support of the woman outside of prison when he had nothing else to hold on to, and he seemed to be ungrateful to that person once he was released and got his life back.
Well, I can agree with all of that, but that does not always mean he was the only one at fault. If you are willing, let me try to touch both ends of this situation.
If you have a loved one in prison, don’t be led to believe that EVERY guy in prison will do this, that is incorrect. Many guys do their time, and when they get out are quick to embrace the one person that was there for him, and they show that respect and love to that person. I knew many guys like that. But for every one like that, there is another that does not see life that way.
Understand folks, prison is not just a place where a person goes to do his time, it is also where time stops, or passes him by. Just consider for a minute a person that is in prison now. I got out of prison in 2001, and I am sure there are a lot of guys I knew that are still in there. From 2001 to now (2008) a lot of things have changed.
Laptop computers are almost the norm, Myspace, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, MP3 players, HD Televisions, Plasma Television, I mean, technology has really exploded in the last 10-15 years. Imagine how lost a person would feel if he was behind those walls during that time.
Even cars change. When I got out in 2001, a lot of the new cars then was weird for me to see. Sure, we had television and newspapers of ads of those cars, but it is different to actually SEE it moving and in live color. Things were very different.
And the hometown changes too. In every town, things change. Buildings are built, torn down, clearings make way for new malls. New neighborhoods are built, new roads, a town can change it’s appearance to the point that you don’t recognize it.
So imagine how this can impact an inmate who was just released.
You see, it is easy to commit to a relationship when you are restricted by freedom. Many inmates have no problem holding on to a loved one while in prison, because their lives are restricted to the point that it is easier to concentrate on. In fact, it becomes the most important thing to them during their time.
Put that into perspective. A guy doing 20 years or more getting a letter from you. Do you realize how valuable it is to him? It might as well be a diamond. There is no worse feeling than being in prison and believing that the world has left you. But a letter from you reminds him that somebody out there cares about him. And that means a lot.
So if he cares so much, why does it change when he gets out? Simple. Because LIFE itself changed.
Previously his life was PRISON and everything in it. But once he is released, he has almost limitless FREEDOM. Even a guy on parole or probation has far, far more freedom than maybe he can truly imagine.
But with that freedom comes temptation.
And I think this is where so many people may mistake this for true love. Many think that the inmate “loved” them while he was in, but when he got out, he didn’t. That is not always so true.
Freedom to a formerly incarcerated man also opens the door for opportunities, those opportunities he once thought never possible. If you have never lost your freedom, this might be hard to wrap around, but to a person in prison, this is an almost limitless dream.
Guys spend every day dreaming of how he can make his life better, if given the chance. Some ideas are not legal, which is why many end up coming back, but many are legit ideas that, if done right, can be a great financial support to not only that inmate, but his loved ones as well.
So where does his loved one fit in? Well, it all depends if you are encouraging it or not.
You see, sometimes the fault can be that the person on the outside have different ideas of what that guy SHOULD do. I think many times people on the outside forget the euphoria an ex offender feels when he is free, and tries to “limit” him to logical steps.
Like getting a regular job, and helping pay bills.
“Well, that makes sense to me”
I agree, but remember, we are not looking at this from YOUR point of view. You have got to understand the world your loved one just stepped out of, and try to adjust to it. Does that mean you are wrong, of course not. In actuality, you are right!
But to the mind of an inmate who just did several years (or decades) in prison, that type of logic to a guy trying to catch up on a LOT of lost time isn’t logical. He is trying to find the fastest way to a profitable lifestyle, and the last thing he might be interested in is a “normal life”.
And also consider the idea that once free, life itself becomes one HUGE playground. Filled with places, people and adventures that an inmate could only dream of partaking in. But once he is free, these dreams become real…and really tempting.
What this can mean is that even if he does love you, the temptation for a once bound man can be just too great. Does that mean he does not love you, not always. But what changed in the relationship is the scene. What he said to you while he was incarcerated was based on where he was, and his current state of mind and current conditions. But now, if he is free, the love might be the same, but what has changed? His life.
“That shouldn’t matter”
Well, I have to disagree. It does matter because the rules of the relationship changed. I made a comparison on an older blog about how this is kinda like the average person working a 9 to 5, just getting buy and resolved to a normal lifestyle. That person might have seen those commercials about that trip to the beaches of the Bahamas, or that Mercedes Benz, or that plasma television, but that person KNEW that it was only a pipe dream…
Until they win the lottery for $100 million dollars.
Suddenly, everything in their lives changes. No more scraping around for loose coins, no more late payments of their rent and stretching every dollar. A major change in a person’s life can change his outlook on life.
That person might still be as nice as before, but a huge change in finances changes an outlook on life. If it does for money, why would it be different for freedom?
And this is not to justify the inmate, I know a lot of them do dump their girlfriends when they get out because in truth, they only appreciated the company, but many guys did truly love that person while they were in prison. But the true appreciation was lost when the waves of opportunities flooded that ex offender’s mind.
Life seems to begin anew, and with that is all the things he can do.
How do you deal with that? Well, it has to begin with you. You have to be honest to yourself and determine if you are trying to mold him to what you want, or are you both working together to enjoy life. That can be a problem, because sometimes without even knowing it, some wives and girlfriends try to “mold” their loved one to what they want them to be. This is often done out of a sincere heart, because that woman does not want to see her man go back to prison, so her ideas may be based on keeping him as clean as possible. But often this means restricting him to things he may not want to do.
Again, remember, he comes out with the whole world open to him… you can’t restrict that kind of desire. But you CAN work with him so that both of you are on the same page.
Lots of this start while he is in prison, and identifying what goals he really wants when he gets out. It has to start there, and I think many people assume that once he gets out, “we’ll talk about it then”.
Why wait for the floods to come before you start building the wall? You have to start sooner so that both of you know what to expect from one another. If he says he wants to start a business selling pine cones (yeah, a silly idea, just bear with me), then the two of you have time to look at what it will take to start such a business. This gives you both something in common while he is still incarcerated.
If done this way, you give him something REAL to look forward to, rather than just the openness of life. You give him direction, and you also give him someone who shares in that direction.
Now, this works the other way too. If you have a boyfriend in prison and you are not too sure of, these kinda venues will also determine if this guy really wants to change. If you have been writing to him for the last several months about his dreams and they seem flaky or he avoids it, you might be looking at a guy who really does not care.
Sometimes the signs are right there in your face, but often people won’t see it.
If so, then love was never there in the first place.
There is so much more that I think can be said for relationships in prison, but you can take my words as a grain of salt. Ultimately, such relationships are dependent on the person outside and that loved one on the inside.
Can a relationship work after prison? Of course it can, there are numerous examples of that. Love has no boundaries, but love CAN be tested to the breaking point. I hope some of what I shared can help some of you understand what some guys might be thinking or going through. Remember, I cannot and DO NOT speak for all inmates, because we all did our times differently.
Anyway, email me if you are interested in my books, cards, encouragement certificates or just want to support me…I’ll take any support I can get. If you just wanna ask me about a particular prison issue, whether prison canteen to count time or even what it might be like after prison, let me know. My email is derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com.