Growing up, you probably never thought that “standing by your man” would mean waiting for him to get out from behind bars. Dating, or being married to, a guy who is in jail is hard. It combines a long distance relationship, without the perks, and the emotional turmoil for his safety and your future together with often little or no support from family and friends. Even if it seems impossible, legal issues can make your relationship grow stronger. This is only possible though if your significant other decides to change and wants to never wear a jumpsuit again. If your man is a habitual re-offender and spends a significant amount of time incarcerated every year, expect even less sympathy or help from your loved ones if you choose to stay. You will more than likely have to completely overhaul your idea of what a true commitment means.
First Time Your Man is Behind Bars
As long as it is not a violent crime, a first time experience being locked up can sometimes put a man on the right path. (If your boyfriend or husband displays violent tendencies, you can count on them eventually being directed towards you as well. Check out these articles about abusive men for stories, telltale signs and advice if you are a battered woman or on the path to becoming one.) Visit him every day that you are able to do so and dress up for the occasion to make him regret not being able to be out with you more. Never underestimate the power of the written word. Even if you see him every day that you are allowed to, put money on his inmate account for stamps and exchange love letters. Tell him how much you miss him and how hard this is on you and he’s almost one hundred percent guaranteed to offer promises of it being different in the future. Hopefully he sticks to them once he is out.
Multiple Times With Your Man Behind Bars
The disappointment of your husband or boyfriend returning to jail after promises of changing his ways can be devastating. You can end up feeling betrayed and angry. Feelings of unworthiness can follow with the idea that you are not worth staying lawful for. If you choose to stay with him, prepare yourself for the possibility that you may have to face a lifetime of dealing with his self-destructive choices. Even though he is the one behind bars, you will also face consequences for his behavior. Alienation from family and friends, loneliness and financial strife are just a few of the “punishments” you may accrue from staying ever loyal to a selfish man. Even worse you may get little to no validation from your significant other for sticking by his side. Instead you may face even more selfishness throughout your relationship, such as wanting time to party and play when he gets out because of “not being able to do anything while locked up”, instead of romancing you. Though some men do appreciate a woman that sticks with them through everything that life throws at them, quite a few start to take their girls for granted when they feel confident that they will never leave them no matter what.
How to Not Become a Doormat If You Choose to Stay
Never make false threats like “I’ll leave you the next time you mess up!” unless you mean it. If you issue that ultimatum prepare to follow through. If you utter the words and do not back them up, all it does is show him that he can continue to hurt you and never lose you. Instead talk to him about how he has to be when he is out. Try to show him how much better it’d be with the extra time and money that wasn’t spent on serving time. If he doesn’t concede to at least spending his days of freedom showing you how much he appreciates you waiting for him, you have to reconsider your choice. Ask yourself exactly what it is that you are hoping for. Is it the man you think he would be “without all of the pressure and financial strain” his legal issues cause you, or are you just a prisoner yourself because of the path you chose by walking alongside his? Spend time on yourself while he is incarcerated. Hang out with friends and enjoy your hobbies. Look into ways of supporting yourself in the future with the uncertainty of how much time he’ll actually be able to be out of lockup to be the other half of your couple. If you choose to “stand by your man” no matter what, you may be looking at being the sole breadwinner and emotional support of any your household at any given moment. Make sure that you have outlets to do so.
In short, whether this is your first time being a “jail widow” or you could publish a novel from your diary of nights spent alone, it never gets easier. You have to make a conscious decision to keep bettering yourself, even if you vow to never give on him.
Author’s Disclaimer: I wrote article this article in hope of helping other women. I have been with my husband for 17 years and married for 10. We met right before the ninth grade. The first time that he went to jail was when I was 18 and pregnant with our first child. Collectively, about three to four years of our life together has been spent with me waiting for him to finish his sentences for various driving offenses.