How to Survive Prison: 10 Tips for Incarcerated Spouses
Preserving Your Marriage
Incarceration can take a serious toll on a marriage. Even the strongest marriage can be affected. In addition to the pain of separation, many spouses on the outside are also dealing with feelings of anger, shame, and betrayal. The actions that have led you to prison will have long-lasting effects on you and others.
Before we get too far, you might have burned a few family relationships on your way to incarceration. You're responsible for some damage. Before any relationship can go forward, you'll need to call, write, or in a visit confess, acknowledge, apologize, and seek forgiveness. We recommend reading Forgive and Forget by Lewis Smeades, The Peacemaker by Ken Sande, and Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Steve and Donna Varnam share their thoughts on how they kept their marriage intact while Steve was in prison. More than 80% of prisoners are male, but imprisoned wives can learn from these tips, too.
10 TIPS FOR INCARCERATED SPOUSES
- Get over your self-pity and accept responsibility for the actions that put you in prison. Only then can you get a fresh start on life and your marriage.
- Learn to communicate with your spouse honestly. Your conviction has damaged their trust and confidence in you. Rebuilding your spouse’s trust will take time and is essential to saving the relationship.
- Be sensitive to what your spouse is going through. They are forced to assume many new responsibilities by themselves. They, too, feel alone. Listen to their needs first.
- Encourage your spouse with letters, telephone calls, and visits. Don’t tear them down.
- Protect their feelings. Don’t be afraid to say something nice to them. Disagree when necessary, then forgive and forget. Look for solutions where no one loses.
- Overlook the little things that irritate you. Keep talking. Silence becomes a barrier.
- Children should unite you, not divide you. Don’t let them play one of you against the other, and don’t take the child’s side against your spouse even when the child is right. Don’t let the shared responsibility to the children interfere with your responsibility and loyalty to their other parent.
- Tell your spouse you’re sorry and ask for forgiveness. It will mean so much to your spouse to hear these words.
- Don’t abandon your role as a parent. Make it easy for your spouse to tell you about what is happening at home. Discuss decisions related to the family.
- Trust your spouse. Do not let others plant suspicion in your mind. Do not let the disappointing experiences of other prisoners make you doubt your spouse’s faithfulness and commitment to you.