Tips to
Strengthen a Struggling Relationship

Especially when one member is or was previously incarcerated

All relationships face challenges from time to time. It’s not reasonable to expect that any relationship will be all
unicorns and rainbows 24/7.
 A relationship with someone who is incarcerated is fraught with even more challenges than most. Unfortunately, we don’t receive a lot of
instruction on how to deal with challenges in relationships. It certainly
wasn’t covered in high school, though your parents may have tried to guide you. How well did we really listen at that age anyway!?


If you want to
be in a relationship, it’s necessary to deal
with disagreements and struggles that happen
along the way. It takes intentional choices every moment to love – through it all. No one ever said it was easy, and when you add the stresses and concerns of prison it’s so much harder, but it can be done, and done well!

You can use these tips to heal your
relationship and feel close to your partner again, even while they are away:

Return to the past. There was a time when your relationship was great. Letter writing is so important in your situation as a prison wife. It is the main way you can stay connected to your loved one while they are gone and gives them something tangible to hold, to reread over and over when they miss you. Write about those
times together when things were going well. Help them remember your first date or your favorite trip you took together. Relive how things used to
be in your letters. You’re bound to return to many of the same feelings from those times and help him to continue to feel connected with you.



Identify the issue. When it is something specific to your relationship, not just the challenges of prison itself then you want to communicate clearly – especially since you only have 15 min. phone calls to deal with things! What exactly is wrong? Are you feeling taken for granted?
Neglected? Did your partner lie to you? Is there something you’re doing
wrong
? 

    Be clear
    with each other about what’s coming between you.
    Identify the challenge and you can begin to find a
    solution.



    Pay attention to that last question! It is so so hard sometimes to admit we are the one in the wrong! Really evaluate the situation and find places where you have something to work on. So many times we make things worse simply by not being open to see our own faults. It behooves you to remember that you cannot change anyone but yourself and if you want to see change in others, that is where you must start – with yourself!


    Forgive. The issue in many relationships is resentments build up over a long period of time. If you can’t let go of the times
    you feel that you were wronged in some way, eventually it is one big mess that you can no longer handle. Being unforgiving only breeds bitterness never connection.


    Compromise. You can’t have everything your way. Relationships require a lot
    of compromise. In fact, the compromising never seems to end. Compromising is a skill, and it’s
    not always easy to learn.


         We all have preferences, but they can’t be met all
    the time when you’re in a relationship. It’s one of the disadvantages of being
    in a relationship.



    Avoid giving up too
    soon.
    Many people erroneously believe that a good
    relationship shouldn’t require work. This couldn’t be more wrong. A relationship is made up of two imperfect people, we must all grow, learn and work to become the best version of ourselves and have the best relationship possible. If you quit every time it gets hard you will never have the amazing relationship you want, no matter who your partner is.
     

           The early stages of your relationships were likely quite easy. Especially if you met before they were incarcerated. You both were on your best behavior, and everything was so
      new and exciting. However, in a few months, reality set in and things became harder. Do you want to have an exceptional relationship?  How
      hard are you willing to work for that kind of relationship? That’s entirely up to you.
      Once the incarcerated partner is home there are other factors to consider. Make sure you study up on Post Incarceration Syndrome, especially if they were in the system for years. Know that there will be adjustments that you will have to make as well as being understanding about the culture shock they are going to face. The longer they were incarcerated, the bigger this shock will be. Be careful to never shame them for not knowing something that seems simple to you. Understand that the world is huge to them now, and crowds may be an issue as well as many other triggers.
      Having them home is exciting too though, and now there are things you can do that you couldn’t before. Your relationship is going to change now, that’s ok. You both need to adjust and grow, learn who you each are – because you are not the same people you were before. Here are a couple ways you can work on this.
      Schedule time together. Many relationships struggle due to not spending enough time
      together. He might want to go visit several other people that he hasn’t seen. He might feel uncomfortable in the home after being gone for so long. The simple solution is to schedule time together
      on a regular basis.
      Turn off the TV and get out of the house together. Take a walk in the park together. Make sure you both are communicating your needs to each other. Never assume what they are thinking or that they know what you need.



        Take a trip. Plan a trip together. (As long as it falls inside their guidelines if they are on probation or have restrictions!)  Ensure it’s a place that you’re both excited to visit. Build some new, positive memories together. Get away from your current home and routine, and you’ll find it’s easier to reconnect with each other. A trip can be fun and bond-building, even if it’s just a small day trip.


        Get professional help. If all else fails, get help from a professional. You wouldn’t try to dismantle and rebuild a grandfather clock unless you were a clock-maker! Perhaps, you might not be
        able to fix your relationship on your own either. Give an expert a chance
        before throwing in the towel. It can be
        uncomfortable, but many effective things are. Strong people know when to ask for help.

        If you have a relationship, you’re going to
        have challenging times. It’s not possible to feel close all of the time. There
        will be struggles to navigate and that takes intentional work.
        Fortunately,
        most relationship issues can be overcome if both partners are committed and
        patient.
        Give your relationship the attention it needs
        to heal and thrive. Excellent relationships are an important part of a fulfilling
        life.

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