Release date approaching?

Here’s what to expect.

When your husband’s release date is approaching it is an exciting time, and also a scary, confusing time. I had no idea what to do, how to prepare, and that made it even harder. I am going to give you some insight on what to expect, so you can prepare and be ready for as successful a homecoming as possible.

what to expect on his side

When his release date is approaching, he has a completely different perspective than you do, however the emotions are nearly the same. He is looking forward to his freedom, planning all he wants to do – hopefully planning how to be successful and having some positive dreams for his future and yours. At the same time, he is scared and confused, especially if he has been incarcerated for multiple years. The longer the incarceration the scarier the real world becomes. Don’t be surprised if he expresses concern or fear of being released. The more common response from what I have seen is for him to do or think about doing something to get in trouble again so he doesn’t have to deal with the change of being released. The responsibility for his own life, let alone the life of his family gets very overwhelming.

This is one of the symptoms of what has become known as “institutionalization”. He has gotten so used to having all of his decisions made for him – when to eat, sleep, pee…. everything has been scheduled and decided for him for all those years. The only decisions he has needed to make were basically “do I fall in line or do I rebel?” Falling in line is by far the easier way to go, and the better way to make it through that life. It has the downfall though of stripping him of his identity and any feeling of independence or even confidence that he CAN be responsible for himself or others.

What you can do

The main thing you can do for him in this situation is to first pray, of course. Pray that God will give him strength and wisdom. Pray for his abilty to think things through and trust God to get him through the transition. Also pray for your wisdom in how to respond and support him. The main thing he really needs from you at this point is for you to listen. He just needs an understanding, empathetic ear. Avoid telling him he’s wrong about it or shouldn’t feel that way. Acknowledge that it is normal to have those feelings and you will do what you can to help him through the difficulties.

He doesn’t need for you to sugar coat things or fix it all for him. He needs to know that you trust him to keep his word and that you will support his efforts. Give him his confidence back by allowing him to feel what he feels and not be told it’s wrong. Healing takes time, effort, and an understanding support system.

What to expect on your side

Now, for you the excitement and fear are there as well, but for different reasons. You have been waiting a long time for this day, looking forward to having your help-mate home again. You have likely dreamed all kinds of beautiful scenerios for his first day, week and even year home. That’s great! dream, talk about your dreams with him, but don’t forget to keep reality in mind too.

I know you probably have been, that is where some of your fear comes in. “What if he hasn’t really changed, what if jail made him worse, what if he isn’t the same and is completely changed?” These are all legitimate fears, along with the realization that your world is about to change drastically too. You have been extra independant, maybe having to try to be both mom and dad.
Not having to consider another adult’s needs or wants when making simple daily decisions. Now that he is coming home, you are going to be giving up some of that independance. You are going to have to make some changes, and many of them won’t be comfortable, or even what you expect.

Prepare yourself before-hand. Talk with him and let him know you recognize that it’s going to be a big change for both of you. Try to come up with a game plan on how you are going to make this transition work for both of you (and the kids if that is your situation).

What I did

I made sure to let DH know that I was prepared to work on stepping back some in the parenting and let him take some of the responsibility. He, in turn acknowledged that I had been doing it for 5 years on my own. So his plan was to help, but take a watch and learn stance until he saw how things worked and could come along side me.

We also talked about our relationship and what we expected. Acknowledging that after 5 years we were different people than we had been. We had both grown, we had also had many different experiences in our seperate worlds for all of that time. We knew that neither one of us could fully understand what the other had been through. Recognizing that and agreeing to take it all under consideration helped our transition to be fairly smooth. Much smoother than it likely would have been had we had our heads in the clouds or, on the other hand, just expected it all to go wrong.

The difficulties

There were obviously things we didn’t think of, because… you know, LIFE. Since we had those discussions, however, we were able to navigate those better too. Don’t get me wrong, some things really sent us for a loop and took a long time to muddle through and come back around. This world is not fair, as we well know. We had many setbacks, some from outside sources that we responded incorrectly too. Some were from mistakes we made, poor choices that we knew better than to make. Some took a year or more to get through and recover from, and some we are still recovering from. This life is hard, but if you are both committed to making it work, willing to forgive, ready to heal and help heal, then with God’s help – you can make it a beautiful, successful story.

This is just an overview, a summation of the major points of what you should expect as release date approaches. There is so much more to it, but I hope this is of some help. If you want more specific help, please contact me here or sign up for my mentoring group here.


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