I often hear prisoners’ wives comparing themselves to military spouses. Early on, I too offered this analogy to help explain away the blank stares. In the context of: “My husband is incarcerated, but it’s no different than his being in the military.” Sure, there are similar tenets; partners are away from each other for extended periods; families must figure out how to raise kids, maintain a home, and create intimacy despite distance. Both relationships face difficulty with reintegration. That’s where the similarities end. For obvious reasons, prisoners’ wives do not receive the same respect as military wives and with another public distinction: military wives stand by their partners, prisoner’s wives wait.
When our partners come home, flags do not wave, TV cameras do not appear, and friends may not even call to say “Welcome Home.” Our partners’ homecoming comes with far less fanfare with some standing in line ready to brand our family—dishonorable.
Mary Poppins said it best, “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Likening ourselves to a military partner tastes sweeter than admitting our actual situation. When we try to convince someone our relationship is [like] something else, it devalues the true definition of the relationship. Comparisons seek to offer explanations and justifications. The mere act of analyzation diminishes one side over the other.
The decision to remain in a relationship with someone incarcerated is far more than a function of the heart. We take in to account the offense and whether or not, it lines up with who we are spiritually and morally. We factor in the long-term effects of the tenure of the sentence. We ask ourselves if we have the mental fortitude to take on, not only the separation, but also the perceptions and criticisms we face. Once we conclude the relationship is worth the hardship, the relationship is valid—nothing else required. When we back peddle with the military comparison, we wear away at the legitimacy of our relationship, with each spoon full of sugar.
Respect comes when we stand our ground and exude pride by stepping in to our true skin. The validity of our lives is not in the likeness to another institution but in the unlikeness of it and in embracing the notion that our lives are different, not less—eliminating the need for sugar. [rft]
Do you use the military analogy?
Are you ready to stand in your truth?