Let’s cut to the chase. There is etiquette to everything, even in the prisoner’s wife lifestyle. There is a disturbing trend in our community of investigating one other, as in sleuthing out who, what, when, where, and why of crime committed by another woman’s man.
Here is a bit of etiquette more important than what fork goes with what meal. The #1 thing you should NEVER do: DO NOT Google the crime of a person’s husband/boyfriend/partner.
The rule should speak for itself but if a ‘why’ is needed I’ll comply.
You should never do this because:
- It’s not your business. The time it takes doing this takes away from time you can work in your own life.
- It discriminatory. There is no point to it unless you want to set yourself apart, i. e. You (or your guy) are better.
- It’s destructive. Of course, you won’t keep the intel to yourself. Nope, you gonna run tell everyone you know. Set off a gossip mill. Inevitably, hurting its target.
- We ask the world not to judge us. We must not judge each other.
Here’s another ‘why’. Ask yourself why you need to know?
We live in a world of nonstop information. Salacious details about others are fodder in times of boredom. Each week there is a new, more horrific crime reported.
Our community first and foremost is about the supporting the partner on the outside. People need to feel comfortable with what they say and who they say it to. Trust is paramount. We need to feel as if those who should understand how and what we feel–do.
When you violate a person’s trust and go beyond the information they want to share by digging into the life of their partner, it smacks of hypocrisy. And, doing this brings a certain mean girl-esque quality which destroys bonds. More importantly, it kills the power of us coming together for a common goal—to change perceptions.
In the new year, let’s resolve to treat each other with respect and quite frankly, mind our own business! Happy New Year!
Did you miss our show on Prisoner’s Wife Etiquette? Listen here.
What are some of your rules of etiquette?
Here are the top two resolutions for prisoners’ wives/partners:
- Lose weight in your relationship – If you had a difficult year, suffered a few disappointments, or learned something hurtful. Its’ time to lose weight. Extra goo in your union is unhealthy. If you are still together, then you owe it to each other to not only lose the weight, but not regain it. This extra poundage will not only weigh the relationship down but eventually will affect your relationship health. If you still harbor feelings about what happened in 2011, you have approximately two days to hit the gym to lose what’s ailing you and start the new year with a zero on the relationship scale.
- Balance your relationship checkbook – We have a tendency to give and give and give and sacrifice and sacrifice and sacrifice. We are emotionally and sometimes financially overdrawn, trying to pay the hefty price of this relationship. You cannot continue to pay from an account that’s overdrawn. Eventually, the account must be closed which means a mental breakdown in your future. Balance your relationship checkbook. Decide what works and what doesn’t. Where are the deposits? Where are the withdrawals? Shift credits and deposits accordingly until you have more than enough to give.
Overcompensating – Withdrawal.
Stressed over things you can’t control – Withdrawal.
Paying for things can’t afford it – Withdrawal.
Living within your means – Deposit.
Communicating effectively – Deposit.
Supportive friends and family- Deposit.
By losing weight and balancing our checkbooks, we resolve to have better relationships which ultimately will spill over to us becoming better people (we hope).
Happy New Year!
What are some of your relationship resolutions?
In this call, Sheila talked about an exercise she and her husband like to do to take the pulse of their relationship.
Each year, they write five words to describe the relationship. No long exhaustive letters, just five simple words.
The point of the exercise is to determine where a relationship needs works and if both parties see the relationship in the same way. Honesty is important. For instance, it does the relationship a disservice to describe it as the best thing since sliced bread when it has really been a difficult year. Don’t focus on things you can’t change. Don’t make a list of prison words. Focus on the connection despite the location. This exercise will get you talking and if necessary, fix something before it goes off the rails.
Five words might be:
These two examples are very different pulses of a relationship. Now, if the above example is by two people in the same relationship, you see they will have a lot to talk about.
Is your relationship ready for 2012? Let’s find out. Assignment: You and your partner write five words that accurately describe the state of your relationship. Discuss.
Find the love story of Joseph and Sheila in Love Lives Here, Too: Real Life Stories about Prison Relationships and read how five words strengthen their marriage.
Two days before Christmas, before I showed up to my family’s holiday dinner without the invisible moniker of the last single daughter, two days before we announced our engagement, I witnessed my fiancé’s arrest. In those two days, I learned my fiancé wasn’t coming home anytime soon. Yet, Christmas came in spite of it. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I was a prisoner’s wife walking. Unlike the wrapped holiday gifts under my tree, no amount of Scotch tape would hold together the pieces of my life. Tears flowed, until finally it was a silent night.
The timing of my now husband’s arrest and subsequent incarceration changed the innocence of the holiday season. The glee of the season juxtaposed with my feelings of lost was a source of contention. In those two days, I lost who I thought I was as I promised never to be a woman with a man in prison. I constantly relived the events that landed my husband on the island of misfit boys, repeatedly punishing him for stealing Christmas then and twelve years to follow. His guilt, palpable. His apologies, sincere. Yet, no matter our state of mind the other 356 days, two days before Christmas was the most difficult time of the year.
Several years ago, two days before Christmas, he called. I’d prepared another fifteen minutes from hell. I intended to make him as miserable as I. I pressed five to receive the call. Before I said hello and with all the sarcasm I could muster, I shouted three little words, “Happy Arrest Day!” He laughed and replied with three words of his own, “Another year down.” In that moment, I realized I was the one robbing us of the joy of what two days before Christmas really meant. Time was moving. I needed his three words to appreciate the true meaning of a commitment. Our efforts were not in vain, but my personal perceptions threatened us. So busy forcing my wifehood into a box set of acceptable, I didn’t recognize my actions told my husband he was unacceptable. When I stopped judging our lives and gave myself the freedom to love outside of my conformity, it was indeed a happy arrest day.
The period from November to January is naturally difficult. Heaviness hangs in the halls of the prison this time of year. It’s the season of family. Our family is miles apart. We experience a measure of melancholy. In spite of this, we look forward to two days before Christmas with all the fa-la-la the rest of the world looks upon Christmas Day. We are another year closer to finally making it to that holiday dinner. Two days before Christmas, now eight years into this sentence, we celebrate our official “new year” as a reminder of how far we have come and how much we have grown. It’s a celebration that adds joy to our world and guarantees the pain of it all is not re-gifted year after year, two days before Christmas.
Are the holidays difficult for you? If so, why? Have you learned to accept your reality?
While the rest of the world rejoices in the traditions of the season, for many with an incarcerated partner, this is the worst time of the year. It’s the season of family and our families are torn apart by bars, concrete walls, and endless miles.
Most Christmas songs are happy, joyful and full of glee, but there is no shortage of sad Christmas songs.
Hearing a sad Christmas song when-you-can’t-have-the-person-you-want-most-in-the-world-at-the-time-when-the-world-says-you-should-have-them, is like ripping a band-aid off an open wound. The wound we try to hide the rest of the year.
Here are my picks for top five saddest Christmas songs (guaranteed to induce a crying fit):
#5 – Someday at Christmas by Stevie Wonder
Lyrics: Someday all our dreams will come to be. Someday in a world where men are free. Maybe not in time for you and me. But someday at Christmastime. Someday at Christmastime.
This song wasn’t written about men in prison but when you speak of men being free under of the refrain of “someday,” I can’t help but think of all those incarcerated.
#4 – Blue Christmas by Elvis
Lyrics: I’ll have a blue Christmas without you. I’ll be so blue just thinking about you. Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree. Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me
Seriously, this song doesn’t need lyrics. The title is plenty.
#3 – I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Michael Buble
Lyrics: I am dreaming tonight of a place I love. Even more than I usually do. And although I know it’s a long road back. I promise you. I’ll be home for Christmas. You can count on me. Please have snow and mistletoe. And presents on the tree…..I’ll be home for Christmas. If only in my dreams.
This song was written for those in the armed forces, but that last line kills me. The whole song is a dream from the point of view of the person who longs to be home. Sound familiar?
#2 – All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey
Lyrics: I don’t need to hang my stocking. There upon the fireplace. Santa Claus won’t make me happy
With a toy on Christmas Day. I just want you for my own. More than you could ever know. Make my wish come true. All I want for Christmas is you.
Even with an upbeat tempo, this song tugs at the heart strings. Again, the lyrics are unnecessary.
#1 – Miss You Most (At Christmas Time) by Mariah Carey
Lyrics: The fire is burning. The room’s all aglow. Outside the December wind blows. Away in the distance
The carolers sing in the snow. Everybody’s laughing. The world is celebrating. And everyone’s so happy. Except for me tonight Because…
I miss you. Most at Christmas time. And I can’t get you. Get you off my mind. Every other season comes along and I’m all right. But then I miss you most at Christmas time
Miss You Most sums it all up for me. I absolutely miss him most at Christmas time. When I hear this, I fall to pieces.
Christmas is a season of love, but it’s also a season of sadness. I’m thankful to have love and to be in love. But, gosh it hurts…a lot.
What are some of your top picks for sad Christmas songs?
Holidays are about traditions, rituals that are followed year to year. With your partner’s absence, you can’t experience the rituals as you knew them or believe they should be, making you susceptible to feelings of sadness and anger. You spend your time trying to make the holidays ‘normal’ instead of realizing your normal requires establishing traditions specific to your family and circumstances.
With a little planning and a shift in attitude, you don’t have to dread the holiday season nor do you have to walk around stealing joy from others. Create the spirit of the holidays by crafting the season in fun and imaginative ways.
- Keep candles burning in honor of your partner all season (all year)
- Ask friends and family to put your partner on their holiday card list (mailing the card is required)
- Send a ‘holiday’ in an envelope.
- Make a drawing/coloring of a Hanukkah menorah with the candles to be ‘lit’
- Make a drawing/coloring of a Christmas tree and send the ‘decorations’ one day at a time. Create paper presents that have a ‘gift’ written inside.
- Make a drawing/coloring of a Kwanzaa kinara with the candles. Celebrate the individual principles
- Write a letter to Santa (yes, it’s okay to ask for his release)
- Take pictures of holiday decorations at home and around town. Send to your partner.
- Give your children gifts marked from the parent who is away
- Send pictures of [actually] gifts bought for your partner with a message on the envelope: DO NOT OPEN UNTIL CHRISTMAS. Give partner a time he/she should open. Your partner can be a part of the unwrapping of gifts (Since their mail is more than likely opened when received, this will add to the fun)
- Have your partner call during family time and take pictures of everyone speaking to them. Send your partner the photos. They will enjoy seeing themselves as part of the festivities.
- Create a holiday word search or crossword puzzle as your partner’s gift. Have the clues reveal the date of your next visit
- Make a countdown to the New Year. Send one number at a time. Shout Happy New Year in a phone call (Slow countdown required).
- Make resolutions together
Whether it’s the first or twentieth holiday away from your partner, the feeling of missing them never goes away. Remember to have fun and with each holiday that passes you are one step closer to being together.
How do you share the holidays with your partner?
Turn on any television to see the scope of our criminal justice system – caught on tape, from the suspicion of arrest, through the question of the trial, to the reality of incarceration. Entire networks are devoted to this ultimate reality show. Viewers have a choice of seeing criminals locked up, locked down, arrested in the first forty-eight hours, DNA tested, almost getting away with it, and though rare–released. America has a twisted fascination with those who commit crimes and end up behind bars. Audiences chant the criminal’s anthem: Bad boy what you gonna do when they come for you?
Prisoners are put under the glare of a producer’s camera and subjectivity of the editor’s cut and thus a new reality is born. Alongside the four ‘R’s of incarceration, restitution, retribution, rehabilitation and redemption, our voyeuristic world has added a fifth and more dangerous ‘R’- ratings.
Criminal justice that serves as amusement for ratings sake is big business that comes with too high of a price tag; a price that robs society of its sensibility, sense of humanity, and objectivity; and a price that slowly erodes the presumption of innocence. Accusations are truth. Perception becomes reality. Even when a person prevails in the criminal justice system, ‘not guilty’ is quickly redefined as ‘not innocent.’ The images fed to the world are the worst of the worst. These images are cleverly ingrained in our subconscious minds, attaching to our sense of not-giving-a-damn while turning up the volume on fear. Women whose partners are in prison must contend with society’s negative response to their circumstances. It’s a society filtering its reaction through what has now become a true representation of men behind bars. Criminal justice that serves as amusement for ratings sake has successfully influenced our society—all men in prison are bad. Herein lies the problem for the prisoner’s wife/partner.
What obstacles do prisoners’ wives/partners face in terms of how we are viewed by society?
Welcome to the new PWGP website. We have upgraded our image and content. PWGP seeks to be a premier resources for partners separated by incarceration.
We are ramping things up for 2012. We still offer meetings and e-mentoring. We are developing counseling and scholarship programs and for the first time ever, we offer several membership levels. Members enjoy free newsletter, first to know status, discounts, and exclusive relationship podcasts.
We’ve worked hard to make the site more interactive and visually appealing. Please take a minute to look around and don’t forget to sign our guestbook to let us know what you think.
OH…we are back to a more regular blog schedule. So much to do, but we do it all for you!
As a prisoner’s wife, it’s not uncommon to hold onto items to keep the memory of one’s husband alive or to create his presence; we keep things like cologne, hair, and clothing. But to keep my husband with me, it required that I go one step further.
When my husband was home, he had an annoying habit of using my bobby pins as toothpicks. And, as you might suspect, these out-of-shape pieces of metal never made it into the trash. Fed up with seeing them all over the house, I began pointing them out each time I came across one: “Tooth apparatus, tooth apparatus, tooth apparatus!”
After my husband was incarcerated, I moved into a new residence. During the final walk-through of our old home, I noticed a tooth apparatus.
I collected each one I found.
Once in our new home, before I even unpacked, I inconspicuously positioned the tooth apparatus I had found in the old home in our new home, a place where together we shared no memories. Now, each time I come across one, I move it; that way, the element of surprise keeps my husband alive, marks his territory, and fills my heart’s empty space.
Keeping the tooth apparatus pushed the boundaries of my sanity and cleanliness. But with long prison sentences, it is hard to recall the moments that matter, especially when fading memories are replaced with the demands of prison life.
For me, these tooth apparatus are symbols of auld lang syne, a contorted pathway between yesterday and today that pushes the play button on this life lived before incarceration. It takes me back to the time we fell in love, our courtship, and our engagement. And whenever I discover these apparatus, it all comes back to me with the promise of better days; a promise he left behind.
But whether the bobby pin is used as intended or a tooth apparatus, its greatest use for me is that it keeps two people connected who are caught between two different worlds
This piece appeared in First Person Arts Workshop: Through the Bars: Objects and Memorials for Individuals Affected by Incarceration.
What do you keep to remind you of your partner?
In the first two years of her husband’s incarceration, Monica wrote two to three letters a day. She sent numerous cards, books, magazines, and lots of money. She couldn’t afford these things, but felt compelled to send them. She sat by the phone, stalked the mail carrier, and rarely left the house. She handled all of his affairs. Monica drove ten hours round trip every two weeks for a one-hour visit and did so cheerfully even on an hour or two of sleep. When Monica was from away home, all calls were forwarded to her cell. She’d promised her husband she would always be there for him and doing so meant never missing a call.
One Sunday morning, while warming up for Sunday worship, Monica realized she’d forgotten her phone. With ten minutes left before the start of Sunday service, she ditched her commitment to lead worship and went home to retrieve it. The possibly of missing a call was too great. Monica ate, breathed and slept; commissary, visits, calls. She never went out with friends and even stopped taking their calls for fear of holding up the line, despite having call waiting.
Forgetting to take her phone off vibrate, after leaving class one night, Monica missed her husband’s call. Though her husband understood, Monica was devastated. She’d failed him. She felt, she’d let him down.
Monica was in the advance stages of “Super Spouse Syndrome”.
Super powers are necessary when dealing with an incarcerated partner such as being: clairvoyant, omnipresent and equip with powers of persuasion. Super Spouse Syndrome forces us to try to fix the side-effects of incarceration. Though many of us do no set out to be a “super spouse”, along the way something kicks in and we are driven to idealism and perfection. Before you know it, we are attempting to leap tall prison sentences in a single bound. How is a super spouse created?
- Naysayers- People who doubt we can do it. Friends, family, or that inner voice. We feel as if we have something to prove and we work to validate our position– “Nothing is going to stop our love”.
- Time- We try to make up for “lost” time. We feel as if we owe it to them; overcompensation.
- Pressure- Comparing ourselves to other wives. Opinionated friends and family. Keeping up with Joneses. We have a sense of obligation; this is what we are “supposed” to do.
- Traditions- Add to all of this the “traditional” role of wife, girlfriend, or partner; one who lovingly cares for, respects and encourages their partner, fixes their ill-wills, shows them affection, and passionately loves them; a homemaker, who joyfully does chores, raises kids, and doesn’t complain.
Weeks later, Monica missed her daily post office drop. It wasn’t enough to have the mail carrier pick up her letters. She had to physically drop them in the mailbox. Monica was frustrated with the $500 phone bills and the rigors of living a married life on a single girl’s income. The proverbial “S” on her chest was fading and the real Monica was shining through.
Being a super spouse is not without its consequences. We will experience:
- Stress- The demands outweigh the resources we have to deal with it.
- Fatigue/Burn Out- Stress drains our energy. We don’t sleep. We push ourselves to do everything NOW. We don’t allow time to refuel.
- Anxiety- We fear we are not meeting up to expectations. We are not doing things “right”.
- Discouragement/Depression/Doubt- We are worn down emotional with worry, stress, anxiety; We feel hopeless. Can we really do this?
- Anger/Resentment- We began to resent the reasons for our stress.
Super spousers are always on the edge of a melt-down. Minor incidents become a crisis. The good news—Super Spouse Syndrome is easy to cure.
- Talk to your partner. Ask their expectations. You may find you are doing far more than what they require. If two letters a week are acceptable and you are writing five, let go of three. Accept his input. If you seek to do more than what is necessary for his happiness, examine the reasons why.
- Learn how to say “no”. As in any relationship, using the word no is acceptable. Stop creating impossible ideals; have a relationship not powered by incarceration. Ask yourself is it realistic to say yes to everything?
- Push back peer pressure- People love giving advice. Keep the inner workings of your relationship to yourself. Note: The wives you are emulating are probably in the midst of the syndrome and in case you haven’t heard, the Joneses are faking it.
- Take a day “off”- Spend the day doing nothing. Pamper yourself. All things prison related is off limits. Decompress.
- Prepare for a non-perfect life.
Monica equated the amount of work she put in to her efforts with how much she loved. The demands of her earlier routine were not something she could maintain over time, nor something her husband expected. Five years later, Monica writes whenever she feels the need, whether one letter a week or a month. She visits when finances allow and their every day calls have been scaled back to a more manageable level. She has achieved perfectionism within her reality. “Super spouse” Monica was trying to cram years in to minutes, now she uses minutes to create moments within the years.
Look up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a regular woman doing extraordinary things. All super heros have weaknesses that do not make them any less super. We have to find a balance that works for us, when fighting the never ending battle of truth, justice, and the prison way.
Are you suffering from Super Spouse Syndrome?
Join us tonight on blogtalkradio as we discuss this.