Thriving or Surviving – Building a Relationship with your Inmate

Staying connected to an inmate is important for many reasons. Whether you maintain the connection through written letters or phone calls, this communication keeps your incarcerated loved one from feeling disconnected from the outside world. It helps for them to have someone on the “outside” to keep the feeling of isolation as low as possible. It can help to brighten their spirits and keep them out of trouble.

Growing Through It

For someone whose inmate is their spouse or significant other, it can feel like the relationship instantly goes into “survival” mode – just trying to make it from one day to the next.  It may seem like the relationship has been put on hold, only to be resumed when the incarceration period is over. But with a little creativity and effort, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can choose to go through it, or GROW through it – to survive or THRIVE.

There are affordable ways to stay connected. But more than just communicating, you can make the most of your phone calls and letters by strengthening your connection to your loved one, and growing in the relationship!


Finding the Best Method for You and Your Inmate

In any relationship, the best way to bond and grow closer is to find common ground – find things that you’re both interested in and make them a topic of conversation. Just this alone can help steer at least a part of every phone conversation away from the negativity of the situation. To take this a step further, you can do a little research and find a book that your inmate would really enjoy reading (if the facility will allow books to be sent). Offer to get two copies: one to be sent to the inmate, and one for you to keep. Determine the pace of reading that works for both of you, and make one conversation or letter each week only about what you’ve read. Or perhaps apply the same method to an inexpensive magazine subscription for each of you – something that really engages the inmate.

Another option is to find a relationship book that is written with the intent of both partners reading and answering questions about themselves, their partner, and the relationship. Maybe read a chapter a week, answer the questions honestly, and then discuss the answers during a phone call, a letter, or even during an in-person visit on visitation day.  If you both share a similar spiritual view, the book could even be written from a religious perspective, incorporating that into strengthening the relationship.

Be Creative!

There are many ways to create a stronger connection with your incarcerated loved one. Of course, it is vital to keep up the connection with them. And as their spouse or significant other, you probably know them better than many others in their life. Take some time to think about what they’re interested in. Think outside of the current situation and remember the things that they enjoy reading or learning about. Use your creativity to find ways to make this a part of the connection you have with them. It will help to provide something positive for them to do with their time, act as fuel for conversation between the two of you, and keep the relationship from becoming stagnant. Not only will this help your inmate, but it will help you as well – now, and when your incarcerated loved one returns!


Providing Perspective

Another way that you can strengthen and help one another during such a difficult time is to be a sounding board for one another. Your inmate is encountering situations you can’t imagine. On the other hand, you are going through your own unique set of challenges. However, the fact that you are not together, experiencing the same problems, can allow you to be of benefit to each other! You each can offer a different perspective on the current problem or issue, because you aren’t being affected by the drama it has created. You are each able to consider the situation without the emotions it has evoked in the partner it is happening to. Learn to take the other person’s perspective into consideration. Working together to face individual challenges can create a greater sense of partnership, making your bond with your loved one even stronger!

Ways to Start Thriving and Stop Surviving

  • Think of topics to discuss that the inmate is interested in, not related to the incarceration
  • Get two copies of a book and read it at the same pace, generating positive conversation
  • Get two magazine subscriptions and read the articles separately, generating lots of interesting conversation
  • Choose a relationship book with questions that you can complete separately and discuss to bring you closer
  • Select a relationship book with a spiritual element if this appeals to you and your loved one
  • Be creative and find the way that works best for you and your inmate
  • Offer your perspective or ask for their perspective during times of trouble to work as partners

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One thought on “Thriving or Surviving – Building a Relationship with your Inmate

  1. Thanks so much. Yes this was very helpful for me and gave some new ideas to pursue with my husband. OneLove

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