Do you have any advice for a woman whose husband is on the verge of getting out of jail? My spouse has been serving a three-year sentence and is scheduled to come home next month. I'm eager to have him back and resume a normal relationship, but at the same time I can't help feeling anxious and apprehensive. I don't know exactly what to expect. Can you help me?
We don't want to say anything to discourage you, but you need to be on your guard against unrealistic expectations. Your marriage has suffered a major shock. A three-year prison term (to say nothing of the events leading up to it) is a serious trauma. Many couples wouldn't be able to weather it at all. If your relationship with your spouse is to continue, it will be because the two of you have taken the time and trouble to prepare yourselves for big changes. You have to be ready to face some very real and significant readjustment issues. It's not just a question of picking up where you left off.
Apparently you're already aware of this. That's the reason for your nagging fears and apprehensions. You realize that the transition isn't going to be easy. You know that you're probably going to have to brace yourself for some kind of conflict. These feelings are completely normal. In a situation like this, they're actually a hopeful sign. They indicate that you've got a good grasp of what you're up against. You're gearing up to do whatever it takes to succeed.
The first thing you need to do is to talk all this out with your spouse, either in writing or (preferably) during a face-to-face visit. Find out exactly where the relationship stands at this point in time. It's important that you do this now – as far in advance of the release date as possible.
If you are able to speak with your husband in person, it may help to write out what you want to communicate beforehand. Then you can read it aloud to him at the time of your visit. You might say something like, "I still love you and I'm willing to trust you again, but right now I'm wrestling with lots of doubts and unanswered questions." If there are "heavy" emotional issues or deep-seated problems from your past that need to be addressed, it would be a good idea to get the help of an objective third party in drafting your written message – a friend, a family member, a pastor, or a professional counselor.
As you work your way through this process, be careful not to take anything for granted. Communicate with correction officials and find out what kind of track record your spouse has had during his time in prison. Try to find out if anything has actually changed. Is he really a reformed man? Or is it likely that he'll return to old behavioral patterns once he's out on his own? Questions like this are vital to your own safety and security and to the well-being of any children living in your home.
With this last thought in mind, we would actually suggest that you consider arranging separate living quarters for your spouse upon his release. It would probably be wise to hold off on welcoming him back into your home until you know exactly what you're facing. During this time of separation, it would be an excellent idea for the two of you to get some marriage counseling from a trained Christian therapist. Call us. Focus on the Family's Counseling department can provide you with a list of referrals to professional psychologists practicing in your area. Our counselors would also be more than happy to discuss your situation with you over the phone if this option appeals to you.
The 'Love and Respect' Principle