Nurturing My Marriage Through Prison

By · Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Nurturing relationships while struggling through the complications of a prison term requires a daily commitment. Carole and I understood the challenges we would have to overcome long before we agreed to marry in a prison visiting room. I wrote about our courtship and marriage in several previous articles.

I meet many prisoners, however, whose wives did not sign up for a prison term, as Carole did. For them, the challenges are more difficult. Open communication and constant nurturing have worked for Carole and me. I am confident that the efforts we have made and continue to make to tie and link our lives together is what keeps our marriage strong.

Last year I read a career-building book by Marshall Goldsmith. Mr. Goldsmith is a well-known executive coach who wrote What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. In that book, the author suggested that the steps an executive must take to advance his career during the formative years differed from the steps he would have to take to reach the highest levels of leadership. In courses I’ve taught in prison, I frequently referenced Mr. Goldsmith’s work. I feel convinced that the lessons don’t only apply to career building, but to staining a marriage or relationship through the adversity of confinement as well.

Carole and I have thrived through seven years of my confinement together because we continuously work on understanding each other and fulfilling the needs of each other. During the beginning of our relationship, we both understood that we had to create stability. We worked together as a team to generate the resources necessary for Carole to earn credentials that would ensure her stability. We chose nursing. With that focus, we expected that we could always be close enough to nurture our marriage through visits, regardless of where administrators confined me. Carole is my family, my every breath.

Weekly visits would not be enough to carry us through the many years we had to serve. Through regular correspondence, meaning daily letters, we made plans together, measured progress together, shared dreams together, worked through problems together. I anticipated Carole’s needs and worked to help resolve them before she had to ask; I felt her commitment to do the same for me. These were the continuous investments each of us to do the same for me. These were the continuous investments each of us made to keep the passion, romance, and commitment alive in our marriage, despite our having to wait years to enjoy more physical intimacy than kisses under the bright lights of a prison visiting room.

What brought us through the first seven years of our magnificent relationship, however, differs from what we build now. We’re in the final stretch, and although we both continue to grow closer by anticipating the needs of the other, we’re also focusing more intently on preparing for the challenges that await my release. We’re focusing on building our savings. We’re focusing on preparing for my career rather than Carole’s career. We’re working harder than ever before.

The greatest blessing God has given me has been Carole’s love. I feel grateful for every second I have with her. My commitment to her and to our marriage is what drives and inspires my adjustment. It is the reason I exercise, the reason I devote so many hours to writing, and the reason behind the books I read. I feel a duty, an obligation to prove worthy of the love and commitment she gives to me. That can never stop. I will always strive to give her more. These are the strategies that allow our marriage to thrive through imprisonment.

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