Incarcerated Relationships: Romantic By Rodney Fenner

Relationships are very important to the incarcerated man. Beyond having the proper funds to eat and survive, relationships are the most important. For some, it even rivals money. There are three types of prison relationships. Romantic, Family and In Prison. So, there will be three installments to this topic, but I’ll start with the romantic.
The presence of a woman is vital to the incarcerated man for a myriad of reasons. She provides a crucial element that can’t possibly come from anywhere else. Companionship. The most natural thing on the planet for a man is being with a woman. How can the city, state or federal government take that away and not consider it cruel and unusual punishment at all? What happened to “certain inalienable rights”? She provides rest and comfort. Encouragement and strength. Just having her is motivation to do things and accomplish so she’ll stay. She gives him something to look forward to in multiple facets (visits, phone, email, her being there at his release, etc.). A free man may say that he doesn’t need a woman and some of them may have said it enough to actually convince themselves that it’s true. However the prisoner, having almost nothing to distract him from the vacant space where she belongs and a tremendously large amount of time to think and reflect on life, is acutely aware of how big a fallacy that is. In prison, everything takes from you. The counselors, administration, the C/O’s, the other prisoners, the legal system and just physically being in the environment. A good woman is the balance for that. She gives lovingly. Genuinely. Unconditionally. Infinitely. She restores the energy extravasated from him by literally everything else. She makes him feel wanted after being tossed into a place that says society doesn’t want him. This companionship gives him a sense of relief. It makes him feel more like a real man than anything else he has. It gives him the mental image of something as close to normalcy as this situation will allow. Of all the relationships he has, this is the only one he can be vulnerable in. This is the only one he can unburden his feelings, fears, ambitions and just generally release any and all pressure exerted on him by this life. Lots of times, his mental and emotional stability depends on him having someone in this position. Every moment he shares with her is a moment of escape. A moment of hope. She makes him feel he has something to lose which could be the cogency that helps curve his behavior in a positive way.
Of course, being that the man is imprisoned, so is any relationship he has. Just as barriers and restrictions are placed on him, they are also placed on any romantic rapport he may have. She is, in effect, incarcerated by her love for him. This is the conscious decision the woman has to make entering into this type of relationship. She has to understand the forced circumstances and the nature of the man in the system. As a residual effect of being in prison, he is always on his guard. He has to watch everything and everyone to decipher the disingenuous and the dangerous. Most times, this on guard state of mind carries paranoia with it. This means that any and everyone who enters his circle must prove their loyalty. This relates to the woman because men in prison have their own complexes about women through life experiences and they have also seen so many incarcerated relationships fail that they already have a predisposition. A lot may automatically think the woman isn’t faithful. She isn’t dedicated. She is in some way and for some reason being duplicitous when she doesn’t fulfill an expected duty (sending money, visiting, answering the phone, emailing, etc). That same time he has to reflect is the time that now turns on him. It infects his mind, fueled by past experiences, what he’s seen in prison and the negative words of his fellow prisoners. The woman unknowingly battles all of this. Add to that the fact that she is with a man who cannot be physically present with her. There are a plethora of levels to that problem in and of itself without the nature of the imprisoned man as extra.
I say all of these things, not to deter any woman, but to inform her and encourage her. I speak so she may understand and be prepared. It takes the strongest of women to love a man in the belly of the beast because this situation truly is the jungle where only the strongest people and the strongest love survives. He may need you more than you need him or vise versa, but you both do need each other. These are the fathers of children and the wearers of the other ring in your set. These are the men who will someday return to society and the presence or absence of a woman is a big determining factor on how he returns. There is a severe void of feminine presence for men in the system. This is due to the great physical, mental and emotional difficulty of this kind of relationship on both sides and also the few rotted apples who reside inside that have put a sour taste in the mouths of good women. Despite those things, there are very good and extraordinary men in the system who are worth your time and deserving of your love. They need you.

Rodney Fenner
DOC #1436377

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