How Do We Reconnect?

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Q: How Do We Reconnect?

Hi Kitsch Mix,

I have been in a relationship with a great woman now for almost two years – but for the last 18 months, she has been incarcerated. We had a wonderful relationship before this came about. The incarceration was the result of something from her past (years before we met) that finally caught up with her and she had to make right. When it all first started, it was a whirlwind of “what ifs” and not knowing how long this would actually drag out. I stuck by her side and was the supportive girlfriend, sending letters, books, funding phone calls, visiting, etc. Then my own life got hectic and I couldn’t commit myself to the demands she needed while she was trying to cope in prison. We didn’t talk for a few months, then we reconciled and things have been somewhat good, but not the same. She will be coming home very soon, and is very excited to start our life together and pretty much pick up where we left off.

The thing is, I feel like I don’t really know her anymore. I have my life and my schedule and can’t imagine her jumping into the picture like nothing has changed. She is going to be struggling to find work, a place to live (she keeps hinting at moving in with me), and I am not in a place to support her either. I feel like we need to get to know each other again, date again, and see if we want to continue this commitment. I pretty much put my life on hold for her in the beginning, then realized that I needed to live my life and not wait around for her to get through this. I don’t want to hurt her, but she seems to think that everything will be great and back to normal right off the bat. I am scared, nervous, and not ready to open my life up to her again like nothing has changed.

I am not sure how to approach this with her, but the clock is ticking, and sooner than later I will see her face to face again. I appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.

Well, reader, this is probably a pretty obvious answer here: You will need to explain to her that it’s not going to pick up right where you left off. I have never been romantically involved with someone who was incarcerated, but I do have a brother who has been in prison since I was almost 8 years old. (I’m 25 now.) I actually recently sent him something similar to what you will need to tell your girlfriend; allow me to paraphrase what I said to him. (This was a few weeks ago, so my memory is not exact, and of course the situation is not exactly the same, either.) With some minor adjustments, you can fix it to better suit your specific situation.

Dear Girlfriend’s Name,

I am excited for your release – but I feel that we do not know each other as well as we used to. I would like to get to know you again, but this situation has definitely had an impact on the nature of our relationship as it stands.

When you get out, I would like to start off at the beginning. Of course, it won’t be exactly square one, as I cherish the memories I have with you, but a lot has changed in the time that has passed. I am honored that you would like to pick up where we left off but unfortunately that is not entirely practical.

I would like to help you out how I can, but I am not currently in a position to support you financially. I will support you emotionally as best I can and I am interested in starting a new relationship with you – separate from the one we previously had. I hope you understand that this has not been easy on me. I know it has not been easy on you, either, and together I think we may eventually reach the point where it “never happened”. I wish I was ready for that now, but I’m not.

When you get out, I would like to begin by taking you out on a few dates. I will help you to find a job if I’m able – I would love to see you successful, and I think that it would be most helpful if I assist you, rather than working out all the details for you.

If you are willing to give this a chance with me, I would love to reintroduce myself – please do the same when you get out. I am still here for you and I still care for you; I’m not going anywhere. I value what we had, and I know you are capable of great things. I am proud of you for taking care of what you needed to, and soon it will be time to take care of the rest. I know you can do it.

As I mentioned previously, the specifics will depend on you, but this can serve as a basic outline of what to say to her. I’m not sure whether it would be better to send this in a letter, discuss over a phone call, or wait until you can be face to face, but you definitely need to discuss these things.

In case you don’t want to use my script (it’s not the greatest script – girlfriends are much different than brothers!) here is a brief summary of the points to make:

  • Tell her you are proud of her for taking care of her commitments.
  • Encourage her to be proactive about her new freedom.
  • Reassure her that you still care, but you must start slowly.
  • Make it clear that you cannot support her financially, but that you will support her emotionally.
  • Acknowledge that her own situation is not going to be easy, and that your life was not put on hold just because she was locked up.

I would love to know how this turns out for you, as well as how the relationship progresses after her release. Incarceration is a very tricky subject and I’m happy for both of you that your girlfriend’s sentence was not as long as my brother’s. This can be helpful to both of you, and will quite possibly make the “reintroduction process” take far less time than it did the first time around. Take care, and thank you for reaching out to us – don’t hesitate to contact us again once you have moved forward!

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