Coping with your partner being in prison

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

So far in this series of articles, we've looked at how you might be feeling if your partner has gone to prison. We've talked about the prison visit, and ways you can manage that. (Do have a look at Part 1 and Part 2 if you've landed here first.)

But what about other people, and how they might react? How do you deal with that, when you're already coping with your partner being in prison?


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Your children's reactions

Their feelings are likely to mirror yours. They too are likely to feel the shame that goes with having a parent in prison. They'll probably also...

  • feel frightened and confused
  • be worried that their father or mother is going to be beaten up (they've watched the TV programmes!)
  • be at risk of being bullied at school

They may not want to tell you how they feel, or if they're being bullied, because they might want to protect you from further distress.

I suspect that you're finding it really tough to deal with their questions and feelings. That is SO understandable. Cut yourself some slack. How could you have ever been prepared for that?

Feel free to talk to one of my online counsellors - they can help and support you in finding the right way to help your children. You won't have to identify yourself if you don't want to.

Reactions from others

Doubtless you'll take great care choosing who you take into your confidence.

However, do remember that someone you really trust is likely to have someone else who they really trust. That person, too, will have a really good friend with whom they have always shared everything. And then that person also trusts the one friend they've known since childhood, whom they 'know' would never tell another soul, and so on...

Very unfortunately you are likely to have to deal with...

  • abuse and comments
  • finger pointing
  • people you know crossing the road not wanting to bump into you because they're (mis)judging you, don't know what to say and/or feel embarrassed

I'm afraid there is nothing you can do about any of this - other than manage your own feelings around it. Sadly, there will always be people who judge.

Over time, whilst your partner is in prison and after their release, you'll learn who to avoid and who you can trust. This process will happen much faster than it would've done at any other time in your life.

The legacy of your partner's imprisonment

You might feel that your family is serving a prison sentence too. There are so many changes to deal with so suddenly. It's as if someone has died, but worse than that: your partner is now an 'offender'.

This isn't likely to be something you want to share. In this case (unlike if your parter had actually died) it'll require huge strength of character to ask for any support.

7 Common difficulties you're having to deal with when your partner is locked up

  1. Your partner isn't going to be there on important days - Christmas, birthdays, funerals, anniversaries, graduations, start of school-days, weddings and so on. That unfortunately may mean that you have to be armed with excuses not go, be ready to support your children and manage other people's expectations, as well as your own.
  2. You're also going to have to find a way to keep a roof over your head without your partner's income now that he or she is in prison
  3. You need to be thinking about how you can fund prison visits, which may be way out of your area. You might find that there are some benefits to help you with this (see links below).
  4. You're going to have to cope with all the chores you used to share with your partner on your own
  5. You will find out who your friends really are. You may have to suffer the loss of people that you thought would be there for you regardless
  6. On finding out what your partner has really done, you may now have to face the fact that your partner wasn't the person you thought you were living with. Alternatively of course, you may already have been questioning your relationship compatibility for some time.
  7. Your children, in a sense, lose both parents - one of them is in prison, the other is now perhaps fragile, unpredictable in their reactions, not the person they knew, anxious, distressed and irritable

How to cope when you're the one having to pick up the pieces

Here are some strategies to get you started...

7 Tips to help you cope when your partner is incarcerated

  1. Self-hypnosis will most definitely help you - have a look at some Hypnosis Downloads to make it easy on yourself
  2. Decide who you can trust - and promise me you'll remember that you are not the guilty one.  If you don't - you could end up lying, forgetting who you've lied to and what you've actually told them. People will know that something is terribly wrong anyway and make up their own reasons for it
  3. Choose the activities you most enjoy and continue with those to help you create the best new 'normality'.
  4. Start a new hobby to keep active. You can join a new group where people don't know you
  5. Join a meditation, yoga or Tai Chi class if at all possible to help lower your stress levels.
  6. Explore my pages on Depression for further advice
  7. Consider if you need to end your relationship or marriage - see my Relationship/Marriage Compatibility Quiz

Just remember - eventually this horrible time too will pass.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Related Articles

Other Helpful Links

Partners of Prisoners Support Group (UK)
Prison Talk (USA)
US Department of Health and Human Services - 
The Effects of Incarceration on Intimate Partner Relationships

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Elly Prior

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